Making A Memory, With Music
Updated: Jan 3
As you must know by now from some of my other blog posts, music is one of my passions. My music and our band give me a chance to step away from work and some of the stresses of life to immerse myself in something I love and allows me to slip away for a few hours every few weeks to make music with some very special friends.
On Saturday our band had the opportunity to do a kind of “MTV Unplugged” style of show, which turned out to be something very special. I am sure you have heard it said, “let’s make a memory”. Those times in life that are so special or unique or just simply awesome, that we hold on to those moments in the form of a memory. Saturday was one of those times for me.
Unfortunately, life can also throw us some bad memories. The bad memories are the ones we try to let go of or forget. But these memories are also lessons in life and the best thing we can do with the bad memories is learn from them and then let them go. Then there is more room to fill our memory bank with special memories that we can cherish for a life time. One of the purposes of my blog is to have a record of some of my experiences and memories, so I can hold on to them even if my memory fades and to have the opportunity to share them with my friends and family.
When our band first was formed and we were just starting out, we often played an acoustic format. Many of the places that we would play were small and this type of set up was more fitting for these places. Often, the boys and I would meet up for a spontaneous show (German = spontan) at the Portucalis Wein Bar in our town. These spontaneous gatherings often occurred just because we wanted to play somewhere “live”, instead of the practice room, with the hope the people who listened would enjoy our music. On occasion, other musicians would be in the audience and we would ask them to join in on our sessions.
One of the musicians that joined us from time to time, was named Klaus. Klaus is an amazing harmonica player (German = Mund Harp). I am really not sure how old Klaus is, but I assume he is into his 70’s. Klaus is a very nice and friendly man who would stop in at Portucalis to enjoy some wine with his wife and friends. And as any good harmonica player does, Klaus had his harmonicas with him.
Last year Klaus became very ill and we did not see him for some time. Stephan our guitar player stayed in touch with him and he would keep us updated on Klaus. A couple of weeks ago, Adriano (he and his wife are the owners of the Portucalis Wein Bar), suggested that the band get together again for an acoustic session and thought we should invite Klaus. Without hesitation, Stephan said YES. I said I would join as well, and we would invite Martin and Tom.
On this chilly Saturday afternoon in Landshut, we all met at Portucalis to make some music. Martin brought his acoustic bass; Stephan and I had our acoustic guitars and Tom brought his cajón. We plugged our microphones into a small p.a. system with a single speaker and gathered in front of a vintage piano to play. Klaus sat at the table next to us.
Klaus had not played the harmonica since July of 2018 and his illness had affected his lung capacity, which as you might imagine is kind of important for playing the harmonica. I was a bit surprised at the number of guests that were there. It was 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon and we had not advertised that we would be playing. As it turned out, many of the people had heard about our little gathering and they came to see Klaus play again.
This session was totally unrehearsed. I brought a songbook that I use for our practices. My songbook contains most of the music we have played over the past several years, which included some of the songs we used to play with Klaus at our spontaneous acoustic sessions.
For our big shows, I typically use a tablet computer for my lyrics (which Stephan does not like, “memorize the songs Cecil”, I suppose it’s an age thing, as I used to perform 50 or 60 songs without any lyrics, just for the record Stephan, Mick Jagger uses a teleprompter). Nonetheless, on this day, I simply laid my lyric book on a chair in front of me and leafed through the pages, calling the songs we would play to the boys. Stephan would tell Klaus the key of the song, which by the way was sometimes the right key and a couple of times was the wrong key. I had never performed with a harmonica player before I moved to Germany, and I have now learned that harmonicas come in a variety of keys (tones) and a harmonica player will typically carry 6 or more harps to cover any range of keys. (see you learn something new everyday)
Before we started to play, Klaus told me he was not sure how much he could play. I told him, “kein Stress” (English = no stress), let’s just play. Klaus started out relaxed and a bit quiet, which we helped by turning up the volume on his microphone.
As we began to play, and Klaus joined in, I must admit, I became a bit emotional. You know the whole chills and goose pimple thing (German = Gänsehaut). I watched as he closed his eyes and pumped his breath into his harp.......it caught me. I thought about the struggles he must have faced over the past year and how his illness forced him to step away from his passion of playing the harp. But here I was, with my band mates in a Bavarian village in Germany, at a Portuguese wine bar sitting next to Klaus and he was playing again.
We played for 2 hours on this afternoon. The more Klaus played the stronger he became, and his amazing style of playing was there again, just as it was the years before. I watched as some of the guests fought back their tears as Klaus played. It was so special to see the audiences reaction and watch as they erupted into applause while he played a solo. As we concluded the show, Klaus played alone. It was the final song for the day, a harp/vocal solo by Sonny Boy Williamson called “Bye Bye Bird” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSdwhnsV4Go
I am not sure what you did last Saturday, but I got together with my friends to make some music and ended up “making a memory”. No rehearsal, no song arrangements, no lists, no light show, no expensive sound system; just an afternoon of simple and raw music with a very special man.
It has been said that “music can heal the soul”. Well on this day, I feel the music healed a bit more than the soul. For a couple of hours, I hope our friend was able to forgot about the previous year and bask in joy of his passion for making music. I am quite sure that our little gathering touched and warmed the hearts of all who were there, as we witnessed Klaus share his talents with his friends, while taking back a gift that had been taken away from him during the last year.
Klaus, it was a true honor for me and the boys to share this special day with you and we look forward to doing this again very soon. Let the music heal you and thanks for making a memory for me!
As I wrote this blog, the words of a gospel song came to me. It is a song that was popular many years ago, called “One More Song”. I thought I would share the words of the chorus with you.
As long as there is time, and one breath left in me
There will always be one more song for you
And as long as there is room for one more voice in praise
And a need for a word of love and truth, to help my brother through
There'll be one more song for you