Ode to Mama Music

It had the potential to be a…..difficult relationship.  She, the classically trained musician with perfect pitch, fabulous voice, lifelong history of teaching, performing, directing and arranging music.  Me, the self-taught, improvising, chord-banging, bar-singer voiced newbie.

When we came to Faith Lutheran Church, Rita Rae played the organ and directed the choir.  We had come from a church where a contemporary service was held on Saturday night, featuring a Christian rock band, and we um…..pushed…. a similar agenda on the pastor, who initially shuddered at the thought of rocky rhythms pounding through his sanctuary. But he relented and allowed us to perform a reggae version of Mary’s Boy Child at a Christmas Eve service.

Rita Rae could have taken offense at my audacity, and my intrusion into her territory.  She did not…..she played the piano for the song, pumping the perfect rhythm, joined into singing the intricate harmonies, and caused a certain staid older female parishioner  to dance in the aisle….

The contemporary Christmas song led to a contemporary service, in which Rita Rae was an enthusiastic participant.  The organ, which I played, was set at at 90 degree angle to the piano, which she played, and with never a rehearsal, she would just watch my hands and copied the chords, adding just the right passing tones and fills.

In the following years, we found that our voices blended perfectly, and we could ALWAYS bring Gracie to tears by performing an impromptu version of Beautiful Savior during communion.

She, the ultimate professional has taught me timing, chord structure and voicing. I, the brash banger, have taught her…..nothing  important. Except this: I love her with my life, and it will tear my heart out when she leaves next month to move across the country.

Thank you, Rita Rae.