Variations on the Canon

Buried deep in a Sunday morning Deseret News was the announcement I’d been waiting for. On the back of the Art and Music section was an ad for an evening with George Winston at Symphony Hall.

The first person I told was my mother who allowed me to flood our home with his music since returning from Germany. Both our favorite songs were off the same album, December. She loves Variations on the Canon by Pachelbel while Joy is my favorite.

It didn’t take much to convince my mother she should be there.

Neither of us had been to Symphony Hall before. In hindsight, I should have researched which seats would give us the best vantage point from which to watch his hands dance across the keys. (10 to 15 rows back to the left side of the stage is ideal) But this was before such details were easily found on the internet, so we ended up sitting right next to the stage on the first row. We must have looked like the man in the Maxell ad, slouched in our seats trying to see the piano over the stage.

It didn’t matter because the music Winston coaxed out of that glorious black Steinway made us forget how sore our necks would be the next day. The crowd was older than I expected. Polite applause followed each song the shoeless Winston played until he announced Thanksgiving which brought loud cheers to the Hall.

Have you attended a concert, and with each passing song, crossed your fingers that the next would be your favorite? That’s how my mom and I were that night. When Winston came out for his second and last encore, she turned to me and said, “Oh, I wish he’d play Variations on the Canon.”  

Unfortunately, the curtains closed before he played either song. If we were disappointed as we left the Hall, neither of us showed it because we’d had a magnificent time together.

I’ve thought back to that evening that took place nearly 20 years ago. The opportunity to spend an evening listening to one of our favorite musicians together happened at a time when my mother’s health allowed for such activities.

So tonight we did the next best thing: we brought the music to my mother when she called to check in with us. As Kim held the phone near our modest Yamaha piano, Luca played Variations on the Canon for my mother.  The music made the 900 miles that separate us disappear for a moment.

Sure, it lacked the acoustic splendor of Symphony Hall, but I know it meant more to my mother than any song we heard on that evening, many years ago.

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