When I think of the legendary concerts in music history - the Beatles at Shea Stadium in New York City; Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and other rock giants at Woodstock; me as the guest triangle player for the Stamford Symphony Orchestra - the one I remember as the greatest was my granddaughter Chloe’s third-grade recorder concert, which was held recently in the cafeteria of her elementary school.
I am not the kind of person to toot my own horn - except, of course, the one in my car - but I will toot Chloe’s. Or I would if I could play it. Still, her performance deserved a Granny Award, which is named for my wife, Sue, who happens to be the maestro’s grandmother.
Sue and I were among the dozens of lucky concertgoers who included Chloe’s little sister, Lilly, a kindergartner who skipped class for the monumental event, and our younger daughter, Lauren, the girls’ mommy.
As 80 students from five classes stood on risers - Chloe was, fittingly, in the front row - I thought about my only concert appearance. It occurred about 25 years ago at the Palace Theater in my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut.
Even though I am not proficient on any musical instrument - I can barely get through “Chopsticks” on the little kiddie piano in our family room - I somehow talked the Stamford Symphony into letting me play the triangle before a sellout crowd of 1,500 bemused but ultimately appreciative patrons.
Required to wear formal attire, I rented a tuxedo that made me look like a deranged panda. As the musicians were warming up and the unsuspecting ticket holders began settling into their seats, I introduced myself to the conductor, Skitch Henderson, who was Johnny Carson’s original “Tonight Show” bandleader.
“I’m the guest triangle player,” I told him.
“Do you have any experience with the triangle?” he asked.
“Only in high school geometry,” I answered. “I got a D.”
Henderson looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. Then he smiled weakly and stammered, “Have fun!”
The selection for my solo was Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Yeoman of the Guard.” Considering that I was sweating nervously, it should have been called “The Yeoman of the Right Guard.”
I stepped forward, triangle and beater in hand, and set off a series of dings, bings and clings, for which I received rapturous applause. At the end of the concert, I got a standing ovation.
Since I figured I could never top that one magic moment, I immediately retired from my brief music career.
That’s why I looked forward to Chloe’s concert. Even though she didn’t have a solo, she was prominent enough in my eyes (and ears) to be the star of the show.
Under the direction of Lauren Anasky and with help from accompanist Rob Ozman, the kids began with a stirring rendition of “Hot Cross Buns.”
The other selections were “French Song,” “Merrily We Roll Along,” “Old Brass Wagon,” “Tideo,” “All Alone,” “Leapin’ Lizard,” “The Clock and the Moon,” “Starburst” and, the grand finale, “Whacky Do Re Mi,” which the children sang.
All through the performance, I concentrated on Chloe, who not only played perfectly, but wiggled and warbled wondrously.
At the conclusion of the half-hour show, the moms, dads and grandparents in the audience rose to their feet and gave the talented musicians - especially, I like to think, Chloe - a huge round of applause.
She handed her instrument back to a school staffer and greeted us with characteristic modesty. But I could envision her going on to bigger things, like playing the recorder in a legendary concert at Carnegie Hall.
If the conductor could stand the shock, I’d love to come out of retirement and be the guest triangle player.
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service and is the author of six books. His latest is “One for the Ageless: How to Stay Young and Immature Even If You’re Really Old.” Reach him at [email protected] or via jerryzezima.blogspot.com.