It is 5:30 p.m. All the buses have left for the hotel. I stayed behind at the First Unitarian Church of Dallas to be able to play the beautiful Steinway grand piano in the Sanctuary. It is Thursday. I have not touched a piano since Sunday morning at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee. The days have been crammed with countless workshops, choir rehearsals, plenary sessions, long classes. I will forgo dinner to enjoy some privacy at the church. I want to practice the Intermezzo I will be playing for worship tomorrow to hundreds of UU Music Directors from all over the U.S. and Canada.
“Around springtime, the Mexicans show up at first light to plant fresh flower beds all around the mansions of Highland Park. The rich folks in Dallas want to enjoy a little springtime of their own even if by sunset the flowers are burnt. It does not matter, the Mexicans will return the next day to plant fresh flowers; it is something you get used to when you live around here”.
The organ starts rumbling. I turn around just to see who is up there, and the FUCD Music Director waves. He knows I am playing the Brahms tomorrow—his favorite piece—but he has to practice. He is playing the postlude for the Saturday service. The Sanctuary looks a bit stiff with its long pews, but very spacious. Did I just spot another Steinway in the choir alcove? Yes, it is definitely there in all its glory— five paces from the organ. Two Steinways sit quietly while the organ is blasting away and I have no chance at either of them.
“Have you tried the cupcake ATM?, cupcakes galore 24/7!”
The map by the entrance of the elevator shows a chapel by the side entrance. I check to see if they have a better piano over there, it is a chapel after all. The door is locked; maybe that lady I passed by in the hall has keys. Yes, she does. It is a small chapel, intimate and austere… with an electronic keyboard in the corner. Almost anachronistic, I always thought that chapels were more “traditional.” Well, it is almost 6:30, time to head back to the Sanctuary to practice the Brahms. My stomach starts to growl.
“Christmas is my favorite season in Highland Park. The houses and trees are all lit up with lights, up to the tree tops. Are you wondering how they get up there? Well, you can earn $30,000 putting lights for just one house.”
Oh my, the church was empty but where did all these children come from? They are all running to the apse, where the other grand piano sits, about to be played by a lady who is announcing that the rehearsal will go on until 7:30. “We have just one hour, so let’s start.” she says.
“I really like it here, my father is English and my mother is Mexican. I happen to have the Mexican look, which sometimes bothers me. When I go shopping, occasionally employees tell me the delivery entrance is out back but I tell them I am a customer and they leave me alone.”
It is 7:30; the choir rehearsal has just ended. I am walking in with determination. I have to practice the Intermezzo. I suspect the acoustics are not the best with all the carpeting on the floor. John Hubert, a Music Director from Colorado walks in and greets me. He is about to set up for the Singing Meditation service at 8:00 p.m., and asks if I want a program. I give up and say yes. Tomorrow will be another day. I am exhausted from being up since 6:00 a.m., and very hungry.
The service starts and the chanting is a balm to both my body and spirit. I lose myself in the experience with a new-found thirst, and I let go of all the conversations about money and consumerism, about thousands of SUV’s parked outside, about George W. Bush’s neighborhood. During the love offering, I light a candle to my mother.