A little music with your reading . . .

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All my life, I have adored music. I played the flute from 5th grade through my freshman year in college. Then I met my husband, and he convinced me to switch to choir. I sang in the top choral group for 3 years and a smaller group for 4, continuing during graduate school. My husband and I both sang with a community chorus for a couple years as well. Of course, we sing in church, and all three of our kids have found some level of enjoyment with music, too. We have our own little family quartet on Sundays. I sing soprano, my 17 year-old daughter sings alto, my 15 year-old son sings tenor, my hubby sings bass, and my youngest (13) sings whatever part he feels like.

My daughter plays the same flue now that I did back in the day. My oldest son plays French horn, and my youngest plays trumpet. I guess you could say we have a musical gene in our DNA.

PianoThe one instrument I always wished I could play is the piano. Growing up, I begged my parents to buy one for our house, not quite understanding how expensive that would be, and every year they turned me down. When I got to college, I took 2 years of private piano lessons as an elective, but I was a little too set in my treble clef ways and never really got the hang of the bass clef parts.

So, when I decided to write Charlotte’s story in A Worthy Pursuit, I gave her the gift I’d always wanted for myself–the gift of playing the piano like a master. And one of her charges is a prodigy as well.

Stone, the hero, has never really heard classical piano music. He’s more used to the tinny sounds coming from saloons and dance halls. But just because his ear is uneducated doesn’t mean it’s unappreciative. The first time Charlotte and Stone really let their barriers down with each other is after Stone overhears her playing her heart out on the piano.

Here’s a glimpse:

The piano beckoned to her like a lost love, promising solace. Promising peace. She slid onto the bench and positioned her hands over the keys. Dobson had taken the children fishing down at the lake. There was no one to hear. No one to see.

As a music instructor, she’d played in front of her students countless times, but always when she was in full control. Never when the storm raged so recklessly inside her that she had to play or be consumed. Not when her soul would be vulnerable, exposed. No, those times required privacy. And God’s providence had provided precisely that at the moment she needed it most.

Closing her eyes, her fingers hit the keys. Chopin. Her fingers needed to fly and her mind needed the challenge. The dark tones and unconventional chords of the prelude in G minor told her story. Trapped. Helpless. Questions that had no answers. But the short piece ended too quickly. Her emotions still churned for release. So she chose another. Number 28. F sharp minor. Her agitated spirit accepted the frantic pace, stealing her breath as her fingers sprinted over the keys. But it wasn’t enough. Chopin challenged her, pushed her, but his music didn’t speak to her soul. Not like Beethoven. The Tempest. That’s what she needed to play.

Lifting her hands away from the keys, Charlotte straightened her posture and let her gaze rest on an indistinct space on the wall over the sofa until the melody of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 17 in D minor sang through her mind.

Piano-InstructionWait.

She could hear her father’s instructions. Don’t touch the keys until the music is in you. Until your heart is one with the song.

Wait.

Her fingers hovered above the piano. She breathed. In. Out. Felt the storm build.

Now.

It began gently. Like she had. Wanting to trust. Wanting to believe that Stone Hammond wouldn’t betray them as so many men in her life had done before. But in less than two bars, the doubts rained down. She didn’t really know him. Why would he forfeit Dorchester’s payment? Why would he care?

Yet he’d taken on a wildcat for Stephen without a thought to his own safety. The music slowed again, like a ray of sun peeking through the clouds just long enough to give hope before the gray storm blotted it from the sky. This time the storm raged longer. Her right hand warring with her left as the lighter tones tried to press their way through the roiling seas of the lower hand, like a mermaid calling to a sailor caught in a maelstrom, urging him not to give up, not to be afraid.

Unlike the Chopin preludes, Beethoven’s sonata stretched long before her, allowing her to fully immerse herself into the swells and currents of the song. Up and down she went, over and over. To trust or not to trust? If she did and he betrayed her, what would she do next? How could she protect Lily?

The music became a prayer, the groans of her spirit that were too complex for words. She poured herself out until exhaustion claimed her, the tempest building to its thunderous conclusion before finally giving way to peace. Her spirit gave up the fight as well. Spent from the frenzy of worry. She couldn’t control Stone or his motives. She had to give that over into God’s keeping. He could be trusted even if Stone couldn’t. The Lord would show her what to do when the time came.A Worthy Pursuit

How about you?

