Homeless at the Piano

The other day I was leafing through old WordPress posts, after Ashley Peterson submitted an intriguing post around the concept of editing past material. It didn’t come as much of a surprise that many of my older posts reflected a different spirit or attitude than I have today. Therefore, outside of minor edits (spelling, grammatical, etc.), I decided not to edit my content. It would seem hypocritical of me to do so, even if I disagree today with what I wrote back then.

One thing that glared was how much black-and-white thinking there was back in those days, and how I would often hyperbolize for the sake of emphasis, in a way that could easily have belied my statements. For example, at one point I wrote something to this effect:

“Here in my new life, lots of people like to listen to me play the piano. When I was homeless, the only people who ever cared about my music were other homeless people.”

This is both black-and-white and hyperbolic. While it is true that most of the people who cared about my music were homeless, it is not true that nobody who lived indoors didn’t care to listen. Also, it’s natural that most of my listeners were homeless, simply because I myself was homeless, and I mostly hung out with homeless people.

Let me tell you a story that exemplifies this.

Piano Key- Middle C In Grunge Stock Image - Image of black ...

We who were over 55 had the privilege of hanging out at the Senior Center, where there happened to be three pianos. In the morning, I would sign in, and head for the Baldwin upright in a distant room in the corner of the building. I did this for the sake of privacy, because I was afraid of making too much of a scene at the other two pianos, where I could more easily heard. I didn’t want somebody to tell me to stop playing, because I might have been making too much noise.

Next to the little room on the corner was a room with a number of pool tables. Early in the morning, a group of people who happened to be almost entirely African-American homeless men would congregate to play pool.

Naturally, they would hear the piano, and sometimes come into the room to listen. I remember playing the jazz break in the song Skylark, and looking up and a man was smiling, snapping his fingers. Another time, I looked up after the song, and five Black men were clapping wildly outside the door.

Of course, this was gratifying. Every musician loves an audience.

But one day, I went to the piano at eight in the morning as usual, and there was a sign on the door of the adjacent room, to the effect that it was closed for repairs. But something seemed odd. It didn’t really seem like anything needed repair, nor was anyone repairing the room.

Disgruntled, I approached the front desk and spoke with one of the administrative aides, whose name was Laura.

“Why is the pool room closed?”

“Uh – the guys were making quite a ruckus, and they kinda smelled of alcohol, and they were starting to get a little loose with our property – and you know, we had to shut it down.”

“But Laura, you guys just took my audience away!”

“What do you mean, Andy?”

“Those guys were always clapping for me, and cheering, and all that! Now I don’t have anyone listening!”

“Well Andy, why you just play the Yamaha in the auditorium near thhe main dining area?”

Puzzled, I replied: “But then you guys are all gonna hear me.”

“But Andy – we want to hear you!!”

“Oh,” I replied, feeling strangely enlightened. “Well, in that case, I guess I’ll play.”

Long story short, it wasn’t too much longer before a number of Senior Center employees were sitting in the auditorium with their smartphones and tripods, filming a concert that I performed at the North Berkeley Senior Center. In fact, I played the music to Turns Toward Dawn at that concert, though the lyrics were not written till 2018, when I was already in Moscow.

I believe I still have the videos to that concert in storage somewhere. I might fish them out at a later time. But I gotta be honest with you — when I look at the man who played that concert, he does not look like the man people look at today. I easily looked ten years older than I do now. (Why my posture was better, I have no idea.)

All vanity aside, what is your take on all this? I mean, sociologically? Psychologically? It seems a bit unusual that I would have restricted my musical offerings to other homeless people. I have my theories, but it would be interesting to hear yours.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

All the Things I Am

I can explain everything.

Given the difficulty I have getting piano pieces to you guys consistently every Friday, I have decided that each time I go to the church with the Baldwin Grand, I will record three songs instead of just one. That way I’m less likely to slack, because I can just schedule them in advance.

I tried doing both “Desperado” and “All the Things You Are” yesterday.  This was the second time that I attempted to do it all by myself without enlisting the help of a second person to position the iPhone properly on the tripod.

The first time I succeeded, as is evidenced on my YouTube (though not on the version of “The Way We Were” on this blog, which leaves out the first minute or so that reveals me struggling and finally succeeding to get the iPhone onto the tripod.)

