Feel-good story: 95-year-old amateur composer hears his work for first time
Here's a little something to brighten the day and maybe just warm the heart.
Robert “Dick” Smith, a 95-year-old, longtime resident of the Oak Crest retirement community in Parkville, Md., is an amateur composer whose love of music was triggered by an encounter with none other than Rachmaninoff.
As a teen during the Depression, Smith held four jobs, one of them as usher at Washington's Constitution Hall. It was there, in 1931, that he got to hear a Rachmaninoff recital that included, among the encores, the enormously popular Prelude in C-sharp minor. That piece, in particular, got Smith's creative ideas flowing.
Without musical training, he had to keep a sizable piano composition in his head for many years, but, eventually, with the help of his grandson's piano teacher, was able to get it put down on paper. He gave the piece it a title in 1998 -- "Life: An Impromptu" -- and, just last week, finally got to hear it played by a professional pianist (Elizabeth Borowsky) before an audience of friends and neighbors at Oak Crest. Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director Marin Alsop sent congratulations on the occasion, thanking Smith "for sharing your love of music in such a meaningful way.”
Not surprisingly, "Life: An Impromptu" reveals quite a romantic streak stylistically. I imagine Rachmaninoff would have approved. Here's a video of the premiere (and snaps to Oak Crest for making it available; a YouTube-savvy retirement community -- how cool is that?):