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David Kassler's Classical Moment


My father had a golden baritone voice and bragged that he rivaled some of the greats. Being so young, we listened to his scratched records, and thought that, indeed, he sounded like Mario Lanza and The Great Caruso. How would we know?

He was asked to sing “O Holy Night” for a church service around Christmas, and he asked me to peck out the notes on our old piano. I came home from school and struggled with the music, helped by relatives and a few friends to get it right. He would then come home and stand by the piano and belt out the song while I nervously pecked away. In time, I got it down and actually was able to add some base with the left hand. My amateur playing, with both hands, actually sounded pretty good.

The night of the performance, in front of a crowd of perhaps 200 people, my father came out on the stage with a lovely lady who had planned to accompany him on the piano. He apologized to her and then told the audience that his son would be playing. Sitting in the audience, unaware of his plan, I was stunned, so much so, that I got up out of my seat and went up on the stage. Had I known, I would never have gone to the performance. I don't think my legs reached the pedals, and I know my hands were shaking.

He nodded to me and I started to play. It was only three notes later that I hit the wrong one. He turned to the audience and told them that 'Dave will start again.” I paused, the began again. Once he began to sing, the volume covered up the few mistakes I made later on.

That song always reminds me of that moment, shaking, yet proud, to have accompanied one of the great baritones in history.

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