A Piano Medley and the Story Behind It
One sunny Friday morning many years ago, my phone rang. Caller ID wasn’t a thing at the time, so I answered. Silly me.
There was a meeting happening that evening with a well-known guest speaker, and the musical number had fallen through. Could I come up with something to play… that night? People sometimes have way more confidence in me than I deserve. 😛
I tried a few different things I had on hand — some modern arrangements (that I played badly) and some classics (that I played even worse-ly). The inevitable conclusion was that it was going to be improv or nothing. Fortunately, improv is a thing I can do reasonably well without much practice. To be honest, it wasn’t going to get much better in a few hours anyway.
So I used two hymns–one was among my favorites, and the other… wasn’t. Why choose a hymn I didn’t much care for? Well, the messages begged to be combined, so I gave in.
The result was a medley of “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” and “Have I Done Any Good?” If you’re not familiar with the words of these hymns, you can listen from the song page and read along if you like.
It’s a bit long. And that’s after including only one (interrupted) verse of “Have I Done Any Good?” and letting the second iteration of the “Poor Wayfaring Man…” melody represent *all* the middle verses. I tried to abridge it, but it just didn’t say what I wanted soooo… it gets to be long. It’s not too difficult–about intermediate level.
Now for the fun part of that evening.
I played… it was okay… not stellar, but okay. It wasn’t anything like what I had practiced during the day, but hey… it sounded like I knew what I was doing.
Then, midway through the speaker’s remarks, she looked straight at me and, to illustrate a point, she said, “Now take that beautiful medley you played for us. You didn’t just learn that in a single day, did you?”
(Um… rhetorical question, right?)
She continued looking at me, waiting for an answer.
I had no idea what to say, so I just smiled and said nothing. At 3 a.m. I thought of a witty reply. Of course.
I hope this medley is something you’ll enjoy playing, unmasked, in the physically-distanced comfort of your own home. If you ever have to play it publicly, I hope you get more than a few hours to practice. If you don’t, welcome to the club. Let’s do lunch. 😉
Links to material in this post
A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief/
Have I Done Any Good? – Piano Solo
i played this in Sacrament yesterday feb 26 It was well recieved several people told me they could really feel the spirit and of course that is the goal thank you for your contributions to our music world sincerely Norrita Sanders Nanarita79@gmail.com
Thank you so much for this beautiful beautiful arrangement. I hadn’t thought of putting these two together, but you’re right, they go perfectly. I am a huge fan of your music, and this is my new favorite. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing talents!
This made my Sunday today. Thank you for your talent and for sharing it with us.
Sally, What a blessing you are to all of us who love beautiful music sung and played in church. Thank you for sharing your amazing talent so generously. I have used your music many times and I am so appreciative of your willingness to make it available to us all. I love all you do and love the range of easy to difficult. It is all wonderful. Thanks again for touching so many lives.
I love the medley. I am not surprised that you could improvise something this wonderful.
Thank you for your amazing talent that you share more unselfishly than anyone I know.
Oh thank you for this! I haven’t played since March 8 2020 when COVID hit. I’ve been watching church on zoom since I’m 74 and not going in. Today’s zoom said we can sing now, and they were singing a capella. I felt so guilty! I am pulling out the piano bench and limbering up my fingers. Beautiful arrangement, and easier if you know chords. Something I can do…maybe. Thanks for being my role model!
Well, dear Sally, I am not a pianist but I am not dead yet. So now I have an incentive to pick up my piano lessons again and hope I can learn enough in the time I have left on this earth to play this wonderful medley. Thank you so much for brightening my day.
Sally, I have only recently gone on your web site but I have been a fan of yours for many years. Thank you for the incredible contribution you have made to the church and to my life. I am extremely grateful for you. I look forward to playing this new arrangement. Larry Wilson
I love your music and have admired your work for years. And I love how giving you are with your music. This story was also touching. My husband, who is not musical, and (sorry) hadn’t ever heard of you or your gifts, had the perfect comeback to that story, “Actually, I’ve been preparing to play that for years!” And maybe that’s what you thought of at 3 am!
That reminds me of how, when we are asked to speak in church at the last moment, or teach a class, it’s easy to feel like we aren’t prepared. But if we are committed to the Gospel and to our testimonies, we HAVE prepared, maybe for years!
Thanks for your great example to all of us!
Sally, this is absolutely beautiful. Putting the two hymns together makes perfect sense when you understand the contents of both hymns. Your arrangement is so peaceful and so easy to listen to. I have seen this poor wayfaring man (or others) in my life as I listen to it. At the end of each day, I wonder if I have done enough to help others in need.
