Saturday, March 18, 2023

Small Miracles

I am not impressed with the Virgin birth, the Maccabees oil or the latest sighting of Elvis. But I am constantly amazed by those small, serendipitous congruities that seem wholly accidental, but suggest some hidden guiding hands. For example:

1) In planning what piece to play with the colleague I’m mentoring, I suggested a piece from another country that introduced a style, meter and musical concept that the 6thgraders had yet to experience. The perfect song popped into my head and I remembered it simply as Bolivian Folk Song. Off we went.

2) When my colleague asked for the score, I couldn’t find it in my Sibelius file with that title. I dug back into my files to find a little book I made in 1984 to go with the first cassette tape recording I made of my students title Music from Five Continents.There it was— Bolivian Folk Song. But it was a different tune!

3) Digging back in the dusty archives of my musical memory, I could hear it being played by a group I knew from the 80’s named Sukay. Looked all through Youtube and Spotify and couldn’t find the song. Steeled myself to go down to the basement with my 1000 LP records, but first checked out the 10 I had upstairs sitting on the turntable. And the first? That very Sukay album!! With the real name of the song we were playing: Flor de Santa Cruz. (The first little hint of a guiding hand.)

4) I thought a little more about that other Bolivian song I recorded, trying to remember where I learned it and there was some out-of-focus distant memory of visiting a man and a woman in their apartment while they taught it to me. And that was that. Until…

4.) Yesterday, about a month after these little events, I walked out of the Arboretum and bumped into my wife’s friend Marcia who I had biked with in Italy. She introduced me to her friend Francine and told me that she was a musician also who played flute. We exchanged pleasantries and as I walked away, I said, “Nice to meet you!” 10 seconds later, Marcia said, “Actually, Francine just asked me your last name and said she already met you a long time ago at Cazadero Music Camp.” I walked back and tried to identify the year and the people we knew in common. Off I went again and then stopped, “Did Marcia say earlier that you played music from the Andes?” “Yes.” “Did you used to play with a man as your musical partner?” “Yes.” “Okay, this is bizarre, but do you recognize this song?” And I sang her the one from the Music from Five Continents tape. She said she recognized it, but didn’t remember the name. And I told her I think she taught it to me!

5) They were in a hurry, so we said goodbye, I went home, got out that cassette tape and read the liner notes. Nothing in the song description about who I learned it from. And then finally, in a little paragraph of thanks, there it was:” Thanks to Franzy and Lorenzo.” (see below)

Bingo!! Move over, Elvis!!

Go back over this little story— the initial impulse to choose a song for 6th grade, the confusion with another Bolivian folk song, the dim, dim memory of how I learned it, happening to bump into Marcia who happened to be with Franzy who just happened to be her friend who just happened to recognizes me from Cazadero (almost 40 years ago!) who I happened to associate with this song to finding that little thanks on the tape liner notes that of course I saved instead of throwing it out as my wife would like me to do! 

These are the small little miracles that astound me. And now, of course, I have to teach that second Bolivian folk song to the other 6th grade.


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