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Music Can'T be taken away from you

I read this recently in a book by Corrie Ten Boom who was a survivor of the Holocaust. She shares an encounter with a musician and how she was able to start again after the war was over. -Miriam Morales

One afternoon I spotted an elderly woman huddled in the corner of a big room. She was obviously new to the camp. I could sense she was distressed by the bedlam of all the crying children, but most of all defeated by life itself.

I went to her, sat beside her on the floor and asked who she was. I learned she had been a professor of music, at the Dresden Conservatory before the war. Now she had nothing.

I asked her to tell me about her life, knowing that sometimes it helps just to have someone willing to listen. She told me that a minister in a nearby town had given her permission to play his piano. She had also learned of several farmers' children nearby who wanted to receive music lessons. But the minister's home was miles away and the only way to get there was on foot. It all seemed so hopeless.

"You were a professor of piano?" I asked excitedly. "I am a great lover of Germany's master musician, Johann Sebastian Bach."

For an instant her eyes lighted up. "Would you care to accompany me to the minister's home?" she asked with great dignity "I would be most happy to play for you."

She seated herself at the battered piano. I looked at the instrument. Even though it had been saved from the bombing it had not been protected from the rain. The strings were exposed through the warped frame and I could see they were rusted. Some were broken and curled around the others. The pedals had long been broken off and the keyboard was almost entirely without ivory. If any of the notes played it would be a miracle.

Looking up the old woman said, "What would you like me to play?"

"Would you please play the 'Chromatic Phantasy' of Bach?"

Why had I picked one of the most difficult of all piano pieces for this old woman to play on such a ruined instrument? Yet the moment I said it, I saw a light flicker behind her eyes and a slight, knowing smile played across her tired face. She nodded, and with great finesse, put her fingers on the broken keyboard.

I could hardly believe my ears. From that damp, battered old piano flowed the beautiful music of Bach as her skilled fingers raced up and down the broken, chipped keys. Tears came to my eyes and ran down my cheeks as I thought of wounded Germany, left with only remnants of the past, still able to play beautiful music.

As we walked back to the former concentration camp my companion had a new spring in her step. "It has been many years since I played the 'Chromatic Phantasy,' " she said. "Once I was a concert pianist and many of my pupils are now outstanding musicians. I had a beautiful home in Dresden that was destroyed by the bombs. I had to flee and was not able to take one thing with me."

"Oh no, you are wrong," I said. "You took with you your most prized posession."

"And what is that?" she asked, shocked.

"Your music. For that which is in your heart can never be taken from you."


From Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom, 1974 p. 40 -



42.

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