Photo by Harrison Leong.

Photo by Harrison Leong.

By James H. Burns: I spend too much time lately, perhaps, thinking of the dead. But just last January, across three weeks, I lost my brother; as well as someone who had been like an uncle to me; and even my old pal, New York show biz guru, Joe Franklin. Joe would have loved the scenario as I walked underground Sunday afternoon at the 34th Street Station, uptown side of the F train stop, and suddenly heard a gentle rendition of Brahms. It made me think of the great pianist Edith Hirshtal, a teacher at our town’s Church Street School For Music and Art, who died last month, and what she might have thought of the technique.

As I strolled by the staircase, I saw the player, bundled for the weather, sitting behind his Yamaha, the keyboard set for piano. He got up to thank a woman who tipped him before she boarded her train. I thought about what it took for the mustached gentleman somewhere in his later years, to get up that morning, amid the snow and ice and wind, and trundle his large set-up somewhere through the city, and up and down the steps.

With over two feet of snow, and tens of thousands of pounds of concrete above our heads, some turned to ponder the small magic sounding upon those tunnel walls.

Thinking about endings, of course, can also be about embracing life, if you do it in the right way.

The pianist sat down again, and played some Mendelssohn.

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3 thoughts on “Requiem

  1. I am sorry for your losses. I remember when my mother died it made me look at life differently, and realize that some of the things you put off, you end up never doing at all. Once the first crushing grief was past, it was the impetus to take on some big projects I’d been putting off, and also a reminder to treasure life’s small sweetnesses.

    Like the drift of live music through a subway station.

  2. Ah, James, these sound to me like productive thoughts. Thank you for sharing them.

  3. My pal Edith Hirshtal–

    Had a connection–if tenuous!–to the science fiction community.

    Back in the 2000s, Edith co-created a documentary, THE PHOENIX EFFECT, about survivors of Nazi Germany, and their descendants, in Vineland, New Jersey.

    The film was partially funded by a grant from the Leonard Nimoy Foundation.

    As you all might suspect, and will be happy to hear, Edith said Nimoy was simply a complete gentleman!

    She was also going to help with some research for me on a PHANTOM OF THE OPERA project…

    But what I also like to remember, is the music:


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