Yesterday I did not succeed, although I thought I had.  But when I looked at the video of “Desperado” the iPhone was bouncing up and down in such a way that was so horrible — I just couldn’t give it to you.   (That there was an internal piano teacher rapping me on the knuckles all the way through the performance didn’t help much either.)

As for “All the Things You Are,” I for some reason couldn’t remember two of the chord changes, even though I had just played the tune a week prior with our saxophonist, and played it night after night for nearly nine years during the 90’s at Gulliver’s Restaurant.   I tried it eight times, I believe, before admitting to my internal piano teacher that I would never remember the changes.   (The knuckle rap was less severe after the true confession.)

As far as ADHD, I flushed the new meds down the toilet on the 13th day, after having five bouts of sleep paralysis on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.   Correlating that the last time I had sleep paralysis of that severity was the last time I took an ADHD medication, I am wondering whether people with sleep disorders should be on ADHD meds.   I’ll talk to the doctor about it.

Finally, since my ADHD is currently at the level where it probably took me four or five minutes to write this reasonably coherent blog post and it will probably take my four of five years to score a drum part using Finale notation software, I’m a bit discouraged about my position and potential in life in general at this time.

However, being as today is the Sabbath I will “keep it holy” by continuing to write the blog posts, essays, and religious news columns that my ADHD empowers me to do with facile — or perhaps this an autism spectrum issue — and cease to belabor the drum parts that my ADHD disables me from producing effectively.

Said ADHD does, by the way, enable me to play long improvisational passages on the piano with ease.  So I can assure you that I’ll get to the piano at some point between now and Thursday, and I hopefully give you “All the Things You Are” — since after all, I just told you All the Things I Am.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

The Ballad of Lester Hayton

These are the Wendt brothers, Cody and Ian, both of whom are now playing roles in my musical, Eden in Babylon. Cody wrote this song for a centennial memorial dedicated to Lester Hayton of Palouse, Washington, a city near me in the Palouse Region where I live. Hayton had served in France during World War I under the famous General John Pershing and went missing in action at the Battle of Chateau-Thierry. The ballad is moving and beautiful, and I am very lucky to have both of these musical brothers on my team.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1621

(1) Unusually beautiful morning. Walked slowly to the church humming the song “By My Side” from the musical Godspell. Played it on the piano for the first time in forever, along with a couple worship tunes and some jazz improv. As awful as yesterday was, so is today wonderful. Isn’t that the way it always goes?

(2) Just had a really nice talk with my pastor. Cleared a lot of things up.

(3) I haven’t gotten any work done for three days and have felt like I’m lagging far behind the reasonable goal for what I’m doing. However today I feel like I can probably get a little work done (I’m having to totally revamp the Vocal Score based on what’s been learned at rehearsals) – and I also am feeling that if I don’t happen to get any work done, it’s not the end of the world and I won’t beat myself up over it, as I usually do.

(4) Slept unusually well last night — seven hours solid. When I awoke I was a new man, and what can best be described as a “medical issue” yesterday (involving extreme bodily discomfort affecting my mind) has gone away (for now). Actually feeling pretty good today.

(5) Something has changed in terms of my ability to do once again some things I used to do very well before twelve years of homelessness affected my head. I’m getting back the ability to vocal-direct and to conduct musical rehearsals. I’m also blessed with a great group of people, whose professionalism and devotion definitely help me to stay on track. But mostly I am blessed with the revelation that God loves me. He shows His love for me by permitting me to engage a joy that I had feared was long past.

In light of that revelation, it almost doesn’t even matter if the musical is never produced, or if I never see its production in my lifetime. Each day, working with those Kids — if I can even call them Kids — is a joy unto itself. God’s blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Members of the Team

At this time, I thought you might like to see some work from a couple of the very talented young people whom I am so fortunate to be working with on my musical project. Here is Keva Shull, currently playing the part of Taura, the ingenue in my new musical, Eden in Babylon.

And here we have Cody Wendt, the man on the right hand side of the piano he shares with his brother Ian on the left.  Cody is playing the part of Benzo, one of the antagonistic characters in the show.  He and his brother do an enchanting rendition of “Scarborough Fair.”

If you’re interested in hearing other piano reductions of the musical score, I’ve placed them on a shareable link on my Box drive. These are primarily for the purpose of helping cast members learn the music, but you might find them enjoyable all the same.

