Taylor and Maria

See that guy in the video up there? His name is Taylor Cameron Carpenter.

If you Google him you find out he’s a “rock star organist”.

When he was about 14, he was our church organist while he attended Arts high school in the area. When I think about those years now it blows my mind to realize he was only 14. His technical skills at the organ, or piano, harpsichord, whatever, are exceptional. But what always amazed me was his ability to improvise. I’m not talking about a typical improv an organist would do to get from a hymn in one key and meter to another hymn in other key and/or meter.

In December 1995 a dear friend of ours died from a rare form of cancer. She and her family were ardent supporters of the arts. Her memorial service was not only a tribute to her life, but also a musical celebration of her life offered by Taylor. It was mentioned that our friend had a flair for the dramatic when it came to her artistic talent. She was a painter, sculptor, singer, decorator. Everything she did was uniquely her own, and sometimes got her into a teensy bit of trouble. Like the year she decorated the fellowship hall for Christmas by hanging the Christmas tree upside-down from the ceiling. It was a fad for a year or two, as I recall. But she embraced it! There was the tree, hanging down in all its glory, and people were talking! You would have thought she’d desecrated a sacred icon, instead of twisting an adapted pagan symbol into something completely different, as Monty Python would say.

So, in her memorial service our pastor compared her to “Maria” from “The Sound of Music”, and referred to the song “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” when speaking of her.

Once the memorial part of the service was complete, it was time for Taylor’s musical offering. I remember him playing “In the Bleak Mid-Winter”, which had been one of her favorite carols. There were a couple of other pieces that I can’t recall specifically. One was probably a hymn.

But THIS, I remember: As Taylor played, a simple melody was forming above the frenzy of notes flying from his hands and feet. It was familiar, but not quite above the threshold of recognizability. At first the notes were elongated, making it harder to pull them out of the mire. But as the tempo increased, and the melody rose from the bass line to the upper registers, there it was: How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Of course, my friend’s name wasn’t Maria. And now Taylor is world-famous and goes by Cameron.

But for that one moment in time, on a cold December afternoon, Taylor and Maria danced.

And it was magic.


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