Gentle Wind Blowing; A Song Everlasting by Mike Harmstein
Imagine walking into a desolate shop, wind blowing through ancient windows. Your friend, recently fatherless, wants you to compose a song for his dad. You can’t help but start at the beginning, the shop where the dead man spent most of his life, repairing instruments. And then an idea hits you; later, this idea will become a story in song form. This idea will become the beautiful piece Gentle Wind Blowing.
The piece itself is approximately two pages, in the key of E minor or G major, with few accidentals, but I haven’t seen (let alone played) this piece in a very long while. It is very slow, and filled to the gills with dramatic crescendos.
I believe every high quality piece of art, music, or literature has an even better back story, as this piece does.
There once was a Mr. Schaefle of North Dakota whose job was to fix broken string instruments. He was a father of eight children, and seven of those children were string players. His children grew up; he got old. And in 2008, he was no more. During the tearful funeral, Mike Harmestein, the friend of Schaefle’s son Ed, was asked to write a song about the man he had known in his childhood. And that brings us back to paragraph one.
I had Ed Schaefle as an orchestra director for three days at an orchestra camp. This was one of the songs he wanted us to play for our microscopic concert. He became quite tearful telling us the story to go with the piece.
Now that I do remember more of the piece, I realize that I do have one dislike; the viola section “solo” on section E. I do like the back round parts, and the quarter beat melody is to my taste, but the pitiful high E notes make me wish that it had been written an octave lower. And the transition from section E to section F was horrendous every time.
But, by and by, I do believe that Gentle Wind Blowing is a beautiful piece that every musician should have a chance to perform, and that every person should hear once in their life.