Finding the melody, note by note, side by side

Real Life



This is a tale of the old and the new.

The old is my flute, which I played in my youth and hadn't picked up for several decades.

The new is Joey, my 12-year-old, soon-to-be stepson.

This past summer, Joey began taking guitar lessons. And I began thinking about renewing my acquaintance with my flute.

The flute and I have a checkered past. Although I attended a music camp as a teenager and played in my junior high school band, the instrument and I parted company when I was 16.

We had a brief rapprochement in the late 1970s when a guitar player lured me into playing Bach duets. When it turned out that the guitarist was interested in a different kind of duet -- and when I discovered that he owned a pet boa constrictor -- I severed my ties with him and stuffed the flute in the back of my closet.

There it remained until July 4. Joey and his dad were away for the weekend. The flute beckoned. I pulled the dusty case off the shelf and lifted the tarnished sections out of their blue velvet cushion.

Then I opened a couple of fingering charts and gasped. The diagrams might as well have been ancient Asian pictographs. I set the charts aside and started leafing through sheet music.

The piece that looked easiest was Bach's Minuet in G. I put the flute to my lips, poised my fingers over the keys and gave it a try. I wouldn't say the sound was a thing of beauty, but it was recognizable as the Minuet in G. I was euphoric.

At the end of the weekend, I played the piece for Joey's dad. Then I asked Joey whether he would consider attempting a duet. He said he would.

Neither of us did anything about it. But Joey's father didn't forget. When we headed off for a family vacation, he told me to pack my flute and made sure Joey brought his guitar.

Joey's grandparents' 54th wedding anniversary came at the end of the week. The occasion would be celebrated in a private room at a restaurant. A day ahead, Joey and I sneaked away and tried the Minuet in G. We weren't exactly Rampal and Segovia, but it sounded like the Minuet in G.

We got together again the next day, for one more rehearsal. "Don't worry if either of us makes a mistake," I told Joey, "just keep playing. I'm hoping everyone will be so stunned when we walk in with musical instruments, they won't notice if we slip up."

The only audience I was expecting was a small gathering of family and friends. It turned out, however, that the restaurant had not given us a private room. And business was booming.

It was too late to turn back. Bravely, we launched into the Bach. Far from being stunned, family and friends appeared charmed. We even got applause from strangers at other tables. Fortunately, there were no calls for encores, because this was the only tune we knew.

I think there will be other tunes in the future, though. At least I hope so.

When I was a teenager grousing about lessons, I never could have imagined that the flute would one day help me forge a relationship. But if Joey and I can share the language of music, who knows what other wonders we may share?

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.