A Zither Saves New Year’s Eve

Imagine your family owns a small hotel in the Austrian Alps and you have made all the preparations for a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration. You have worked with the restaurant chef and have created a terrific six course menu, designed to delight even the most discriminating palate, together with wines selected from various vineyards in Germany and Austria for accompaniment. You have also contracted with two musicians to provide authentic Alpine folk music. You have advertised the event and are pleased that your restaurant will be almost full to capacity.

Now imagine it is New Year’s Eve and everything is going as planned. The restaurant is decorated, food is prepared, tables have been set. Guests have arrived and the first course is served, together with a 2013 Grüner Veltliner. Everyone seems to be having a good time. The food and wine are terrific. You hear someone say, “I’m surprised that the folk group hasn’t arrived yet. I wonder what time they start.” You check your watch and agree with what you heard. Hmmm, you too wonder what time the group will start.

The second course is served and you notice that the folk group is still nowhere to be seen. You start to hear more comments about the lack of music, followed quickly by “But the food is extraordinary!”. You start to wonder if the snow storms of the last several days may have caused issues for the musicians.

When the third course arrives and there is still no sign of any musical group, you go to the maître d’ and ask what happened to the music. He explains that they simply have no idea what happened. They have not heard from the group and no one can reach them on the telephone, they simply do not know. You explain that you are a zither player and that you just happen to have your zither in your room upstairs. You ask if the maître d’ thinks it would help if you played for the guests.

It is difficult to convey the look of gratitude and relief at this suggestion but the reaction was simply, “Oh, my God, a gift from heaven! Yes, please. What do you need?” You tell him, “Just a clear table and a chair. I’ll get my zither.”

Five minutes later you are back in the restaurant playing, “An der Nordseeküste”, “La Paloma”, “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White”, and you hear someone call out, “Can you play “Tief in dem Böhmerwald”?, which of course you are happy to do. And so this New Year’s Eve celebration was something a bit different, the authentic Austrian folk group was not there, but an authentic alpine zither made an appearance. The bus group from Kiel enjoyed being able to make musical requests and after the excellent wine selections were quite happy in making the evening a sing-a-long.

For me, one of the highlights of the evening was when I was playing “White Roses from Athens”. The maître d’ came over to where I was playing, started to sing along with me (what a wonderful voice) and then started to dance with the wife of the tour leader. This really conveyed the sense of real fun that this evening with the zither created.
For me, this New Year’s Eve allowed me to start 2015 doing what I love to do, play the zither and share the wonderful sound of this great instrument to people who are familiar with it, and to several people who had never heard it before.

I need to thank my wonderful wife, Rosemarie, whose support and encouragement that allows me to play the zither at various, often quite interesting, places is so very welcome. I am fortunate to have the love of this extraordinary woman.

As I was able to start 2015 doing what I love while being with the person I love, I hope that you also will be able to do what you love in 2015, while you are with those you love.