LXXXV. Emma’s Return

September 8, 2012 — Monday evening, September 3, at the top of the six o’clock hour, “The Robin’s Return,” a piano caprice, began to play on the radio. This was the piano piece Emma played by which I remember her at our black Steinway baby grand when I was a child. For three minutes Emma had returned to sit at the piano and play my favorite piece. This was an awakening moment, in a way I cannot explain. It was fitting that Steve Curylo, my newfound friend from Linkedin’s “Aficionados of Classical Music,” should air it on his radio show, Monday Evening Classics on Valley Free Radio, nine days before Emma’s September 12 birthday. She would have turned 98.

As he promised, Steve accessed the YouTube link on my blog home page with J. J. Sheridan performing Leander Fisher’s spirited arpeggio piece.

When the music ended, Steve, in his rich baritone, identified the composition and said that the link to that music had been sent to him by his friend Samantha Mozart: “Yes, that’s her name, Samantha Mozart,” because Samantha’s mother used to play it. He then announced, “Samantha Mozart has written a book titled Begins the Night Music, a book for caregivers about her caring for her mother who had dementia. He also recited a duo of reader comments about the book “lyrical and hard to put down,” said the book was based on my website, “Salmon Salad and Mozart dot com; that’s Salmon Salad and Mozart dot com.”

I was sitting in the kitchen eating my chicken breast and shiitake mushrooms in sherry listening to Steve’s radio show online at http://www.valleyfreeradio.org (non-profit, listener-supported radio, at 103.3 FM out of Northampton, Mass.) when it occurred to me that I was becoming known worldwide and I was the only one listening who knew me.

Steve deftly segued from Mozart, Samantha Mozart, to Chopin, Frederic Chopin. And, I, the book author, immediately thought of Kate Chopin, the book author, and, of course, the composer’s lover, George Sand, the book author. To me, Steve subliminally planted the connection in the minds of the listeners so they’d remember. This popular Chopin composition for piano and orchestra, “Grande Polonaise,” Steve said, took Chopin four years to compose. Ultimately Chopin added a piano part to the front, “Andante Spianato,” when he received a long-awaited invitation to perform in one of violinist François-Antoine Habeneck’s Conservatoire Concerts in Paris. Often when I am writing, something new will stir me — a piece of music, something someone said or I have read, an occurrence, and I will attach that story to my composition.

“Radio has long been known as a theater of the mind and it’s still that way whether you are listening to Led Zeppelin or a symphony,” said Steve Curylo in an interview for an August 30 Chicopee (Mass.) Register profile. “Something happens and people get an image in their mind.” (http://www.chicopeeregisteronline.com/pdfs/cr08.30.12.pdf)

Later in his radio show, Steve played a composition by Mozart, the Bassoon Concerto in Bb, K.191, which Mozart “put together,” Steve termed it, in 1774. Steve didn’t say “composed.” Again, as a writer, I relate to the term “put together.” Often I “put together” my compositions, especially within my blog posts (you may have noticed), paragraphs blended in rubato, such as in my previous chapter “Potato Chips.” (At least Chopin didn’t write an étude called “Potato Chips.” His “Grande Polonaise” of the potato chip genre would have to have been called “Party Size.”) Before the last half hour of his show, he (Steve, not Chopin) again announced my book. Wow.

While this promotion hopefully will fatten my purse sufficient to appease my mortgage holder, the root significance of the book promotion is the subject matter: More of us will live longer, possibly, thereby in review, making Emma’s age seem as tender as a spring chicken in her last days; presently, fifty percent of people over 90 have some form of dementia, states Nobel laureate neuropsychiatrist Dr. Eric Kandel; more boomers will be caring for loved ones with dementia; and, in fact, as a friend pointed out to me, younger boomers will be caring for older boomers; plus we need more funding for Alzheimer’s research.

While a prevalence of websites and books exist providing information on the stages of dementia and how-to information, significant to the subject of Begins the Night Music is how-not-to. The truth is that when you encounter a loved one in his or her incipient stages of dementia, while you may be annoyed at that person’s occasional behavior, you may not notice that behavior as signs of dementia. And as the mind subtly deteriorates, you, as most caregivers do, will fall backwards into caring for this person; you won’t realize you need help until you are in the deep end and you won’t know until you begin hiring how very long it takes to find good help, whether in-home or in a nursing home. By this time your own health is in jeopardy. Often, even with the best intentions, you will become frustrated and angry with the person for whom you are caring.

And, now … Lights Out, to quote American radio and television personality Frank Gallop from the ‘50s TV program taken from the ‘30s and ‘40s radio show. Blow out the candle. Yes, the night music begins. It is a dark song. It is a song to capture the attention of the curious, the scholarly, the enlightened. What more significant place for Steve Curylo to announce my book than in Northampton, Massachusetts, home of Smith, Amherst, and Mount Holyoke colleges, the University of Massachusetts Amherst as well as other schools of higher learning, and on Valley Free Radio across the Internet.

Steve Curylo loves classical music as do I. He is a classically trained baritone, having majored in opera. I may not have a radio show, but I have a blog: on how many blogs can you listen to selections of classical music? I leave you with Steve Curylo singing “It Is Enough” from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah”, an mp3 recording Steve sent me, from a recital he did on March 11, 2006, in Amherst. Jerry Noble, his accompanist is a staff pianist at Smith College.

      1. Steve Curylo singing “It Is Enough” from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah” - 9th September 2012

Steve emailed me the story of Elijah; I’ve placed it below.

—Samantha Mozart

The story is found in I Kings 19. Elijah just won a great victory over the priests of the false god Baal on Mt. Carmel, and now he’s heard that the evil Queen Jezebel has a contract out on his life. So he flees into the wilderness and begs God to take his life rather than be killed by evil people. This is all in the music, it’s a great oratorio, for chorus, orchestra and four soloists, and Elijah is the baritone soloist!