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Short Story A Real Musician
Steve was never a REAL MUSICIAN. More a travelling piano man. He roamed the world playing in hotel lobbies and bars. Earning a living from fast-food music.
Then one day, in Munich, he bumped into Diana. Now Diana was always special because she was the real Mccoy; Diana was a Maestro; a REAL MUSICIAN.
A Romantic Short Story
Steve Miller was always restless during his first night in a new hotel. It was worse this time because he hadn't tried the piano. He dragged himself out of bed before dawn and found the 'grand' in the lobby of the Plaza Inn.
He sat down and began to play. The notes seemed to pass right through the tinted glass, up into the icy morning air; painting sound-pictures against the clear blue Bavarian sky. Each note, clean and cold like melting ice, forming a tear-drop upon a freshly opened red rose. Like her parted lips, parted long ago from his.
Now emptiness and longing swept over him. Longing for her return, her music and her timing. Almost 10 years since they had separated and yesterday at Heathrow he discovered that he still loved her. Someone in the check-in queue in front of him merely mentioned the name Diane Pryce and all the old feelings came flooding back like it was yesterday.
Then he had been wild and irresponsible. She had been quiet and serious. He had improvised while she had stuck to the score and learned every interpretation of the composers work. He had followed his feelings and instincts while she had rigorously followed the college timetable. He had been a rebel, she a team player. He was now a bar-room entertainer while she is a real musician.
As he thought about Diane, the music died at his finger-tips. It became turgid, crass, clumsy and full of cliches. It had lost that something that makes real music. Real so that the notes trip over one another and break all the rules in their desire to thrill and excite. He had decided that communicating feelings is about improvisation but in the end, they flung him out of the Royal Academy because he couldn't stick to the rules.
He slammed down the piano lid. Time for breakfast and reality. Then the bank and a newspaper before his lunch-time session. Session? Performance? Appointment; like a dentist? It would be good to play the piano the way a dentist fills teeth or a decorator paints a wall. Do it, collect the cash, go home and then put your feet up. But music is a two-edged sword. You can't make real music and not resonate to the emotion of it.
'A Real Musician' performed in San Diego for Valentine's day
I was amazed to find this story was recently performed by a theater company in San Diego as part of a Valentine's Day event. I was very flattered as the other stories read were written by famous authors such as Collette and Isabel Allende.
The theatre company 'specialise in reading literature out loud'.
However, although they charged for the event, they didn't ask my permission to use it!
Love Notes: Stories Of Love & Romance At The Athenaeum: The Event Details
When the Music Weeps
When the music weeps then you cry too but if you are cold and aloof then so too is the music. He had tried to make plastic, fast-food music for hotel lobbies but music has an unfortunate habit of sneaking up on you and ripping your emotions apart when you think you've got it licked.
He sat alone at a table by the window. A large glass of freshly squeezed breakfast orange-juice sat before him on a clean, white-linen cloth. Neat and precise. Like she was once. He remembered her perfect face across a restaurant table. A one-way ticket to New York beside her. A Rockerfeller Scholarship to add to her 'first' from the Academy if she would only take the ticket and fly. She had to choose. Steve or Rockafeller. Real music or second best. She made the right choice. She wrote several times from New York and they called one another now and then. But the spark was gone. He received her last letter 7 years ago.
After college, he was irresponsible. He just bummed around and made music 'on the fly'. He was pretentious about his art but one day a friend had too much to drink and told him the truth. His music was, at best, indifferent. So he settled down, rented a flat and began to practice. He began to play in clubs and bars. One day he got an agent. He did cabaret, sometimes sang and began to write.
So here he was in Munich in another big, shiny hotel which could be anywhere between Vienna and Seattle. Once you passed through the automatic, sliding front doors, you left real-life behind and entered into a comfortable, air-conditioned world, devoid of style or taste.
It was lunchtime in Octoberfest and the Plaza lobby was already crowded, as were the streets outside. Steve had a 4-week contract here followed by another in Switzerland. It sounded a great life but after Basle it would be Manchester and then no more bookings. Not a very secure existence, being a travelling piano man.
He seated himself at the Steinway and began to play. Think artificial, he told himself, looking at the potted plants and the plush sofas. The music flowed easily. Cole Porter and then Paul Simon. Americana goes down well in an international hotel. A little Rachmaninov to follow.
Then he played As Time Goes By. So corny and it made him think of Diane and the time they watched Cassablanca on the telly. His eyes roamed around the lobby. Following the cocktail waitress with the best legs. Observing the party of Chinese tourists. Seeing who was arriving and departing. He noticed with approval, the party of boisterous children from a private school in Surrey were finally leaving.