Thank you for sharing your gift of music with us. I’m going to share this with a dear friend who will be able to play this piece much easier than I can.
I love all of your music…this is no exception….I love both of those pieces…
You really touched my spirit! Especially after the middle part…just lifted my spirit so much! I miss singing and the unity it brings to our Choirs and to the congregation as well. Thanks for all you do to share your wonderful talents with everyone. God is smiling down on you!!!
Thanks so much for all your comments. You are all so kind! <3 <3 <3
I mean, the truth is that you may have created that arrangement in a single day, but you had already put in the years and years of work to be able to do so. So I think her point stands. 😉
Precisely. My 3 a.m. reply would have been, “Good point!” 😉
I was asked, 45 minutes before Alex Boye was to sing at a multi Stake fireside, to play piano. I am a good site reader so I found a bit of comfort there. Upon meeting him I asked about music to which he replied “Sister we don’t have music…let the spirit guide you”.
Full tilt panic.
I wish I had your talent of improv that night for sure!!
Panic indeed! Since not everyone does improv, I think I might have a handy little backup score just in case!
Thank heavens for arpeggios and runs ha!!
Thank you so much for this beautiful and uplifting medley, which I am eager to try and to share with others. I love the way it progresses and the feelings that it brings to the heart, and the way it ends!
What a beautiful medley! You have an amazing gift.
I have co-written some Christian music – that I would like to offer for free – and I am in need of a pianist and a singer to record it (on a real piano) Can you recommend anyone?
Is there a way to transpose the accompaniment tracks?
Funny, I know someone who does the same thing when asked to play a musical number! Must be an occupational hazard. Thank you for sharing your wonderful arrangements!
Why am I not surprised? 😉
An amazing arrangement! Once again, you “have done any good in the world today”! You have lifted our souls!
Such a beautiful arrangement! Thank you for sharing with us all!
Thanks, Sally, for another beautiful piano solo (and the fun story behind it!) I’ve used tons of your music over the years- both piano and vocal, and it’s all amazing! I’m the only pianist in our group of missionaries here at Adam-ondi-Ahman, and we sing all the time! Can’t wait to use this Sunday for prelude. Thanks again for sharing your gift with all of us!
I was touched and my soul lifted as I listened to this beautiful music! Thanks for sharing!
You are truly blessed and led by the Spirit with everything that you create and arrange. This is a beautiful arrangement and I will enjoy playing it and listening to you play it. Thanks for sharing your talents. I have used your music for solos, choir, etc. I love music and it has helped me get through each day and especially those that are trying and lonely.
You are amazing! I love this composition so much. It’s fun to play and although a little tricky, it is quite doable. Thanks for sharing your story and your talent. Improv is my favorite. I’m not nearly as accomplished at it, but I frequently don’t enjoy reading other people’s music. When I do improv, I like to call it “getting in the zone”.
Hello! … thanks for sharing! … I have played the work … I liked the development with the rhythmic and harmonic holidays … … I hope to play it for the different meetings … I hope you agree. ..
Wow, Sally! I have always been a huge fan and admirer of yours. Your beautiful musical gifts are beyond belief! It has always been a routine for me to look at your website for your amazing compositions and arrangements. I must confess that I have used your songs countless times – finding material for everything from funerals to choir concerts to finding songs for my vocal and piano students to sacrament meeting special musical numbers. You always capture the compelling core and heart of each song and wrap it in elegance, freshness, and simplicity. I have been inspired by your music to continue my own life’s pursuits in composition and arranging. (Until 2018 I taught high school choral music in Utah for 36 years and sang in the Tabernacle Choir in the early 2000’s.) Thanks for continuing to share your abundance and spirit through the beautiful medium of music! I am a forever – fan!
Sally, your music and talent are a blessing from God! Thank you as I try to learn and perform several of your pieces. May God help me! And bless you. Your Brother in Christ, Priest Richard Edie
It’s been a long time since I have commented on Sally’s work but, if anything, it has become better! Beautiful!
Thank you. Its is beautiful. You are awesome to share your amazing talent so willingly.
I directed a stake choir about 1 year ago, before Covid wrecked our lives, We did one of your pieces that was amazing. Still getting compliments on it. Thank you over and over for all the good that you do.
I was not prepared to be overwhelmed with emotion as I listened to this incredible medley. It is beyond gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your incredible talents (and humor)! You are extraordinary.
It sounds beautiful! I love ALL of your music. The spirit is always there. Thank you for sharing with those of us who play, but don’t create.