The words of Charlie that have always been with me ever since 1975. . .
It was during the time of my graduate work at New England Conservatory of Music back in 1974 - 76. I was a resident at the Quaker Friends House on Beacon Hill, at 6 Chestnut Street. Since its location was very close to Old West Church, I was asked by my teacher Yuko - sensei to see if their guest room would be available for Professor Harald Vogel to stay in one of frequent trips to Boston. Luckily, there was a vacancy so at that time he stayed in this House for a couple of days.
I think it was on the day of Harald's master class or a concert at Old West Church that Charlie, Harald and I walked back to the Friends House together after his practice time in the church. It was mainly because Harald wanted to get ready for the event in the evening. While Charlie and I were waiting for Harald to get dressed we chatted outside the House on the sunny wooden terrace. Charlie told me how his mother used to tell him, "If you are feeling good about what you are doing, you are doing pretty good." Then, a bit more seriously, Charlie looked at me and said, "Tomoko, you have all these best organ teachers in the world like Yuko and Harald and Tagliavini. They can teach you [a lot], but you know, they can not teach [you]. . ."
It was such a simple yet strong philosophical statement that it had to always stay with me. I do wonder what he really meant, but judging from how he enjoyed listening to my "freer" side of performances, I think he wanted to tell me that I had to play more in the way I felt. To this day, I still have to quite often contemplate on his phrase in the hope to someday become able to really be "Tomoko".
May the peaceful spirit of our beloved Charlie continue to guide us all in need, forever.
Charlie contemplating the Choir division of Opus 55,
Old West, Boston in the "old shop".
Photo: Robert Cornell