Thursday, March 22, 2012

A father's dream ...

Nobility, grace, strength, courage, ... such, perhaps, are the hopes in a father's heart for his own gift to his wife and children, and to his world as well.

Dad was a composer, conductor, music educator... and an impressive tenor; a tuxedo type, lots of the time.  Mom was a talented soprano and was often in his work.  Dad had a long career with choirs and orchestras, college and churches and communities.

Of the hundreds of performances I attended through my childhood, I remember one best; a community performance of Handel's Messiah at Easter.  Dad assembled a composite choir of a couple hundred voices from several churches.  Along with an orchestra, they performed in a packed cathedral for Catholics and Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians, the larger family which in those days was fairly unusual.  I remember, as the crowd stood for the chorus, the hair on the back of my neck stood up.  Many of us wept as the inspired magnificence of Handel's work swept across the hall and through each one of us.  In the days before sound systems, the voices and instruments filled the world with wonderful power and clarity.

His students were family, and it was common to have twenty of them or more over for an evening event.  They adopted mom and dad as their own parents-du-jour which meant my sister and I had a lot of siblings.

In retirement, a friend asked Dad if he would teach piano to his child.  In no time, Dad had 30 students, lessons once a week each.  He died rather suddenly, shortly before his 70th birthday.

I heard stories about him for years after he died.  One of the most illuminating, perhaps, was from a school teacher.  One of the boys in her class, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, said, "I want to be a piano teacher like Mr. Dickerson."  He was one of dad's students, and though he had no notable musical interest, he knew he wanted to be like my dad.

Nobility, grace, strength, courage; you did well, Dad.  Now, these decades later, I begin to understand your heart.


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