Paris Vignettes – Part 2

The pianist

I often got off at Saint Lazare station on my way home. I would walk eastward on Rue Saint-Lazare then southward on Rue de Caumartin to Bd Haussman. It was a wide pedestrian street paved with ancient stones, and lined with quotidian shops and brasseries. Once you pass Rue de Provence, there’s a small plaza full of street vendors offering all kinds of goods: arts and crafts, flowers, children’s books, grocery, etc. Different vendors show up every day, so you never know what to expect.

As I was enjoying my walk along Rue de Caumartin one afternoon, faint piano music came from down the street. I was certain it was one of the vendors trying to get attention. But when I was close enough to hear the music clearly, I saw a small crowd surrounding a large wooden box, which had never been there before. It turned out to be an old piano, skillfully put to work by a modestly dressed man. I involuntarily found a spot behind him and watched him move passionately with the music. His long fingers pressed firmly and briskly on each key as his arms shifted along, heaving synchronously with the powerful movements of his torso. He gazed downward into his memory, for there was no sheet music.

The musical style was a mix of Baroque and Classical, with a modern touch. It was simply majestic. I saw an elegantly dressed pianist sitting in front of a grand piano, performing in an extravagant ballroom. The lavishly dressed spectators were attending a ball with live music; some dancing, some chatting away with a glass of champagne in their hands, and others simply enjoying the music. We were in an ancient stone castle built on the high mountains, radiant with the blessings of God.

I stood there for a long moment, savouring the magic of an ordinary Parisian afternoon.

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