I hung up the phone, thanking Stu, and wrote for awhile. And that was that.
Well ... actually, it wasn’t. The stirred-up memories didn't dissipate so easily.
I thought about home, where I grew up. The LHS music department, long the pride of the state, and how Peter took what was handed to him and created what then became one of the most formidable music programs around. The chorus I heard over the phone sounded every bit as tight and professional as any I’d ever heard, cell or no cell. As good as my early 70's group? Never. lol - I’m kidding ... sort of. Seriously, I wasn’t the least bit surprised about the excellence. I knew they would be great because I know all about the excellence Pete expects from his students; he always instilled that in people. I know he did that for me. As we know, high school can often be a very confusing time for students. I know it was, at times, for me. But to have a guy like Pete ... He was a teacher, sure. But it was different with him. Sure, we all respected him. Because he was a teacher. But he was also a friend – a good person. Talented, sensitive and … cool. I mean - this teacher sang the music we all loved back then. It wasn't just about Brahms and Mozart. This guy played guitar and, at times, performed like he was a recording artist. He really was one of us. And it was that sort of "hip" side to him that opened the music door to many others who might otherwise have never peaked behind that door. I remember my more jock-like friends - guys who played baseball, football, lacrosse - who took an interest in the music department because Pete was heading up the program. That was special.
I'll wind down with this memory. As special as my personal Lyrics experience was, there was also a group called "I Cantori" - a nine-person madrigal group selected each year as a sort of sub-group of the Lyrics bunch. I was lucky enough to be part of that experience as well. I loved those Cantori rehearsals - I think they were Sunday nights? - at Pete's home? Near or on Trafton Road, across or very close to Forest Park, from what I can remember. It's funny, I remember "Mandy" was hit song then and for some reason I connect that song with those rehearsals, go figure. And the ten of us (Pete included) would get together once a week and run through some pretty intricate and challenging music. And from what I can remember, we were pretty good. Sometimes, a group member would host a rehearsal. I remember the group once coming over to my house, where my mom had fixed snacks and we sang in the living room, by the big grand piano. I remember my folks telling me what a treat that was hearing us downstairs that way. Eve, Candy, Sheryl, George, Anna, Ryan, John, me (I think I'm missing a tenor??) – quite the group. Lots of fun.
"Lau Dote Nomen Domeni ... " That was our particular I Cantori signature tune, I believe. I can still remember every Latin word. Just in case, I looked it up - here's the sheet music:
Laudate nomen Domini, vos servi Domini; ab ortu solis usque ad occasum ejus. Decreta Dei justa sunt, et cor exhilarant: laudate Deum principes et omnes populi.
Beautiful song. I found a bunch of YouTube links - here's one - you can hear how pretty this melody is. Our default version was much more up-tempo from what I can remember. Still, it was good to hear this again.
As I wound down after the calls, I thought about my time as Peter’s student. After high school, I stayed in touch with him for a bit of time. At one point, some 15 years later when I was managing and working as an attorney in the music business, we even collaborated on something. Pete was working with one of his students who was a member of a very talented R&B group, and he was trying to get something going with them in the city. As it happens, our lives unfolded after that and we gradually lost touch, reconnecting periodically and even for a flash last year during my trip cross country.
I plan to reach out to him when the dust settles; after he's had a chance to take in, what I can only imagine has been a very special period for him. I'll call him because I want to be the next person in line who lets him know, not only what he’s meant to me, but what he's meant to all of the people who have come through his program - through his life.
It was wonderful to be swept back in time like that this afternoon.
Okay. So I know I was in Kansas City and they were there - what did I say - 1357 miles of American real estate between us? But you know what? What I said back in high school still stands. “Singing (or mouthing words) with friends ...” - It is, most definitely, still a great experience. Even from all the way out here.
That should be testimony to the kind of thing Pete has given all of us.
I will never forget him and what he’s about.