Sunday, July 24, 2005

Champagne Music Makers

I thought I detected the faint odor of Rose Milk hand cream in the air today. Saturday marked the passing of Lawrence Welk's accordianist, Myron Floren. Somewhere my piano teacher is weeping into her upturned palms - slathered in the aforementioned lotion. We mention the death of Mr. Floren here as a jumping off point - as is so often the case, it is only the beginning of the story, not the end.
For a few years, I went to piano lessons with my older brother in the basement of a rather tortured soul. Mr. H was a wonderful pianist, but not much of a teacher. He tended to let his very awkward personal life seep into his lesson time. There were a number of times toward the end when I just sat in the waiting room, expecting to be called in, and the call never came.
So, we changed teachers. Mary Kay was different from Mr. H in both her boundless enthusiasm and her willingness to come to our house to give us lessons (effectively eliminating that uncomfortable waiting problem). She had a lot of notions about how best to teach my younger brother and me (my older brother had moved on to junior high and was no longer required to take piano lessons). We learned to conduct (our mother was encouraged to buy a "real baton" for this exercise). She had us train our voices as well as our fingers to appreciate the tonal qualities of - oh, I don't know -something.
It was only after our first few months of lessons that we were introduced to her fascination with Lawrence Welk, and more specifically, Myron Floren. I can't fault her for her music tastes - my own are eclectic and disparate enough to erect my own glass house to not throw critical stones in - but it was the imposition of those tastes that became a concern. I was fortunate in the same way that my older brother aged out of piano lessons that I skated free from Mary Kay's suggestion that I take up the accordion. That fell to my younger brother - who has the self-effacing charm to get away with strapping an according to his chest. Then came the records. And the trips to go see Myron when he was on tour. This all culminated with a trip to Chicago with several of her other students (a number of whom were mentally challenged). I had reached the age when "No" meant "you've got to be kidding me, of course I wouldn't be caught dead going to Chicago with a bunch of according playing feebs." I stayed home. My brother went. At the hotel swimming pool, he was almost drowned by one of the larger accordianists who didn't have words to describe his jealousy when the attentions of another pretty little thing didn't return his affections. Then, later that evening, they all went to the big show. It might be hard to imagine with hindsight which was the more terrifying experience for a pre-teen.
He lived through it, and when he made it to junior high, our family bid adieu to Mary Kay. He kept his according. He had it with him well into his twenties - perhaps as a reminder of what being too nice can get you. He set it on fire and pushed it off a five-story building for a film he and his friend were making. A kind of Viking funeral. And now, Myron will join it in Valhalla.


haywagon said...

Many point to Floren as the key player in Welk's band -- after all, why would an accordion player such as Welk employ another accordion player if he weren't the king? Still, I think one could argue that guitarist Neil Levang took the band to its final plateau. Levang's doubling with original Welk guitarist Buddy Merrill made for some truly golden years '59-'74.

Anonymous said...

I don't have the words to describe the unbearable envy I feel towards your older brother because he got to see Myron Floren and I never will. The next time I'm in Boulder, I shall lure my great rival to a swimming pool and avenge myself by attempting to drown him. At which point he will haul me down to the station in his squad car and I will have to cope with my feelings while lying on a cot in the county clink. But just because one's rival is bigger, stronger and better-armed than oneself doesn't mean one should shirk the great battle. Myron was--is--worth it.


Lauren said...

Woa nelly, correct me if I'm wrong but is someone going to try to drown my dad over someone from that show that my grandparents never miss? Just wanted to clarify...