Other news is that we have finally found a male lead for our emerging production. I’m eager to begin working with Cooper Knutson, who has been recommended very highly by a number of people in the area. Further information is on our Facebook group. Hope you all are gaining encouragement from our group effort, at this trying time in human history.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Free Piano Music

On these four albums, you will find compelling improvisations around contemporary classics you may recognize.   These and other albums were sold as CD’s between 2018 and 2020, mostly locally.  As of today, I’m offering them for free.   Any charitable donation will of course be appreciated.  

 

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Exile 


Abstractions 


Pinnacle


Suspended 

 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

 

Midnight Screams

I’ve not given you any music for a while, though I said I would.   Here’s Zazen Matossian singing “Midnight Screams”  from my musical Eden in Babylon.  We got the right groove on the song this time, though it could use some development.  Zazen is a junior at Moscow High School in Moscow, Idaho.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

Resolve

I did this one a few months ago, back in the good old days when I could still go to that church and hook up my rig with the tripod, and traverse the keys of that amazing Baldwin grand piano like there was no tomorrow. Sadly those days have been replaced by more difficult days, as we all know.

But anyway I am posting this medley of “Moon River” by Henry Mancini, “Wintertime Love” by Jim Morrison, and the old English version of the hymn “In the Bleak Midwinter.” I call it “Resolve.” It’s a cut on an album called Abandon. If you want a copy of the entire album after hearing this, hit me up and we’ll work something out.

Never did look at this video until tonight. I ripped it to mp3 at the time to stick it on the album, and for a reason that ought to be obvious to anyone who knows me, I only glanced peripherally at the video.

(By the way, if the reason isn’t as obvious I think it is, go ahead and tell me you think it is. If you’re right, maybe I can give you some kind of grand prize on my way to the bank, if and when.) Enjoy, folks.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

Cold This Season

Something made me put all this together, at some point.  First, this is my song “Cold This Season.” It goes into something Old English, then some Sondheim, and then finally the song “On My Own” from Les Miserables by Claude-Michel Schönberg.  It may be stuff you’ve all heard before–in some form–but there’s a certain flow and applicability here.  Hope you enjoy it. Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand.

By the way, this is a cut off of my newly released Suspended album.   Hit me up for details if you want to buy it.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Love is Blue

This French ballad was composed by André Popp.  (For real!  No pun intended, and he was not a distant relative.)  Lyrics were originally composed in French by Pierre Cour, with English lyrics by Bryan Blackburn.  References to the 2nd Movement — the “Allegretto” — of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony throughout. Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, March 12, 2020.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

Three Minutes Peace

I was recently challenged to improvise on the piano for three minutes without exploding into a fit of passion. I turned on the recorder just as I played my impromptu prelude to last Wednesday’s Taize service, and here’s how it came out:

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A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

For No One

Okay here’s my take on “For No One” — hands chopped off and all.  I’ve deleted my disclaimers for the sake of discretion.   Hopefully the music and its message will be “for some one.”  Enjoy. :)

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

Troubled Water

My improvisations toward — and away from — the classic themes of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.   Unlike recent recordings done with an iPhone 10, this one was made using my pastor Norman’s old Motorola.   It gives it a nice effect — I hope you like it.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

New Piano Album”Suspended” Now Available

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============ Forwarded message ============
From: Andy Pope
Date: Thu, 05 Dec 2019 22:38:22 -0800
Subject: New Piano Album “Suspended” Now Available
============ Forwarded message ============

Greetings –

I’m writing mostly to people I know locally who have purchased my piano CD’s in the past.  But also I am including people from afar whom I suspect might like to have one.   I have a brand new one I have named “Suspended.”  It’s full of twelve songs, as follows:  

1.   “San Francisco” – Scott McKenzie 

2.   “Try to Remember” – Tom Jones & Harry Schmidt 

3.   “Shenandoah” – Traditional 

4.   “Cold This Season” – Andy Pope 

5.   “Dark Holly” – Traditional 

6.   “Send in the Clowns” – Stephen Sondheim 

7.   “On My Own” – Claude-Michel Schönberg

8.   “Kum Ba Yah” – Traditional 

9.   “Bubbles Taboo” – Andy Pope  

10.  “Who Will Buy?” – Lionel Bart 

11.  “California Dreamin” – John Phillips and Michelle Phillips 

12.  “We Three Kings” – Traditional 

If you’re around town and would like to hang on to five or ten bucks to help me out in this endeavor, I’ll be up and down Main Street peddling my newest wares within the next few days or so — you can’t miss me.  If you’re afar, I really miss you, and I’ll send you one for $12 USD if you reply with your postal mailing address.

