Today, in thinking about which ‘night out’ of 2009 was the best for Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, I realized just how much music has to do with enjoying an evening out for me. More than anything, I get so much pleasure from hearing live music, or dancing to music, or both. All three experiences that made it to my final selection revolved around music.
In the end, though, my choice came down to passion, love, creativity and synergy. I love passionate performances. I love creative expression and synergy between performers. And, I love it when musicians play from the love in their hearts.
My favorite night out this year contained all of these things. In an intimate live concert with Bloom Project, at a small church in Berkeley, I became a fan of improvised music. The October concert was an improvisational duet with pianist Thollem McDonas and saxaphonist, Rent Romus.
These two men are incredible musicians. They are so good at improvisation, that you feel both the synergy of musicians playing as if they have known each other their entire lives, and the flow that comes when perfromers are completely in the moment, perfectly attuned to each other’s next impulse.
Thollem is an amazing pianist, and he is my brother. He is actually my half-brother, as we have the same father, but different mothers. Life is funny. In 2008, both our mothers passed away. When you arrive at the home page of Thollem’s web site, you see a dedication to his mother, Geraldine. Gerry, as we knew her, was a pianist, too, as well as piano teacher who taught for decades. Thollem comes from piano genes, as my father plays as well.
What made this night so special was something less tangible than the incredible music. In listening to him play, I could feel something deeper and richer in his music than I had ever heard before in his concerts. As I sat listening, I was carried back to his mother’s memorial service in early January of this year, when Thollem played Clair de lune live, dedicating the song to his mother. In the five minutes or so that Thollem played that day, he poured out his heart into every note he played. Each note was filled with so much love for his mother. This love was present, again, in this evening concert.
As in most beautiful magical moments, something came together for me that night. Something so simple. I listened to the love for music that infuses Thollem’s notes and I felt his love for life, his love for his mother, and my love for him. This music itself was beautiful, and the experience was unforgettable.