Memorial Day

Batalla Imperial                  Juan Cabanilles (1644-1712)

“Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies”

Improvisation

When I was five years old a piano showed up at our house, and I was hooked. Probably as much to preserve my parents’ sanity as anything else, mom started me on piano lessons with a lady up the street who introduced me to the basics. But my father was in the Navy so moving was relentless, and I didn’t have steady lessons again until my father was stationed at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey for a three year stint.

Mom found a really wonderful music teacher named Jack Reynolds. I started with him when I was eight or nine, and in my time with him I progressed from Thompson Book 1 (a very rudimentary primer) to one of the ‘easy’ piano sonatas Beethoven wrote for his niece. He also gave me a good grasp of basic music theory (including basic harmony) and got me started writing music. After Jack I didn’t have steady lessons again until I was a teenager, but now I could progress on my own.

After we left Monterey I kept in touch with him, writing an occasional letter, and once I could drive I’d go visit him maybe once a year.

In the course of conversations with him and his wife I learned he had been a commander in the army in WWII. I asked him about that, and all he would say was “Hitler had to be stopped” with a quiet vehemence that made me glad I wasn’t a soldier opposing him.

In a later conversation, his wife mentioned that Jack’s unit liberated a concentration camp. Wow! Here was living history sitting in front of me, and I asked him about it. He got very quiet, then got up, grabbed a bottle of vodka, and retreated to his office – for several days. I guess that about covers it.

It was only from his obituary that I learned that his unit had been at the Battle of the Bulge, and his entire unit awarded the Bronze Star for bravery above and beyond the call of duty.