Hoping you’re all having a happy holiday!  I look forward to hearing from you — 

Cheers,

Andy

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Resolve

I dug this up the other day, thought I’d lost it.  It’s “Resolve” from my concept album, Abandon.  Thought it was worth sharing, if for no other reason than you get to see me without my beanie on.   (Believe me, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime appearance.)

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

A Day in the Life

The holiday threw off my plans to record a new piano piece, but I would like to offer my very dark version of “A Day in the Life,” the famous Beatles tune by John Lennon & Paul McCartney, as recorded using a Samsung Galaxy J-1.  Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, January 10, 2018.   Hope you enjoy it.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

 

Piano Player

Hey I’ll post something tonight, I have something in mind, the dude with the iPhone is coming over at 11:30, it will take a while for him to get the file to me and for me to upload it.

I’m kinda bummed with my playing lately, haven’t been practicing, seem to be in a rut, and don’t really have my chops in line.   The song “Kum Ba Yah” came up in my philosophy class yesterday and I thought of an arrangement of it when I was neurodivergentally contemplating the concept and spacing out Mortimer Adler.

We’ll see what happens.   I’ll try not to hit the keys too hard.  It’s been brought to my attention that the piano keeps bouncing up and down.   The tuner came, so I talked to him about it, worried that I might break a string and lose my privilege. (I mean, a key to a building with a Baldwin Grand Piano is a heck of a privilege, in my book.)

The tuner guy tried to console me, advising me that in all his many years in the trade, he had only met three pianists to have ever broken a piano string.

“Well!” I said. “My name’s Andy.  Now you’ve met four.

Anyway, get ready, I’ll be with you at around 6:30pm PST.   My “Kum Ba Yah” should be live by then.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

Dark Holly

You have to sort of not know the song, but it’s “The Holly and the Ivy,” an old French carol, on which I have taken off. Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, October 17, 2019.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

Cold This Season

“Cold This Season” Copyright © 2019 by Andrew Michael Pope.
Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, October 10, 2019.

 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

Tuesday Tuneup 56

finest work

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Getting ready.

Q. For what?

A. For a change in policy.

Q. Why does your policy need to change?

A. Because it’s ineffective.

Q. How is it ineffective?

A. Why don’t you just ask me what the policy is?

Q. Why should I ask you that?

A. Because you will then be able to determine for yourself why it is ineffective.

Q. Very well, then.  What is your current policy?

A. Reckless Abandon.

Q. With respect to what?

A. With respect to Art.

Q. How so?

A. I create continuously.   I create without letup or rest.  I create like a crazed maniac.   But I only create at random.  There is no order, nor rhyme nor reason, to the manner in which I create.

Q. Can you provide a specific example?

A. Yes.  The talks I gave recently, and the blog post I wrote as to how PTSD relates to the Homeless Experience.   This was random.  It was not something I intended to do according to a concrete creative plan.  It just sort of — happened — when I was moved to do so.

Q. And a second example?

A. The piano album I created, called Abandon.  It resulted from a comment someone had made that intrigued me.  I took off on that comment, until an entire piano album had been produced.

Q. Is this a bad thing?

A. Not in and of itself, no.

Q. Then why do you need to change the policy?

A. Because these creative endeavors have been keeping me from fully engaging a far more important creative task.

Q Which is?

A. The 4th Draft of my musical Eden in Babylon, and the 2nd draft of its musical score.

Q. Have you been procrastinating?

A. Yes.  But I prefer to frame it a bit differently.

Q. How so?

A. It’s not so much procrastination as it is preparation.  

Q. How can procrastination be preparation?

Labor of Love – A Semester’s Reflection | Kelsey BrannanA. It’s like so.  When I procrastinate, I engage my creative energies in a way that pleases me.  It is not what I have to do.  It is what I want to do.   In doing so, I practice creating out of desire, not out of obligation.   Then, when I cease to procrastinate, the desire to create remains — for I have practiced it.

Q. Do you mean to tell me that when you implement the new change in policy, the Object of your Creative Desire will immediately be changed?

