Friday, January 12, 2007

Fred & Louise

I play tenor recorder in my church from time to time. I think I have mentioned that before. Usually when I play, it's during the prelude, which means the sanctuary is filled with yappers who don't hear me and my friend on keyboard because of all their yapping. The rule is, by the way, the louder you play, the louder they yap.

Anyway...I could go on about that irritation, but I won't...I am playing in an ensemble this coming Sunday that includes a hammered dulcimer, a soprano recorder, an acoustic guitar, and a viola...and me. We will be playing My Shepherd Will Supply My Needs, an old folk tune written in 1835 based on Psalm 23. It is as lovely as Amazing Grace or Shenendoah or Ashokan Farewell (which I realize is a modern tune made to sound old). My Shepherd is a tune I have played on my soprano recorder for my own enjoyment for years, so I am excited about playing it with this group.

Here is the main reason for today's post. I wish you could all know Fred and Louise, the people who have put this ensemble together. They met at Kent State in the early 70s and were there during the National Guard shooting. They had married that year and lived in a house just down the street from campus, and Louise can remember looking out her living room window at all the commotion.

Fred studied euphonium but seems to prefer trombone, and Louise is a top notch trumpet player. In their younger years, they played in jazz clubs and various gigs around the area. Fred took a job as a middle school band director, and Louise had babies. I'm not sure how long Fred lasted in that job, but it made him crazy and nearly deaf, so he quit and decided to get a job for the money and keep music as his passion. He makes prosthetic devices, like artificial legs and arms, and he attaches halo devices on people in hospitals. He does that so they can eat and have a house and clothes, and when he isn't doing that, they make music.

Fred calls Louise "Ma." When you rehearse with them, and Fred hears a note he thinks isn't quite right, he'll say, "What do you say, Ma. Maybe that would sound better as a B flat." Louise rarely changes expression and has a dry kind of humor, and the two will go back and forth with undertones about what the note will be. And I just sit and watch them with amazement, as do my daughters who occasionally get to join them in brass ensembles.

Now that their children are grown and have made them grandparents, Fred and Louise focus mainly on the music, even though Fred still makes limbs. They don't have a TV, except a tiny one they pull out now and then to watch DVDs of The Andy Griffith Show, so in the evenings, they play. They can play any brass instrument you put in front of them. And in recent years, Fred has taken to making dulcimers, so they sit around and play those, too. Louise is working on learning to play the hammered dulcimer, and Fred sits beside her with the lap dulcimer. He picked up the recorder a few years ago because he liked the sound of my tenor. Louise recently bought an alto, so we plan on having a high time with recorder trios. I CAN'T WAIT.

In recent years, Fred and Louise have developed a kind of medicine show, which they perform for events around middle Ohio--ice cream socials, historical events, Amish gatherings--Fred tells the worst jokes you could imagine, but you still laugh, they play Dixie land on brass, they play Appalachian on strings, Louise pretends to be a mind reader, they involve the audience.

The show is from another time, and in a sense Fred and Louise are from another time, a time that seems richer and deeper and more enjoyable. You sit and make music, and you eat a piece of pie, and you watch the sun go down. You kiss Ma on the cheek and go to sleep, and in the morning, you shake off the covers and check the traps for beaver or fox (which Fred actually does). And you play another song.

14 comments:

dive said...

Oh, Robyn. You make me want to pack up my old Martin and fly over there right now! What wonderful people …
And the quality of your writing shines out yet again. You write like Garrison Keillor speaks. As slow and deep as melted chocolate.
Pieces like this make me just sit back and sigh like everything's alright after all.
More and more, please.

Robyn said...

Dive, spending time with them does give you that effect, the effect of thinking everything is all right. If you ask them about current events, they shrug because in the lives of day to day people who do what they love, alot of the stuff that we call "news" really doesn't make a bit of difference.

dive said...

I think they could well have solved the mystery of the meaning of life.

Gina said...

They sound lovely. A little like my grandparents, but minus the music.

RICH said...

I think I know these people.


well I DO know a Fred and Louise

Sassy Sundry said...

Sweet! That sounds like a blast. I want to meet those people and go to their medicine shows.

dive said...

By the way, Robyn; how's the back? I do hope you're up and dancing.

daughter #1 said...

you wrote about them! they're my favorites.

fred: (winks at louise) watch this! (deliberately trips over microphone cord)

mother, i just survived the hardest crew workout ever. speaking of, i have practice at 4 on monday, fyi. it's sad that commenting on your blog is the quickest way to contact you. haha.

RICH said...

oh oh robyn, sounds like you're in trouble with D#1

lynn said...

Sounds so cosy. Lovely people to know i bet. I used to play recorder, tenor and soprano, years ago. Fun.

Robyn said...

Well, Lynn, once again, we have something in common.

Daughter #1, I thought about the time he tripped on the wire on purpose with that little mischevious grin. Did you erg--I realized I don't know how to spell that.

Sassy, the show really is something. Knowing them makes it that much more fun.

Gina, sometimes they seem like grandparents, and sometimes they seem like little children. Very fun to be around.

Rich, Daughter #1 has actually called today, and I am about to call her, so everything is okey-dokey.

Oh, and Dive, my back is much better. I am not much of a dancer, but I can climb a set of stairs without grimacing.

dive said...

That's good news, Robyn.
Thinking of you dancing has got k d lang's "Waltz Me Once Again Around The Dancefloor" stuck in my head.
Yeehaa …

lynn said...

Glad to hear about the back Robyn, i've been wincing thinking about you, really i have.

Anonymous said...

What a great post about Fred & Louise! They're the best! Are we on for prelude Sunday?
Pianist friend