Right after I left Monteton, France, in August of 2009, I wrote a tune called “If You Only Knew.” The opening 5 notes have so much wistfulness and emotion in them that they can bring a tear to your eye, whether you know the back story or not. While writing the piece, I was struggling with the distant between myself and my friends from DJSS, and struggling with the knowledge that Taylor, my then 18-year-old son, would be going far away to college in just a few days. I had the opportunity to play the piece in Monteton a couple of times during the past two weeks – once with Jonathan Bratoeff, the passionate French guitarist and tutor who I admire so much, and once in a jazz ensemble featuring Irene on sax. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to get through the ensemble performance, because another loss had come into play – I had just received the news that my 90-year-old grandmother had passed away.
I was able to be with Grandma on her birthday in June, and was thankful that her oldest daughter, my aunt Phyllis, suggested that I write a song for her. She was hoping it would lean more toward classical than jazz, but currently, everything I write leans toward jazz. I ended up writing two songs, an upbeat, happy tune called “Something For You,” and a sweet and simple “Lullaby” (with some dissonances in just the right places.)
On the first Friday night of DJSS, I performed “Something For You” with my Composers Group. During our rehearsals, I shared with the group the story behind the piece. Often I write the music, and then try to write lyrics that match the rhythm. The lyrics are usually strange and goofy, but they help me know if the piece will work or not. My thought was that my grandma loved pie so much, that when she saw a piece of fruit, she saw the fruit’s potential, as in, the fact that it would and should become a pie. So the lyrics that evolved were something like this:
One and one and one is three
Apples on the Pie Apple Tree
I hope you’ll pick some for me today.
Verse 2 (still working on it.)
All I can see is an apple
All I can see is a Pie Apple
Up on the highest tree.
(Repeat Verse 1)
Two days later, I found out that grandma passed away that same evening of the “Something For You” performance. (In fact, right after the performance.) The following Wednesday, the day of her funeral, Irene and I played Lullaby again (Jonathan and I had played it previously.) It felt good to have everyone there thinking of my grandmother. If she only knew.