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The Unexpected Concert

December 4, 2014

The piano music streamed out into the meeting hall of the Federated Church in Hyannis. I was sitting at the Coffee House, held four mornings a week, co-sponsored by the Duffy Health Center and Vinfin for the men and women we work with. Two urns of coffee were brewing, and we had fruit and small pastries available.

There were about twenty people in the room; it was one of the first cold mornings of the year, and nearly everyone who walked into the room willingly shed their coats and commented on the welcome warmth. Some folks were playing cards, some chatting, some just sat within their own world. In the corner was a well-worn old piano; at the piano was a gentleman I have worked with in the past. He was playing a deeply moving piece of music, just rolling the notes off his fingers, nearly making the piano rock with his effort, and the sound was filling the room. It was so loud and dramatic it was almost another presence in the hall.

I walked over to him; "That's beautiful."

"I wrote it." He continued to play. "I haven't been able to play it in a long time. The mind doesn't forget, but the fingers do."

There was a young gentleman sitting at the table, having some fruit. "I love oranges," he told me. "I don't get them that often." As he segmented his orange, he sat listening to the music. "I wonder if he would play my favorite song, "Fur Elise."

Every day I get a surprise. A young, twenty-something guy. living on the streets, tells me his favorite song is by Beethoven. A man I call "The Reverend" because of our past philosophical discussions, sits down and plays his own composition on the piano, a piece of music I wouldn't be surprised to hear at the symphony or on a classical music album.

We wander over to see if The Reverend will play a request. "I haven't played that in a long time." He started picking out the song, he hit a rough spot and I played it from my cell phone to help him.

"Hey," he yelled to the guy, "I think I got it." The guy's eyes lit up, "Great, but, wait, I gotta go out and have a cigarette, please wait for me!"

While we waited, our pianist told me how when he was very young he asked his dad for piano teach him. He still appreciated the effort his father had made, even though he didn't spend a lot of time near a piano these days.

Our friend came up, his nicotine addiction relieved. "OK, play it for me now."

He stood near the piano as "Fur Elise" was played. The musician in me noticed a few imperfect notes, but the young man clearly had no criticism of the performance, he solemnly listened to the whole piece.

"That was really nice, thanks."

We were closing up the Coffee House, so the men wandered out the door, probably to go the Salvation Army for lunch, taking all the music with them, leaving a silent church hall. Oh, and reminding me, again, that I should never be surprised where the homeless have come from.

If anyone would like to help us, we are looking for people to provide music for out coffee houses; simple instruments, old standards, old rock songs and Fur Elise appreciated! We are also happy to accept donations to support the purchase of healthy snacks for the attendees. Please call Cathy Finn at 508-771-9599 ext. 276.