  • Do you play an instrument or sing?
  • If you could play any instrument in the world, what would you choose?
Karen Witemeyer
For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at: www.karenwitemeyer.com.

37 Comments

  1. I play piano and flute. I loved your descriptions of the piano playing in “A Worthy Pursuit”! And I recognized most of the songs you mentioned, too. 😀 If I could play any instrument, and cost was no object, I would play cello. I love that instrument!

    1. The cello is a gorgeous instrument, Faith. So classic with a rich range. Lovely choice.

      1. Thank you. Now to go make my first million so I can afford the instrument and lessons. 😉

  2. Hi Karen! Like Faith, I play both piano and flute also. I love music! It speaks to the soul… Although I come from a family much like yours in their love and appreciation of music, all of us playing some type of instrument, I married into a family that did not. What an eye-opener! I loved the excerpt you posted here! Sounds like a terrific story.

    1. Thanks, Kathryn. Thankfully, I married into a musical family. My dad and I were the only two musicians in my family growing up, but my husband’s brother and his wife both majored in music in college. He now teaches music in Nashville and is a regular chorus member with the Nashville Opera. Very cool!

  3. Loved your post. I, too, grew up singing and playing music since my mother was a music teacher. At an early age, I began singing publicly and playing piano and clarinet. I also played flute a little, but not nearly as well as the clarinet.

    Sounds like a wonderful story.

    1. How fun, Kay. I always got terribly nervous if asked to perform as a soloist. Put me in an ensemble group with at least 1 or 2 other players, though, and I was fine. Thankfully, I’ve matured some over the years and have managed to sing solos at a handful of weddings and funerals. I’m glad you grew up with that performance angle so that you didn’t struggle with nerves. What a blessing!

      1. I grew up singing in church & was in choirs in school, & never learned to play any instrument. I fell in love with the sound of the dulcimer & purchased one, but haven’t learned to play it. I have a piano a friend gave us and tried to learn how to play it, but I seem to be left hand challanged! I’d love to be able to play anything! My daughters play: viola, violin, clarinet, and some piano.

        1. I’m left hand challenged, too, Sharon. 🙂 Spending so many years reading treble clef, the bass clef threw me. I had to transpose in my head every time I tried to lean a new song. That’ll slow you down. 🙂 Dulcimers are lovely. I hope you learn how to play yours one of these days. They always make me think of medieval times. 🙂

  4. Hi Karen! I love hearing about your musical talents and those of your family. Music has always been a big part of my life. Growing up in a small town, many of us took voice lessons together. Piano lessons were taken for a few years but I preferred to play by ear and my teacher didn’t appreciate that! One summer, a small group of us took guitar lessons but I didn’t stick with that. I was always in the band and loved it! Now, I stick to singing at church and am very blessed to hear my daughter and son’s beautiful voices as well as my precious grands.

    1. Lovely, Melanie! I can just picture you giving your piano teacher fits with your free-spirited desire to play by ear. 🙂 And listening to those we love make music together is such a wonderful blessing, isn’t it? Love it!

  5. Karen, I did the same thing as you did in my book Petticoat Detective. The heroine plays the piano the way I wish I could. As for singing in the choir; everyone’s prayers were answered the day I quit.

    1. LOL. I’m sure your heart made beautiful music, Margaret. And I love that our heroines shared that piano trait so we could live vicariously through them for a little while. 🙂

  6. Can’t sing. Use to play the guitar a long time ago.

    1. I had a guitar once. Never really learned to play. I think I liked the idea of it more than the actual work required to become proficient. Course, I was only about 7 at the time.

  7. LOVED all the great piano music in A Worthy Pursuit! When people get to know me, they often assume I was a music major in college because I play the piano, clarinet (B-flat and E-flat), drums, guitar, handbells, cello, and of course, my best — and most notorious — instrument, the Great Highland Bagpipe! 😀 Which is actually my dream instrument: all my life, I stuck with the other instruments like clarinet which I was less enthusiastic about because I knew one day it would help me learn the bagpipes. And it did! I sing, too, but only the mildew in my shower really enjoys it. 😉

    1. The bagpipes??? Love it, Amy! About a month ago as I was driving my kids out to church, we passed the section of undeveloped road and noticed a car parked at the unfinished intersection. When we got closer, there was a man marching about playing the bagpipes! It was so fun. I wish I’d had time to snap a picture. That’s not something we see very often in West Texas. I guess his wife didn’t want him practicing near the house. 🙂

  8. I was not raised in a musical family but I’ve always loved music. When I was younger I would’ve said I’d like to play a piano now that I’m older I think I would love to play a harp.

