Down to the Keys

Down to the Keys

May 21, 2017, 7:15 PM |

This story is long, so I don't blame anyone for not reading through the whole thing.

~Down to the Keys~

 That song has been playing through our house for well over 3 months now. I've never played a song more carefully on the piano before. For good reason too.

I'm the most advanced in my piano class but compared to my friends, Ishmael and Marguerite, I'm moderate at best. They've played in recitals and piano concerts, Ishmael even played at Carnegie Hall. They've played this song before and they inspired me to do it for the recital. The song "fits me" as my piano teacher puts it.

I hope she's right. I'll be playing Nocturne #8 by Chopin for my first recital in a couple of hours.


My nerves are tied into a ball right in my gut. I'm nervous that my recently broken wrist will hurt in the middle of the pièce de résistance. Or that I'll miss a few notes and won't be able to recover.

The recital began at 1500 in a huge, beautiful sandstone church. Two lovely baby grands with mellow notes that take an already gorgeous song to heaven sit at the front of the building.

That's something that I imagine will be in heaven; a glass 10-ft grand piano. One that shines colors of light with each note like white light through a prism.

I'm the last to play. "The grand finale" as Ishmael says. Each student is seated in order so that we know who is next. 21 students. 22 if you count me. The 18th student, a boy about my age, is playing "Hungarian Rhapsody #2" by Liszt. At the end of the song, I'm about ready to stand and applaud him.

It's rather mean of me to think this, but all the mistakes played by the other students makes me feel more confident. Most of the students are younger than me. 8 to 12. Most everyone except the one who just finished and a girl next to me named Felicity who looks to be 16. She and I talk a little. About the recital, naturally.

Before it registered in my head, she was next. I watch as her fingers touch each key like air. Debussy's Clair de lune fills the church with a shade of light. Perhaps she also dreams of a glass piano...


My turn.

"Godspeed," I hear a familiar voice. Looking behind me, I see Ishmael smiling back and Marguerite seated next to him. When did they come in? Were they seated there the whole time?

"Thanks," I whisper and grin back.

I walk to the piano and look around at 300 pairs of eyes staring at me. It reminds me of how mom used to tell me not to stare at people and I almost laugh.

"Nocturne #8 in D flat Major by Frèderick Chopin," I announce. These words echo through my head as I take a seat in front of the baby grand. Had my voice cracked?

I take off my watch and bracelet and set them on the side of the piano. I take a deep breath. My hands poised over the black and whites. My right hand begins to shake slightly.

"Dear God," I silently whisper. "Please focus my heart on playing for you."

The first note touches low D flat. My fingers play the familiar notes. I'm aware of the audience staring at me--at my fingers pressing the keys--but they're distant, a blur. The music enfolds me. It's down to the harmony between instrument and musician. A symbiotic bond. Down to the keys and the spirit within me.

You hear the last notes echo throughout the room. I feel the piano vibrating through my fingers and toes. Then I lift my foot from the pedal--dead silence.

I close my eyes and let my head fall back.

"Thank you, Lord," I whisper.

Then I hear applause. Like rain hitting an aluminum roof.

The song was no great accomplishment and the applause is no standing ovation. But still, my heart pounds in my ears and I feel my face heat up. The song is finished.


Afterword (only for those who feel like reading on)

There was a reception afterward and I got to talk to the other students. Felicity, the boy who had played Liszt (James), and Keith who played "Reverie" by Debussy.

Everyone said that I was "amazing," "stunning." Felicity told me that chills went up and down her back and that she heard people behind her breathe in deep with astonishment when I did the cadenza.

My sister and niece had recordings of the song and it wasn't until I listened to them that I understood what everyone was talking about. It was as if an angel was controlling my fingers. I even let out a "wow" at the end of the cadenza. Yes, it was an answered prayer.

Thank God.