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Chris Hetzer
Last night we had dinner with the Hetzers – Bill & Kay, and their two sons, Joey and Chris, to celebrate Chris’ (and Bill’s birthday). As always, it was a wonderful time with one of my favorite families. Kay fixed baked chicken breasts with a delicious sauce, baked potatoes, green beans with chopped almonds on top (which I really like!), cranberry sauce and rolls. Wow! It doesn’t get much better than that.

After dinner, the boys went out to play basketball while the three adults chatted for an hour or so. Then we had home made birthday cake and more fun.
We always hope to get together more often, but it seems as though our schedules raising our sons always hampers us.

Tuesday afternoon I learned that Pat Hill’s father had passed away. Pat is the executive director of ACTION Adoption where I adopted my sons. Pat had been very close to her father and I knew that she had spent a good deal of time with him since he entered Heartland of Kettering last fall. I asked about funeral arrangements and then asked if she had any one to play organ/keyboard for the funeral service, scheduled for Thursday afternoon at 1:00 PM.

Wednesday afternoon, Pat sent me a few songs requested by the family. One in particular I did not know, “If I Had My Way.” Apparently, it was a song they kept singing to their father the last month or so he was alive, but the family could only remember one verse, and did not know the title. Right after work at the Muse, I attempted a quick internet search but it yielded nothing. I sent out an APB to all my music friends. The first responses were empty – and when I received a reply from the music guru of Dayton, Raymonde Rougier, saying she had never heard of it, I figured this song was not to be included.

Around 7:00 PM I received an Email from my former organist at Faith In Christ Lutheran Church. Beth is also a library specialist and found two sites which included the recording – one by the Mills Brothers and one by Willie Nelson. By 10:00 PM Wednesday evening, I had responses from about 14 friends across the nation who had located the lyrics – but no sheet music. I also learned it had been recorded by Frank Sinatra.

I arrived at the funeral home at 12:30 PM and the first thing Pat asked was about the song. Before I knew it, Pat had acquired a computer with internet access in one of the mortuary offices, and I was sitting in front of it listening to the link I had sent her the previous evening. She asked, “Is there any way you could sing at least the first two verse?” I explained that I had not done this in years, and that this was really a lot of pressure to accomplish – as it was now 12:40 PM. Pat leaned forward, placed her hand on my arm and said, “Oh, Darin, I know if anyone can do it, you can.”

That faith was so blind. Pat and I have discussed my career a good deal over the past four years, but she has never seen any of my work. Pat left the little office, and I began listening to the music on the link. The melody was simple enough, as was the harmonic structure. Although I was growing terribly nervous, I remained calmed and utilized 35 years of music training… I figured that I should stick with C Major as it would cause me the least grief. The only thing that concerned me was the fact there were a few secondary dominants sandwiched with in the harmonic progressions, and I could not determine if I had an E7 or D7.

After playing an opener, then “Amazing Grace,” it was time for “If I Had My Way.” I braced myself, still trying to figure out the secondary dominant question. All I had was a copy of the lyrics – the rest was memory and musicianship. I began an introduction – of what I sort of remembered, and then suddenly, the nervousness ended. I remembered what I always tell my students. “Very few people will know if you mess up. Hardly ever does any one sit in the audience or congregation with a script or score.” Well, if the family could not remember the song, I figured I was capable of pulling something off.

It is funny how the brain works, and how old techniques never leave you. Getting back on a bicycle came to mind as “the old touch” seemed to return. All those years of lifting songs off of recordings or the radio for the Ball State Singers, Kings Island, show choirs, bands… it all came back. A skill I had not used in years was suddenly resounding through my system, carrying me with confidence. The melody and words became one:

If I had my way, Dear
Forever there’d be
A garden of roses
For you and for me
A thousand and one things
Dear, I would do
Just for you,
Just for you.

If I had my way
We would never grow old
And sunshine I’d bring every day
You would reign all alone
Like a queen on a throne
If I had my way.

I felt great for two reasons:
As I have grown older and adjusted the career, especially the merger into family life, I figured the former musician in me would simply slip away. It has not. I may not be the fit, trim young man who bounced across the stage as the Prince of Egypt, Jacob’s favored son, but I am still have what it takes. The other thing was that I felt wonderful that I could bring this moment to Pat’s family. Pat has helped me acquire two sons, and is in the process of working on one or two more at the moment. This was the least I could do for her.

To hear Willie Nelson’s version: And I know this will make my friend, Debbie Allen, happy! She is the world’s biggest fan of Willie Nelson – and I would have never guessed such a classy lady would appreciate Nelson’s music as she does!

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January 2006
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