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Mendy Smith


August 16, 2007 at 5:01 AM

As I posted awhile back, my grandfather passed away and went singing (literally). As a fellow muscian, this was the best way I can think of for someone to pass on, and my family is grateful that he went on in the way that he did rather than suffer. He wished that I play in his memorial service which I did.

I had originally planned on playing Greensleeves, but when the time came it did not seem right. The piece simply did not reflect what I was feeling at the time nor how I remembered my grandfather. Instead, I played Elegie by Vieuxtemps with a piano accompianment. I had only played the first page for a few days and never with a piano before that day, but felt that it was the right thing to do. This piece reflected more of what I felt about my grandfather and his passing than anything else I had played before.

So I played. I played with the pianist for in the 30 minutes in an empty chapel. I was there by myself when my grandfather's casket was brought into the chapel after the pianist left and before anyone else had arrived. I played for him alone in an empty room, just my grandfather me, noone else to listen in to what I said to him nor what I played for him. I played Bach's Suite 2 Prelude from my heart as I could not see the music through my tears. I played Elegie with an aching heart for him and all of my family and his friends, not caring how well or how poorly I played, but I played for him alone to honor his life and his love for music and beauty. I shook from head to toe with an emotion that I could not hold back no matter how hard I tried to control myself and I did not care.

For the first time I knew how to express my emotion through music for I had plenty of it that was fighting to come out into the open no matter how hard I tried to keep it contained. The opening measures were filled with sadness, a hole that my grandfather had filled just weeks before, a minor key staying in the lower registers on the G and C resonating my deepest sadness with an barely heard melody. Then anger for how unfair it is to have him taken away so soon, moving from the lower C to the upper C in a fast and furious crescendo. And finally a grudging acceptance that he is no longer with us in body but always in soul, wishing that I had just a few more minutes to share with him before he made the decision to leave us - a hopeful ascent to the upper C for a longing moment and then slowly moving back down to the lower F in acceptance of his passing. The pianist finished expressing what I could no longer do on my own on the fermata while I cried.

Days later, I had wished that I could have honored him better by being in more control of my emotions and played better than I did. He was a Marine afterall, "pain is only a weakness of the body". I regretted having my emotions and pain exposed where everyone could see. Later I came to accept that my musical eulogy was no better nor worse than any others given that day by my father, my uncles and aunt. I was the only grandchild that "spoke" of his passing and what he meant to us all, and for that I am grateful.

Grandpa, I play this piece for you. I hope you like it.

Love you always,

From Paul Grant
Posted on August 16, 2007 at 8:55 AM
You picked a wonderful piece! I LOVE Vieuxtemps Elegy as I do Capriccio. Do look for Roberto Diaz's interpretation...he's amazing!
From Michael Schallock
Posted on August 16, 2007 at 7:07 PM
Mendy, I played several memorial services last year. One was for the woman whose violin I now play. One was for a conductor I have known for a very long time and a close personal friend.
Such intense sadness.
We are fortunate, as musicians, to have a way to express these feelings and emotions and to let them pass through us as we begin healing.
Stay courageous.
From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on August 16, 2007 at 11:40 PM
I'm very sorry for your loss, Mendy. Hopefully your music and memories will be a source of comfort for you in the days ahead. I played a Scottish air at my grandmother's funeral a few years back - it was kind of a bittersweet experience.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on August 17, 2007 at 4:19 AM
My condolences to you, Mendy. I'm glad that you had a grandfather you knew and loved so much. That is a gift. I'm sure the music you played for him was just right.

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