A woman stood at the desk carrying a violin case. He stared at her back. His heart nearly leaped out of his chest and As Time Goes By moved rapidly from a dirge to being electric. His eyes moistened, like a kid and the music was alive again. The lady with the violin turned toward the lift. It wasn't Diane but at the end of this number the applause was noticeably more enthusiastic. Even this dull crowd noticed the difference a shot of 'amour' makes to a piano man.
In the break, he wandered across the lobby to get a beer. Someone tapped him on the shoulder. He turned. Against all logic and common sense it was Diane! Diane looking different. Diane past 30 who had lost the little girl look and seemed more relaxed. No violin case, just a smart looking casual suit and a brief-case.
"Steve! So lovely to see you again. I recognised you from the poster in the lift. I enjoyed your playing," she said, the smile was still the same. Enchantingly fresh and 'real'. Was she being polite? She must despise his popular, musical cocktail.
"Only hotel lobby music." He said with an apologetic shrug of the shoulders.
Make Some Music
"Sounds OK to me. I loved As Time Goes By. It bought back memories." She sounded genuine. He blushed. He hasn't done that for years.
"Scotch and Soda with ice would be great."
They sat and chatted. He longed to know what she was doing but before he got around to asking it was time for him to play again.
"Can you wait until I finish?" he asked, feeling like a schoolboy.
"Sorry, I have a meeting but maybe we can have dinner tonight?"
"Great," he said, "The restaurant here is reasonable. Would eight be OK?”
"Look forward to it." She flashed him that same old smile that turned him to jelly all those years ago and then she was gone. He tried to fill in the missing years. Back from New York he guessed with the Rockafeller on her CV. A job with a provincial orchestra, perhaps. Then a move into an up and coming quartet. Solo work and maybe a lead job with another orchestra. He scanned the tourist information board. Of course! The Philharmonic were in Munich.
Diane arrived at the table at 8.27. He knew this because he has counted every minute that she has been missing since 7.45. She wore a pretty, casual dress and smelled of spring flowers. Less severe than he remembered. Vivacious and full of fun. He asked the difficult questions first. No children and no husband. No lover. Where was she playing in Munich? With the Philharmonic? She avoided the question.
The meal was good and they were both slightly inebriated by the Chablis and the occasion.
"You know we should make some music together," she said suddenly.
"Is that a come on?" He asked.
"No," she grinned, "Real music. You on the piano and me the violin!"
"That's not your style!" replied Steve, puzzled, "anyway I'm not booked to play tonight."
“And I thought you were the rule breaker. How do you know what my style is? I've changed a lot since you knew me." Without further explanation she left the table and returned 5 minutes later with what later turned out to be a borrowed violin. She grabbed Steve by the hand and manoeuvred him to the piano in the lobby.
" We can't just start playing. " protested Steve.
"Don't be so boring," said Diane.
Steve reluctantly took his seat and lifted the lid. He tried Vivaldi and she was quickly alongside him, her bow finding the jazz in his fingers. He played Gershwin and she slide into new chords with a dexterity that amazed him. Scott Joplin was no problem and she moved easily into his syncopated changes of tempo. Her playing was without rules or order. She was a true virtuoso.
She sounded like Grappelli and looked like a gipsy with her long black hair and the dress slipping off her shoulder as she drew the bow with such rapture and deftness. He changed abruptly into Country and then tried Blues and Gospel and she was always there, finding a melody or a deep, heartfelt chord at the appropriate moment and in the right key.
Amazing New Act
They played until they were exausted, then collapsed breathless together into a huge sofa.
"Its so wonderful to play with a REAL musician for a change," she said, her eyes sparkling with delight.
"I don't understand. You're the real musician. I just play in bars."
"Steve. Do you want to know why I'm in Munich? I'm not with the orchestra. I'm a journalist. I gave up playing professionally years ago. I'm here to cover the Philharmonic and do a piece on The Rolling Stones, Evergreen tour. Its funny but it is only since I stopped being paid for it that I actually enjoy playing. I never had your feeling for music. I was just a good technician. It was always hard work for me. But you always had real talent. That's why you play for a living and I write about it."
Steve and Diane went back to the piano and played together for nearly an hour. When they finished, despite the lateness of the hour, the applause from the lobby was deafening.
"I missed you so much when you went to New York," he admitted later, as he held her in his arms, on the terrace.
"I missed you too but my career seemed more important, then." she said, enjoying his embrace and gazing up into his eyes. "We should play together again soon." she continued, in a deliberately off-hand manner.
"Maybe." said Steve casually. But in his mind he was already talking to his agent about an amazing, new act.
Copyright 2013 by Rik Ravado (if you wish to perform this in public then let me know first!)
© 2008 Rik Ravado