Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A sacred moment: giving Kathleen's magic flute to the LA Innercity Youth Orchestra

With Charles Dickerson at Vroman's

Today I had the privilege and joy of meeting with Charles Dickerson, one of the most extraordinary composers and conductors in Los Angeles, and perhaps the United States. We met at Vroman's where I learned we have a lot in common.

Charles' sister, Martha Hardie. is a close friend of my wife Jill. Charles is music director at the Rolling Hills United Methodist Church, which is only a few miles away from Walteria UMC, the last church which Kathleen, my wife of blessed memory, pastored before her death. Charles is a good friend of Pastor Diane Rehfield, whom Kathleen mentored and helped to become pastor at Walteria UMC. So many connections!
Charles came to Vroman's to meet me because I had offered to donate Kathleen's Haynes silver flute to the LA Innercity Youth Orchestra, which Charles conducts. My first exposure to Charles' music was when Jill and I went to the First AME Church of Los Angeles and heard Charles' choral symphony based on Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech: we were blown away by the depth and complexity and beauty of this composition. Martha then invited us to an even more amazing event: the annual concert of the Los Angeles Inner City Youth Symphony at Disney. See Charles is the conductor and director of this remarkable program that nurtures talented inner city youth, mainly Latino and Black, and helps them to realize their dream of becoming classical musicians.

Kathleen & me playing Xmas carols
To honor Kathleen, I felt led to donate her silver flute to the ICYOLA. Before doing so, however, I consulted with Kathleen's family, particularly my brother-in-law Jim and his son Edward, who is a budding musician. (He plays the fiddle beautifully.) They agreed that donating Kathleen’s flute to ICYOLA would be a fitting way to honor Kathleen’s memory.
Giving this precious flute to Charles felt like a sacred moment, both to him as well as me (and to the woman who took our picture and heard this story!). Charles told me when he finds a young musician worthy of this flute, he will take a picture and send it to me. I trust he will share with this young person this blog entry so he or she will know who made this flute magical.
This  flute was given to Kathleen by her father when she was a teenager taking part in the San Diego Youth Symphony. This group of gifted musicians went on a tour of Europe (Kathleen's father was one of the adult chaperone and said it was at times quite a challenging experience because teens will be teens). Kathleen played in some prestigious venues, including Richard Wagner's opera house in Beirut, Germany, which was built to play only Wagner's music. (Wagner was not a humble man.) Kathleen didn't like Wagner, but I like his music, esp. Parsifal and the Meistersinger.  Kathleen was gracious enough to go with me to one of Wagner's operas--Tristan and Isolde--about ill-fated lovers. She was a very good sport since she believed (like Mark Twain) that "Wagner's music is not as bad as it sounds."
Kathleen played the flute at church from time to time and it was always wonderful to hear her play--the sound of her flute was so pure. She and I played together for the first time at Pendle Hill--Renaissance music. It was always a joy playing duets with her. We continued to play duets throughout our marriage, usually simple stuff, like  "Simple Gifts," "Greensleeves" and Appalachian folk tunes. The last time we played was at Walteria UMC just before we left, and before Kathleen's cancer diagnosis, in June of 2009. I don't remember what we played, but I do remember we sang the "theme song" of our marriage:
We ain't got a barrel of money,
We may look tired and funny,
But we travel along
Singing this song
Side by side.

Through all kinds of weather
What if the rain should fall?
As long as we're together
It doesn't matter at all.
When all the others have parted
We'll be the same as we started
Just travel along
Singing this song
Side by side....
Kathleen loved her flute and I know she'd be thrilled and delighted  that a young musician of color will have the same opportunity as she had to play. She blessed this flute with her faithful, loving life and it will be a blessing to whoever plays it.  And I know she'd be  thrilled to see how Edward is progressing on the violin and mandolin. Music is like a river that flows from one generation to the next--a river of light and love that fills our hearts with joy.
Shakespeare once wrote: "If music be the food of love, play on!"
I gave Edward this avuncular advice, which I pass on to you: Play from your heart, and the song will come out right! Kathleen would add this caveat: Don't forget to pay attention to the notes!




  1. I'm so proud of my husband and how he has honored Kathleen and this whole process of being moved by the Spirit of God to so generously give this precious and valuable gift.

  2. Thanks, Jill (aka "Anonymous"), for your kind words about Kathleen and my decision to give her flute to the ICYOLA. If it hadn't been for you, I would never have heard of ICYOLA. You are always expanding my horizons and my circle of friends, helping me connect to the African American and Latino community. You are amazing! Love, your husband

  3. Thank you Anthony! I can't think of a more appropriate new home for Kathleen's flute.