Many years ago, my friend, Harvey McIntyre, wrote:
Some thirty years ago as a high school student, I had worked my way up to first chair clarinet in the band, and as such, I had been asked to perform at some civic function in Big Timber (MT). My accompanist for that performance was Elnor Overland, a man who’d worked his way through college playing piano in a movie theater during the era of silent movies; he’d later worked his way through Law School giving organ recitals with the world-famous Eddie Dunstetter. In the jargon of the day, he could make that organ stand up and talk.
About two-thirds of the way through the Clarinet Polka, the easiest piece I played all night, my mind went completely blank. In stark terror, I looked at Mr. Overland, and he just winked at me. He then launched into an improvisation of my part until I’d regained my thoughts and composure and could play that wooden licorice stick again. No one in the audience probably realized that a true professional had rescued a rank amateur that evening. To this day, I am indebted to Mr. Elnor O. Overland, Attorney-at-Law, composer, organist, and friend for what he later told me that evening: “Anyone can make good under the best conditions; professionals do it under any condition.”
When I read Harvey’s story, I nodded my head in recognition. That week, virtuoso flutist Dr. Jackie Flowers had agreed to play with me, an amateur clarinet player, at a cocktail-party fund raiser. We had selected several Bach and Mozart duets. The guests were gabbing, and clinking, and yumming, and making all the noises that people make at cocktail parties. I wasn’t expecting that. I don’t know why I wasn’t. I know people make a lot of noise at cocktail parties. But I still wasn’t expecting it, so I started out a bubble off plumb.
When we got ready to play, I sat down to Dr. Flowers’s left, which meant that the sound of her flute was projected away from me. But I didn’t think about that. Until we began playing. Immediately I realized that I couldn’t hear Dr. Flowers’s flute. Heck, I couldn’t hear my own clarinet over the party-goers’ noise. On our third number, a particularly complex invention, I lost my place in the music. I looked at Dr. Flowers in a panic. She nodded and continued playing while I figured out where we were and joined her again. Before the next number, she suggested we exchange places so I could hear her flute. We did.
Afterward, I told her how embarrassed I was. The consummate professional, she laughed and reassured me, saying, “No problem. No one else even knew it happened.”
That night, Dr. Flowers rescued me just like Mr. Overland had rescued Harvey many years before.
So Dr. Jackie Flowers, Connsumate Professional, accept my profound thanks and admiration.
And Mr. Elnor Overland, rest in peace. You may be gone, but you are not forgotten.