Lament for Lost Ability

Edwin, Daniel, Patrick and his friend Natalie and I went to hear Christopher O’Riley tonight. It was a very enjoyable concert; the audience was mostly students and they responded very well. O’Riley must have enjoyed it too.

We had $15 student seats in the balcony, facing the end of the piano, so we could see his face but not his hands. That was nice, but at intermission Edwin and Daniel spotted out an empty row on the other side, so we moved to those seats. After intermission ended, and O’Riley had come out and sat down at the piano bench, of course we were eager to discover if we could see his hands from our new seats. We could–we saw in the bright spotlight his hands moving rapidly in arpeggios and octaves across the keys, and in the highly polished black wood of the Steinway, we also had a perfect view of the reflections of his hands–two pairs of hands.

When he first started playing and I began watching his hands, I felt wistful, remembering a time when my hands, too, could move so quickly and with such strength and facility. At one time Erik praised me for my octaves. After I first noticed Chris O’Riley’s hands reflected in the piano, I wanted to weep from all the memories. How many evenings of my life have I spent seated in a darkened room, playing, lit only by a single light? Ever since I was very young I have loved the way spot lighting brings out the polish of a piano, the contrast between its blacks and whites, and the mesmerizing action of two hands and two reflections across the keyboard. I always used to imagine myself under the spotlight in a concert hall, whenever I practiced at night. These memories are not just in my mind but also in my eyes, my hands and fingers. And tonight here I was, seated in a concert hall, watching someone else’s two pairs of hands, my own two tendinitis-stricken hands tired and sore in my lap.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]