Monday, March 31, 2014

Worst Birthday Ever

I've been playing the piano my whole life.

Mom would hear my tell-tale plunking at the piano as I tried to figure out the magnificent tune of Rhapsody in Blue. It's still one of my most favorite pieces in the world.

It actually made me angry when a friend of mine knew how to play the entire (and I mean the ENTIRE) original piece, and said he hated it because it sounded like noise. I just about smacked his face, but I didn't since I was hopelessly in love with him for being able to play it. No, he wasn't Jeremy. And yes, I got over liking that boy.

Anyway, Mom put me in piano lessons when I was six, and I totally failed my piano teacher, Bro. Soaper, because I couldn't read music. I would have Becky sit down and play each piece he assigned and then play it from memory. Bro. Soaper was cranky and unimpressed with my antics.

So, I stopped piano lessons until I was 10, and after gaining a few years, I excelled, and loved every second of it.

We moved and then I had another piano teacher when I was 15.

Long story short, I LOVE to play the piano.

Most of my church callings have been at the piano in different capacities.

In my current ward, I'm the Relief Society pianist, one of the ward organists, and one of the choir pianists.

It's been really fun.

When they first called me to be one of the ward organists, I was a little nervous since I hadn't played organ for a few years, and also because leaving Jeremy in the pews with five kids seemed sad, since my kids are hard to wrangle on a good day, much less so when they are confined to nice clothing and small spaces.

But it was okay, since I only play once a quarter, as I am the fifth Sunday organist, so I play, like, 4 times a year.

Well, one of my quarterly assignments to play landed on my last birthday.

My birthday being on the Sabbath was fine. I mean, I was able to celebrate my anniversary and birthday that weekend, so I wasn't feeling deprived of doing "fun" stuff, and it's always nice to have people wish you happy birthday in the halls at church.

Well, I sat down at the organ, feeling pretty confident. I had played several times since I had been called, and organ playing is like riding a bike (except when it's not, and you sit down after several years of not playing and randomly push buttons, and end up making a total mess of the stops and switches, and find it odd than nobody sounds right while singing, only to be stopped in the hallway in between songs and told that they have perfect pitch, and you twisted the transpose nob so many times that only the chipmunks in the audience could sing in that register....why do they even HAVE that nob?).

I played some prelude, and tried to settle the nerves that usually come when I am up on the stand.

We had the obligatory opening remarks by the bishop, and then everybody opened their hymnals up for the opening song.

I grew up with The Day Dawn is Breaking, and since I do a fair amount of playing by ear while reading music, I could almost play the music by heart.

I played the introduction, and looked up at the chorister to give me my cue.

Now, if you listened to the link I posted, you will notice that the first half of the song is pretty peppy and upbeat (and, personally, I prefer to be that organist, and play things faster than most, since the Sabbath isn't a weekly funeral service, thank you very much).

The chorister had ideas of her own, and slowed me down....really....really....slow.

In about 3 seconds the congregation was in the middle of the song, and I was still in the first measure with the chorister. I then decided to abandon my training, and go with the congregation.

I sped up. A lot.

I was trying to keep up with the people singing.

It took just a second to become in sync with them, and I squared my shoulders and sighed a little as I settled into the rhythm.

The chorister had other plans.

She turned to me and told me to slow down.

I shook my head, and replied that this part of the song was fast.

She then did something I have never seen before in my life.

She used one hand to direct the congregation, and  the other hand to give me deliberate, exaggerated direction, all while loudly telling me to slow down.

I wouldn't budge. I kept right on doing what I knew I should be doing.

But then....the second half of the song....

If you listened to think song, you will notice that the second half of the song slows down....a LOT.

And so, I slowed down as I should, due to the time signature and tempo changes, the congregation going right along with me.

But the chorister wouldn't have it. She once again turned and told me to speed up.

And when I shook my head and told her no, and that the song was slow now, she did her invented bi-directing, and split her focus between the congregation and her malfunctioning organist. By the end of the song my confidence was shredded into fine threads.

As the song mercifully ended, I breathed a sigh of relief but I still wasn't done. I had to make it through the sacrament hymn. I was so rattled by the whole experience, that I don't even remember what the song was, or if I played it right.

I sat, rigid on the organ bench as the deacons passed the sacrament. I tried to focus on something spiritual, but I kept reliving the opening song. I looked up as the deacon walked by, and look at him hopefully, and waited for him to stop, but he just kept going, and thus ended my opportunity to renew my covenants for that week.

After the boys finished, and were asked to sit with their families, I went out into the foyer, and sat down, shaking and twitching.

Jeremy was at home with sick kiddlets, and so I was humiliated and alone.

On my birthday.

I was terrified to play the closing song. I thought about just going home. Just skipping out. I mean, I had to salvage what little shred of dignity and birthday cheer I had left.

But my sense of duty prevailed and as I sat in the foyer not getting anything out of the meeting I wondered how much worse it could get.

I figured that unless the chorister had somehow managed to smuggle a bag of spiders and shredded coconut into the chapel with the intent of throwing it on me I was probably safe. But I wasn't safe from my own thoughts of doubt that maybe I didn't know I was doing. Maybe I was the crappiest organist in the world.

When the time finally came to play the closing song I was beyond distraction and in a haze of terror and dread.

Luckily, from what I remember, the closing song was something like "There is Sunshine in My Soul Today," and I couldn't possibly mess it up.

As I played postlude music, a member of the Relief Society presidency came up and handed me a package.

I was surprised, but not surprised at the same time, since it was my birthday. After I was through, I opened it up and there was a cookie inside.

Covered with shredded coconut.

I ate it anyway.

As I walked out of the chapel, I was stopped by several people, congratulating me on sticking to my guns.

"This was the BEST sacrament meeting ever!" one person exclaimed, hardly containing their glee.

I started to feel better.

But I was done.

My birthday was crumpled and mashed, and covered in spider legs and shredded coconut.

So I went home and into Jeremy's arms.

Luckily, it soon turned funny, but that day will forever go down in history as my worst birthday ever.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed, though, just in case. 


Katscratchme said...

I think my worst birthday ever was the one where no one called and Ben was working. That one was sad.

Tina said...

Oh my goodness! I'm sorry but I giggled through that whole story! I can't believe your chorister would do that and you were so stubborn with how you knew it should go... Ha, ha, ha!! I wish I could have been there and given you an encouraging, happy birthday hug!!

Trillium said...

It's a good thing that I wasn't a witness of this--I may have been tempted to succumb to Mama-Bear-ness, and eat the chorister. :)

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