I had the most wonderful experience of celebrating my birthday, February 25th, this year in Manhattan with my dear friend and organist Meredith Storer.
I traveled to her Uptown West Side apartment in the evening. A doorman warmly welcomed me to the beautiful 100-year-old apartment building. I walked through the decorative hallway and took the old-fashioned elevator to the 8th floor.
Meredith hugged me when I entered her apartment and she rushed back to the kitchen. When she returned, Meredith was holding a cake and singing “Happy Birthday”, accompanied by her curious cat, Amun. It was adorable.
The cake was perfect. She asked me the day before what I’d like and I said something not too sweet, something simple. Maybe my answer was not too exciting. However, Meredith revealed a genuine cheesecake covered with chocolate powder and topped with berries. She said she went to three different French bakeries, through the rain, until she found it. Her clothes were still soaking wet, she said. I was touched by her kindness and thoughtfulness. Not to mention, the cake was beautiful and very tasty!
I asked Meredith if she could play music for me as a special birthday gift. She thought for a moment and took me to the music room on the other side of the apartment. A grand piano, an organ, and a harpsichord were sitting in the room along with many music notes and stands.
First, Meredith sat down at the organ. I’ve enjoyed organ music for years, especially when visiting churches, but I barely knew much about playing it at all! At least, I knew playing the organ required both fingers on the keys and feet on the pedals below. I learned that the notes for organ music feature the treble clef and bass, the same as piano music, plus another bass clef to denote what the feet should do on the pedals.
I was amazed to see Meredith’s hands and feet coordinate such beautiful music. It was like magic to me! Her performance made me want to learn more about its history and how the organ has brought people together.
Then Meredith moved to the harpsichord and shared more history with me. She showed me musical scores by the late 1600s French composer Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre. I had no idea a female composer was born 20 years earlier than Johann Sebastian Bach!
Élisabeth Jacquet de La Guerre was very successful in her era. She played for King Louis XIV and gave concerts at home and throughout Paris.
While Meredith was playing Jacquet de La Guerre's pieces on her harpsichord, I felt like I was transported back to the late 1600’s Paris. It was a strong sensation; I was simply listening to each note and feeling the emotion through the keyboard.
Suddenly, I snapped back to the present, back in New York 2017. It was surreal. What a special birthday I had and what a sweet friend Meredith is for giving me such a beautiful musical evening!