A. Yes.  When the clock strikes midnight tonight, the Object of my Artistic Affection will be altered. It will no longer have anything to do with homelessness, or PTSD, or even blogging, for that matter.  Nor will it involve my piano playing.  It will instead return to what it was before I deviated off onto those artistic tangents.

Q. In other words, at the stroke of midnight, you will immediately reactivate the desire to work on your musical?

A. Not exactly.  It’s already been activated.  I just haven’t begun to do it yet.

Q. Why not?

A. Because it isn’t time yet.  It happens at midnight tonight.

Q. Why?

A. Because it’s been scheduled that way.

Q. Why adhere so strictly to the schedule?

A. You want the whole rundown?

Q. Why not?

Funny sublimation designs downloads quote funny Not | EtsyA. Very well then.  To be honest with you, when we suspended operations on the project, I became depressed.  I blamed myself for falling short.   I remained depressed for eleven days.  And I accomplished nothing.

Then I decided to deal with the depression in my typical, lifelong fashion.  I would hurl myself full force into various artistic endeavors.  But I wouldn’t work on the musical, because it was too depressing to think about it.

In the process of working on these less pertinent, less relevant side projects, I became happy again.   And now that I am happy, and longer depressed, I will resume working on the musical, and be happy doing so.

Q. So you’re trying to tell me that the same project that earlier depressed you will now make you happy?

A. Yes.

Q. Why do I find that hard to believe?

A. Probably because you’re either not an Artist, or you don’t know me very well, or both.

Q. May I ask a question that might insult you?

A. At your own risk, ask away.  

Q. Why do you think you can pull it off?

A. Because my name is Andy Pope.   Any further questions?

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Abandon: My New Piano Album

My new piano album Abandon is now available on Bandcamp.   The seven movements of the piece are each for sale for $2 or more, and the entire album is on sale for $7 or more.

Abandon

abandon.jpg

Abandon is a musical collection of feelings. All music is improvised around classical themes and motives. Original music of my youth is referenced throughout.  Also referenced are themes of Edward Elgar, Henry Mancini and Jim Morrison.

Abandon is also available in hard copy CD.  The CD’s are currently being distributed locally for a suggestion donation of $5 to $20.  I will mail CD’s to anyone outside of the local area for a $10 to $25 donation. Donations may be made by PayPal on the DONATE link below each page on this site.  All proceeds will go toward further funding of our concert reading of my musical Eden in Babylon, to be scheduled for a three-night run at the Kenworthy Theatre at a future date TBD.  David Harlan, the Artistic Director of Moscow Art Theatre (Too),  will be directing, as well as providing sound and lighting design.  I will be the rehearsal accompanist and orchestra director.  We are currently seeking a fuller staff, including a competent stage manager (a paid position), and vocal director (also a paid position.)  I urge you to support this worthy cause by purchasing my new piano offering, either online or by hard copy CD.   

Abandon © 2019 by Andrew Michael Pope.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

Portrait of Betrayal

This is the 5th movement of my recently completed improvisational sonata, Abandon. The concept album consists of approximately forty minutes of completely improvised piano music in a classical and romantic vein.  Original songs of a former day are quoted, amid numerous references to Jim Morrison, Edward Elgar and Henry Mancini. Please message me if you are interested in purchasing a hard copy CD or an online piano album on BandCamp. 

“Betray” Copyright © 2019 by Andrew Michael Pope. Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, August 27th, 2019.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

Pinnacle

If anyone has use for a CD in this day and age (and I’m almost sure there are those among us who do), my new Pinnacle CD is on sale for $10 on the local market and $15 if I have to mail it to you.

And just in case you don’t happen to have any particular use for a CD in your hyper-modern mode of existence, my music doesn’t cost a whole lot to access in general.  As a matter of fact, here it is.

pinnacle cover

One way or the other, your kind donation is always appreciated.   Here’s to the “Heart of the Arts.”

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

Grandish

I was thinking around the tune called “Something Sort of Grandish” by Burton Lane, and this is what came about.   Hope you like it.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Disturbances

I’ve been a bit under the weather lately, with laryngitis keeping me from speaking or singing.  I canceled everything yesterday, though showed for a single rehearsal this morning before calling it a day early.  Whilst inside, I have wanted to let you know how this Howard upright piano, almost a hundred years of age, sounds in my living room.  Here’s a little something I spun out yesterday afternoon, spontaneously as it were.  The old guard has dignity.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.