A Piano in Heaven

We’ve lost a true treasure.

The water has been flowing freely in Texas over the past few days from the rain clouds, but today, the water is coming from the tears of many fellow West Texans over the loss of one of our true treasures, pianist and composer Doug Smith, who died in his sleep this week(A complete list of Doug’s albums can be found at the end of the linked article.)

My family heard Doug play in person on several occasions, usually at church, and I also heard him in concert on another occasion, too.  I’m not sure if any music has ever moved me so much as Doug’s music did over the years, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, especially today.

The news of his death also hit me yesterday as I remembered what a fan my mother was of Doug and his music.  I remember taking her to buy some of his CDs at a local store here a few years ago and remember how thrilled she was to have them and listened to them so often.  People young and old alike loved Doug and his music, it seems.

As an avid lover of both music and photography, I found his artistic collaboration with Texas State Photographer, Wyman Meinzer, to be a truly rare work of art that I probably won’t see again in my lifetime, and I think it will go down as one of the best representations of my West Texas home that will ever be created.  Any visitor to our area can benefit from first watching this magnificent video to try to first understand the soul of the area and its people that these two gentlemen managed to capture so beautifully.

Often, when we go camping, we listen to Doug’s music.  It is such a perfect fit when out in our beautiful Texas State Parks.  Many scenes in the “West Texas” video are from those state parks that we visit so often, too.  Today, I broke down in tears watching the video again and knowing that half of the artistic duo that created it is now gone from us.  That speaks to the impact Doug and his music had on so many of us.

Please take a few minutes today or sometime soon to watch the two videos below.  One is the video I spoke of above, the famous “West Texas” video, and the other is an eight minute documentary by Doug himself following his tragic car wreck in 2007 that paralyzed him and took away his ability to play the piano… temporarily.  It is an epic story of overcoming adversity and is one that I think you will remember going forward, too.

You will see the West Texas video in its best quality by watching it in full screen mode.

Wyman Meinzer’s West Texas from Wyman Meinzer on Vimeo.

I’m going to listen to Doug’s music this week as I go about my daily chores, and I will pray for his family and all that loved him.  They are legion, and some of us feel that we’ve lost part of ourselves in his passing.  We mourn both the man and his music today.

Today, it gives me comfort to know that the hands that Doug said he missed a few years ago are once again restored and that there is a piano in Heaven that is once again singing the tunes of the soul of West Texas at the hands of a master with a true gift from God who learned to play the piano by ear.  And for all the many, many hours of enjoyment Doug’s music has brought to me, and will continue to do in years to come, I wanted to offer my own little tribute today in gratitude.

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Beloved Star-Spangled Banner

“Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light…”

196 years ago today…

On September 13, 1814, Attorney Frances Scott Key was aboard a British troopship at Fort McHenry to negotiate the release of an American civilian that had been taken prisoner.  When the bombardment of Fort McHenry began about four miles away, Key was detained on the troopship.  In the early dawn hours of September 14, 1814, Key saw the huge flag still flying over Fort McHenry, and he excitedly began to write the words to the song that is now our nation’s national anthem.  The poem’s original title was “In Defense of Fort McHenry,”  and the anthem we sing is only one of four verses to the entire song.  The last verse is so very special and inspiring, too.

It is also interesting to note that the song Key penned and put to music was not officially adopted as our national anthem until 1931.  My parents were ten years old at that time.  Kind of brings it all into perspective for me a little bit more.  We are still a young nation.

The anthem is not an easy song to sing or perform on a wind instrument.  My son is a trumpet player, and he has played the national anthem on several memorable occasions.  One of the most special occasions was at his own high school commencement ceremony, where he stood on stage in the huge arena and belted it out solo.  His classmates and everyone in the audience brought the house down as he finished.  I know they were proud of his performance, but I also know that it was once again a recognition of our fervent pride in our country, too.  He put his heart and soul into it, and it showed.  It was a magic moment.  His mother… well, she couldn’t hold the tears back… didn’t even try.

I am probably in a minority, but I still fight tears every time I sing the national anthem at a public gathering.  I watch the flag going up the pole, and I think about Frances Scott Key looking out over the water to see that fort and that huge flag getting bombarded… and all he could do was watch… and start penning the words to our future national anthem.

Please go see the Star Spangled Banner at it’s beautiful home at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington D. C. sometime.  You can’t miss it because it sits just inside the main entrance of the building… totally appropriate.

Wash DC Apr 1-7089

Read up on the conservation (not restoration) project, too.  The painstaking detail work done is just incredible.  I was privileged to see the flag and some of the workers during the conservation project in the spring of 2001, and I finally saw the flag in it’s new home in the spring of 2009… memories that I will always treasure.

I think Frances Scott Key would be proud.

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