Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tag Tuesday - Surprise, and a Story: Black Hawk Waltz

Today's tag theme at Kard Krazy is to create a surprise on your tag. 

(click for detail)

(click for detail)

I created the image of a sedate old house, with a shuttered window and then when the window is opened, there is the stamped image of a Rook card on some very bright colors!

No Tag Tuesday challenge next week, but I will have another story on the Tuesday blog.

Black Hawk Waltz
11th in the Tuesday Story Series

My maternal grandmother was born in the tiny Pennsylvania village of Upton in 1897. She was one of six children and her father was the village blacksmith. As my grandmother grew up, she became very adept on the piano and would often play at the parties her contemporaries  gave. Allie, as she was called, would be invited to all the parties because she could play almost anything and at that time, get-togethers in the parlors of homes were the main social events of farming communities and towns. Music was being written just for those social events, and Allie would learn them all with ease. She was so talented on the piano that she was encouraged by others to apply to Julliard, and assured of a scholarship she began to make exciting plans. But this all came to a halt when her father William put his foot down about this "fool nonsense". Girls belonged at home, and not away at a school, especially one that only taught nothing better than music! No matter how much my grandmother wanted to go, there was no persuading him.

Grandmother was about 19 when she had this portrait made, and I have it in my home. My mother had told me how disappointed my grandmother was and that she continued to play at parties and in church, but it was like the fire had gone out inside of her, and for a long time she was very angry with William, (which had some bearing on another decision she made - but that's another story).

As a child, I remember when visiting my grandmother's house, she would often play if we asked her to. She had some favorites among the hymns and a few pieces of secular music but we never let her get up from the piano stool without playing Black Hawk Waltz at least once. I am not sure exactly why we were so taken with that piece, perhaps it was the sweeping chords and how my grandmother played it. It must have had some other memories in it for her, because when she played it, she put emotion in her fingers and it came out in the music.

Years later, our daughter began to take piano lessons and she must have inherited her grandmother's gift, because her fingers could dance over the keys and her sensitivity shone through music. I often wondered what my grandmother would have thought about her great grandchild's playing. Allie had died in 1991 when our daughter was only 8 years old. I thought too of our favorite childhood song and wished I could find that music. But songs popular in the early 1900's were not easily found at that time. There was no Google and there was barely an Internet. So if you could not find something in the library, you just had to keep looking elsewhere.

We often traveled with my husband when he had a business trip and when we could we would visit with friends who had moved out of state. One such trip took us to Boston, and we drove down to spend a few days with family friends who were living in Newport RI. Carolyn and I had decided to spend a day antiquing and so early one morning, we started our trip through several small towns and it was great fun. In the afternoon, we came to a large two story building where many antique dealers had booths on both floors. We agreed that this would be the last stop of the day, and after carefully culling out some real deals downstairs, I debated about whether or not I had the energy to go upstairs and poke through all the offerings. I finally decided to go on up, thinking that I would at least give everything a once over glance. 

At the top of the stairs, slightly to the right, I could see the second booth was small and crammed with music related paraphernalia. There were old record albums, hymnbooks, and even a couple of small instruments. But more than anything else there were boxes and boxes overflowing with sheet music and song books. I wondered once again if I could find my grandmother's song in this pile and sat down on the floor and began sorting through the dusty boxes. After almost 30 minutes, I came across a small book of music entitled "Parlour Songs" and opened it to see the index and there it was on page 8 - Black Hawk Waltz! Suddenly I could hear my grandmother playing it once again and sat there with tears on my cheeks, which is how my friend found me several minutes later.

When we returned to Charleston, I asked our 10 year old daughter if she could try to learn this piece, and play it for my parents when they came down for a visit. It was a stretch for her small hands to play all the chords, but she gamely practised it and she played it well. When my parents arrived a few weeks later, we told them we had a surprise for them, sat them down in the living room and Tabitha went in to the dining room to play. The look on my mother's face was priceless and after the surprise sunk in, she listened to the remainder of the music with a big smile, and a few tears. Black Hawk Waltz is not a great piece of music, but to our family it is a treasure piece and will always bring back many fond memories.

Here is a video of someone playing the song, after their grandmother's funeral. Obviously it was a popular piece in its time!


  1. I'm so glad you found the music...
    and that is a beautiful portrait of Allie.

  2. aww, grandma alice :) great to read about her!

  3. Great story!!! I loved watching and hearing her play that! Just hearing the video made me tear up. Thanks so much for including it. I have to dig that out now and fire up the keyboard. Love you!

  4. Very sweet story. Have a great week.

  5. Wow ! That brought back a lot of memories. My piano teacher
    ( Miss Smith ) who was very old taught me that. It was a favorite of hers....that was 1950. Great story...Hugs, Amy

  6. What a wonderful family story! And what a tribute to your grandmother that your daughter learned that song to play for her grandparents.

    Hugs XX

  7. Rebecca, the Rook card was a very unexpected surprise. Like the door it was hiding behind, too!

  8. I liked your Rook card behind the shuttered window...very neat! What a wonderful story!

  9. Gorgeous tag with a beautiful surprise! Loved the story, too, as my daughter and I are both piano players, and I love hunting through old sheet music. What an amazing find!

  10. I LOVE your tag, and what a wonderful story you told--thank you for sharing some of your family's history and thank you for including the video so we all could hear this piece of music!

  11. Beautiful Tag! Perfect for this challenge!

  12. Awww, that was a sweet story!
    I really like that window you used on your tag! The rook card surprise is perfect!

  13. Your tag has a lovely surprise with the door that opens! And I enjoyed your story and listening to the Waltz...the ending was so pretty..=)

  14. Oh I love your hidden Rook card behind the door.
    The piano player did well, and it didn't take 95 years. LOL
    hugs Lynn


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