Cloister Commentary, Day 98: Funereal Pianistics

Dad’s funeral. I’ve been wearing the same two dress coats for two decades, it seems, and my favorite of those was not perfectly appropriate. Turns out he and I wore the same jacket size, so I wore his classy, sober, grey one. I’m also one to get out of dress clothes faster than Houdini got out of chains, so when I got back I realized my Dead Moon t-shirt (the last clean one I had with me) wouldn’t quite work; I ended up wearing his Pitt State Gorillas t-shirt the rest of the day.

When we planned the service Monday, my mom was adamant it not be maudlin (her exact word), and that resonated exactly with my wishes. Talk turned to the music: no singing, please, but a pianist would be nice. Mom and the officiant had the same one in mind, as well as the tune: Englishman John Newton’s immortal 1779 hit “Amazing Grace.” They feared somewhat mildly, however, the pianist might exercise her apparently “jazzy” tendencies. That adjective means different things to different people. Turns out she stuck the landing: she coaxed the very familiar melody through, really, the multiple moods that always visit funeralgoers as they reflect on the life of the deceased. I, of course, had an ear carefully cocked to her shiftings, and my two favorites were “rollickingly sentimental” (which matched Dad’s feeling about being in the midst of big family gatherings) and “stunned and suspended,” which fit my own deepest feelings this week. For the latter effect, she gradually slowed down the melody until she was striking notes and letting them hang, as if they were transplanted from a Morton Feldman composition. Seriously, Charles!


All participants were masked, and in fact some very close friends of Dad’s who were at risk battled their wills and stayed home, with our full support. Nicole, however, captured the service on my phone, and after we stepped outside afterwards to meet folks, I used those absent friends’ need as an excuse to dip out of the post-funeral lunch (would have been my third round of fried chicken in 36 hours–I love the stuff, but…) and upload it for them.

Now for the tough stuff.

Note: I must add that I also discovered and binged the YouTube sensations twinsthenewtrend.

Streaming for Survivors:

Blues you can use.


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