My work friend Manny is a church organist. He’s very religious. I don’t mind his frequent observations concerning human fallibility, because he’s human, too. I listen to him with a smile.
When Manny told me he’d be playing classical music at the church that Wednesday evening, I promised to go. And I mentioned it to my wife Barbara. But she dislikes zealots.
“It won’t be religious. It’s the music of Bach and Chopin and Liszt and the stuff you like. And he’s actually very good. He’s played with the symphony. If you want to go, we can sit in back and leave whenever you’d like,” I offered. “You won’t have to talk to Manny.”
I was surprised when she tagged along.
Manny is an excellent organist because he’s a devoted, one hundred percent perfectionist. It has something to do with his religion. I know that as a coworker he can be very annoying. He becomes upset if a meeting or sales pitch doesn’t go exactly according to plan.
There was a decent crowd in the pews. Barbara and I sat near the back. We listened to a complicated piece by Bach and the music was indeed perfect and beautiful. Manny’s playing was superb.
In the middle of the program I glanced over at my wife and she appeared to be relishing the concert, too.
The notes of one timeless piece seemed like poetry–so fragile, so ascendant, so full of yearning. They felt like whispers from the depths of my own soul. I found it hard to believe they emerged from a church’s pipe organ. The divine feeling was stirred to life by the fingers of Manny. His playing appeared effortless.
When I glanced at Barbara again, tears were on her cheek. I had never seen her cry in public. She saw me and covered her eyes with a hand.
The next day, at work, I told Manny his organ concert was absolutely amazing.
“No it wasn’t,” he snapped. He stared back in a critical way. “I was off my game. I don’t know what was wrong.”
“I thought it sounded great.”
“Are you joking? That was probably one of my worst performances ever.”
“I saw someone crying when you played Vierne’s Carillon de Westminster, Opus 54, No. 6.”
“I’d cry, too, if I listened to my garbage.”