Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Janet McMahan, Pianist, Entertainer, Friend, and More

Janet McMahan was at The Meadows, entertaining residents, staff, and visitors on Sunday. It was the first day of spring, and she made the massive grand piano sparkle and rock throughout the afternoon. Her daughter Anna sparkled, too, charming us all in this varied program of fiddle tunes, Broadway melodies, and Beatles oldies.

Anna is amazingly accomplished on the violin, star quality already. And she and Avery, who completed the group, also entertained us by singing a duet, to Janet's accompaniment, for a couple of numbers.

Among the highlights of the afternoon for me was the performance by Anna of her original composition, written for her father's birthday when she was fourteen, titled "Daddy's Valentine." This is an amazingly mature work, every bar of it enjoyable. I felt so privileged to hear it and enjoyed noticing the influence on it of both pop and classical styles.

And, as is her custom, Janet asked if there were any in the audience currently having a birthday. No takers, but it did offer all of us the opportunity to congratulate a 97-year-old lady in the audience, for whose birthday Janet had played earlier in the month.

At one resident's request for "something Irish," Janet gave us a beautiful rendition of "Danny Boy," with Anna improvising softly on the violin in the background.

Janet has had an outstanding professional career. Additionally, she and her family have been friends of my sister and her family for too many years to count. She reminisced directly to my nephew about the several Beatles songs that were part of the afternoon's program, including "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," and later,"Let It Be," which Avery sang, very touchingly. So I was moved to ask her for "Bridge Over Troubled Waters," after the program was formally concluded, and she immediately played it for me, in an interpretation that was by turns first rousing and then tender.

As it happens, the Beatles had taken America by storm just before the height of the country's involvement in the Vietnam War. Like many of my generation, I was rather shocked at first, both by their haircuts and their music. But I came to love especially those last two songs I've mentioned. They were often on the airwaves, the students at the school where I taught were frequently singing them and playing them, and they comforted me at a time when my son was far away in Korea, on the DMZ line.


  1. Thank you for your story of musicians sharing their weekend, talents, and memories with the residents of The Meadows. And thank you, also, for sharing your story which is an example of how modern musicians positively impact our own journeys through life.

    How nice to have the link to The Meadows website handy, too.

    I am sure your story will also evoke your readers' memories of their favorite Beatles songs. Two of my favorites are "Bye Bye Blackbird" and that day brightener, "Here Comes the Sun," which practically sings itself.

  2. Thanks so very much for your comment, sis!

    As it happens, Anna played "Here Comes the Sun" on her violin as part of the program, with Janet accompanying, and played it brilliantly.

    Afterwards, in response to the enthusiastic applause, Janet mentioned how difficult this piece is to play on the violin and how proud she is of her immensely talented daughter.


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