Presidents Day - Abe Washington ?
Abe has been practicing for this day his whole life. Now that he finally had an audition at Kennedy Center he just couldn’t decide what piece to play. He had practiced all the standards by Beethoven and Bach on his upright piano at home but he couldn’t wait to play on the full size Steinway concert piano on the stage at Kennedy Center. He was ready but somehow he just wasn’t satisfied with any of the classical choices he had prepared for today. Maybe it was just normal performance anxiety. He was probably overanxious and over-wound and couldn’t seem to settle down. And the beautiful sunny weather didn’t help much because he just wanted to stay outside in the sun and enjoy the grace of the day. But that was just his anxiety talking and he knew he would not pass up this chance of a lifetime. He quickly glanced at his watch and took note of the fact that there was only one hour until audition time and the letter had said that he should arrive one-half hour early and to go to the warm-up room. So Abe had to get himself ready. His family and friends all had their fingers crossed and he didn’t want to disappoint them by putting forth less than his best efforts. Still he couldn’t decide what piece to perform.
Perhaps he should do the patriotic piece he’d brought along. After all it was an audition for the National Symphony Orchestra for a presidential concert and wasn’t he the one and only Abe Washington playing at Kennedy Center. What a moniker to be tagged with for life. I always felt I had to live up to the greatness of the names I carried. I also always felt that I was given that name because my Mom and Dad were in a sixties drug haze when they named me. Perhaps a patriotic performance was appropriate. Time was almost up with only 45 minutes left until audition time and he had to get off of this bench and head inside. He’d have to decide along the way. He had the appropriate number of copies of the sheet music for all the songs he had been considering; maybe he would just close his eyes and choose. As he passed through the front entrance he should have headed to the warm up room but instead he found himself going toward the main office toward a blue haired lady behind a desk.
“Excuse me, ma’am I have a very big favor to ask of you. Do you think that maybe you could help me out of a particularly tight bind?”
“I don’t know dear, what exactly do you need?”
“Well, I have an audition in about one-half hour and I thought I had all of my music copied but when I opened my briefcase I find that the particular piece I’ve just decided to do was overlooked. It’s only four pages and I only need ten copies of each page. Is there any chance you’d be a dear and make me some copies?”
“Well, I’m not supposed to do that.”
“But it’s so terribly important. My Mom is waiting for me to call her and tell her how I’ve done and I don’t want to disappoint her and the rest of my family What do you say, can you help me? I’m sure my Mom will be grateful.”
In just a few minutes that seemed like a few hours she returned with a small stack of nicely collated and stapled papers.
“Thank you so very much my dear lady. I thank you and my Mother thanks you. By the way, what is your name dear.”
“Oh, it’s Rose.”
“Rose Johnson, now you better get to that audition before you’re too late. If you’re late, they won’t let you reschedule.”
After blowing Rose a kiss, I headed out the door and walked swiftly down the hall towards the warm up room. When I arrived there was a guard outside the door who asked for my name and to see my letter of invitation.
“Your name Sir?”
“Abe Washington is my name. I have a two o’clock appointment.”
“Could you cut it any closer young man?”
“No, I really don’t think so.”
“Go on in and see the girl at the front of the room for instructions.”
I handed the girl my letter and said, “Hi, I’m Abraham Washington, here for my audition.”
“Could you cut it any closer? You have no warm up time left. Do you have your music?”
I handed her my stack of copies and she hurried me along toward the stage.
“Wait for them to call your name. Good luck Abe.”
I waited in the wings for about five minutes and then I heard a voice calling my name.
“Mr. Washington, Mr. Abraham Washington.”
I headed toward the piano and faced the orchestra and the man who had called out my name. He was holding a copy of my sheet music.
“Is this a mistake Mr. Washington? This music is for Lovers’ Concerto. You’re supposed to play a classical or a patriotic piece.”
“No sir, no mistake. Lovers’ Concerto is a classical finger exercise from Bach with a Motown baseline added to it. It doesn’t get more classical than Bach.”
“OK, I don’t hold out much hope for your chance at being selected with this as your audition piece, but you’re here so you might as well audition.”
The orchestra started to play, and I came in when expected and the room came to life. The members of the orchestra all had a smile on their faces and I had never felt so perfectly in sync with the music I was playing. Whether I was chosen or not, life at this very moment could get no better. When I played my last note I stood up and turned to the orchestra and bowed. The man in charge stood up and looked at me and said, “well, Mr. Washington, it took a lot of courage to make that selection but I have to tell you that was by far the best performance of the day. And as you said, you can’t get more classical than Bach and Love is certainly a patriotic emotion, so I'm happy to say that we’d like you to join our orchestra for the Presidential patriotic performance for Presidents Day. Be here tomorrow at two for practice.”
“I can assure you sir. I will be on time. Thank you very much. Truly I thank you and my Mother thanks you, my whole family thanks you.”
With that parting remark I left the stage and headed right down to see my new friend Rose.
“Rosie my dear, being as honest as the day is long I can not tell a lie, I made it Rosie. I’ll buy you a ticket and you can sit with my Mom.”
I blew her a kiss over the counter and ran out the front door. Today is a great day for honest Abe Washington and that is the absolute truth!
A Lovers Concerto was recorded by The toys in 1965 and released on the Dynavoice label.
In 1965 it sold over a million copies. It was written by the songwriting duo of Sandy Linzer
and Denny Randell who took a classical finger exercise from Bach and put a Motown bassline to it.
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