    1. Ooo – harps are so elegant. They just seem fit for a lovely woman in a long, flowing dress. I’ve heard a few harpists in my time. Such a beautiful sound. no wonder they are considered angelic.

  9. no but I like to listen to music

    1. Me, too. A little music just puts a smile on my face and a bounce in my step. 🙂

  10. My mom was self taught on the organ… I learned a little… always wanted to try the violin…

    1. I started off in 4th grade on the viola. My dad convinced me to switch to flute in 5th grade. He said it was because he remembered having a lot of fun in marching band and wanted me to have that chance, but I wonder if my screeching in practice had anything to do with it. 🙂

  11. I currently play guitar and piano but I’ve always wanted to play violin. It’s a goal of mine to learn it before my twentieth birthday….(still have a couple years to achieve it 🙂

    1. Nice! I bet you’ll make that goal. 🙂

  12. I play the piano and have played the piano for church since I was 16. I am now assistant at my church – my sister is the pianist. Also, my three sisters and my brother grew up singing together.

    1. Another musical family. How wonderful, Ann! One of the men at our church used to joke that we were the Family Von Trapp. Ha!

  13. Hi Karen! I played the flute too, but not near as long as you did. I preferred to sing. 🙂 Like you, I’d love to learn to play the piano (and sing too) one day. We’ll see what the Lord has in store.

    Oh, and BTW, I absolutely LOVED A Worthy Pursuit. Such a great story. 🙂

    Happy Trails,
    Crystal L Barnes
    booksbybarnes.com

    1. Thanks, Crystal! So glad you enjoyed the book. One of my best friends growing up started off as a flute player like I did. Then when she got to high school she switched to tuba! Can you imagine. She loved it, though. Even marched with the giant sousaphone.

  14. I love your books and will be reviewing this one soon…the excerpt is a grand taste…My daughter majored in Piano Performance in college but then went to Law School. Now she is an attorney working for the Public Defender’s Office but she finds her musical training comes in handy in lots of ways. Knowing how to deliver dynamics can be used in music as well as in closing arguments. Anyway, I always wanted to play piano so she is slowly teaching me when she can. She says, Moma, practice, practice, practice. 🙂

    1. What a great example, Susan. I can just see her crescendo-ing as she builds to her decisive argument in those closing statements.

  15. Love this excerpt! I can relate. When I am frustrated, I play Fur Elise at a reckless pace that murders the melody, but it seems to help. I play both piano and guitar and love them, but if I could play any instrument in the world it would be the violin, or more precisely, the fiddle.

    1. I love fiddle music! There is just something so fun and lively about it that I can’t help but tap my toe or do a little dance. And when those fiddlers start flying through those notes – whew! I love it!

  16. I can play ‘right-handed’ piano by ear. My dream would be to learn how to play the chords on a piano so I could play at church. We need a pianist.

    Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

    1. We’ll have to get you some lessons, Cindy. 🙂 I bet you would do well since you already have an ear for melodies.

  17. This excerpt made me want to find the music to listen to. I’m not musically inclined at all. I make a joyful noise to the Lord in church (I’m thankful for the loud praise band so my voice hopefully won’t offend anyone’s ears!) but I sure can’t sing in the choir or praise band. I took piano lessons as a child but didn’t like to practice. When I wanted to quit the lessons after a couple of years or so, I rmemember my mom telling me I’d regret it when I was older. I said, “no, I won’t!”, but of course, I do regret not being able to play beyond the very basics. I enjoy music very much, just can’t play or sing.

    1. Those moms. Always right about stuff like this. LOL. At least that’s what I tell my kids. 🙂 I hope you do look up the music and listen to it. Beethoven’s Moonlight sonata becomes Stone’s and Charlotte’s “song” later in the story. That has been my favorite piano piece since the first time I heard it. I loved listening to the Tempest as I worked on this scene, though. I was less familiar with it, but it fit the mood of my character so perfectly, I knew I had to use it as well.

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