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A Love Story Woven on a Chopin Canvas

CourtshipA few years ago, I received a telling message through my Authors Den website.

John Bidwell, a spirited short story writer and poet, shared more than a literary connection with me. He waxed poetic about his late mother and father, Eleanor and David, who were pianists and 1950’s classmates at Oberlin. (my alma mater)

A Reunion photo taken in front of the music Conservatory:


Yet despite the sender’s excitement about contacting another “pianist” who attended the Midwest school, he voiced “regrets about not being into his parent’s kind of music while they were living.”

A gush of e-mails followed. One compared my playing to Eleanor’s. (HUBBARD, maiden name)

“It is beyond endearing, because you have the same spark of life that my mom had.” He added a “smile” to his flattery.

Had John implied that I channeled his late mother’s spirit through my You Tube postings? Or was I more directly, a reincarnation of her?

Soon enough I listened to Eleanor’s beautiful music that followed husband, David’s, and though digitized, the showcase of masterworks was impressive: Bach, Handel, Brahms, Chopin, Schumann, Debussy selections, etc.

John had gone to great lengths transferring reel-to-reel, home-based and church performances to CD, adding a well-researched, companion discography. It was an epic undertaking driven by undying love for what his parents had bestowed to family and community.


Windows Media files bearing Chopin’s music kept me in a state of karmic bliss as John fed them over months and years.

In time, I was privy to the grand musical love affair that bonded two special people together at its Oberlin inception.

It was a relationship borne of “music and magic,” John said.


While Eleanor “taught piano; worked as organist at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boonton, New Jersey for 39 years; became high school secretary- (and was on call for musicals), dad was employed as an electronics engineer at RFL Industries in the same town.”

Bidwell added that his father “played piano at home, but also accompanied singer Betty Ann Busch/Cluthe who went on to teach voice to some of Broadway’s best!…
He was also principal accompanist for the Mountain Lakes Glee Club in the 1960s.” (John informed me that David’s Oberlin teacher was Joseph Hungate, whom I’d met during my Conservatory years. A “singing tone” advocate, Hungate nursed along many fine pianists who reached concert stages here and abroad)

As for mom, John bemoaned her “playing a dull old Hooker organ at the Episcopal Church in Boonton… But at least”,” he insisted, “it had 39 years of mother’s spark keeping families together— you know, with all those weddings- WOW.”


Was I about to be blessed with further revelations about parents who posthumously brought their son closer to Chopin’s altar?

My prayers were answered when early this morning John posted a Facebook message about my latest You Tube offering.

With a generous touch of gratitude, he wrote: “…. Dad passed away 4 years ago today- so I’m very thankful to not only hear this- but to hear it so exactly as I remember it with such feeling.” 🙂

More channeling?

In an instant he dashed off two e-mails bearing John and Eleanor’s memorialized Chopin at its finest.

Were they planting a subliminal message in my psyche that I soar with them on wings of song?

Quickly, I hopped to the task, sorting through selected photos John had sent over years–importing them separately onto David and Eleanor’s soundtracks.

If Shakespeare were to have the final say in this, he’d leave us with these words,

“If Music be the Food of Love, Play On.”



The Bidwell Discography

Acknowledgement from John Hubbard Bidwell:

“After I got the reel to reel tapes transferred to CD I listened in complete shock to the wonder of it all. A friend suggested getting the material mastered, but I had no idea what that entailed and did not have funds for such a task.

“At that point I encountered pianist Jon England.

“Jon befriended me, and in his amazing generosity mastered the first CD, and sent me a computer program so I could master the rest of the material.
I was beyond grateful, but felt I was in way over my head. But Jon was a patient encouraging friend. I think in spite of my impatience and doubts Jon knew if I would work my way through the process it would be just me and my parents working together on the magic of music.

“I feel profoundly humbled and in debt to the likes of Jon and Shirley, but they both welcome anyone who is about this magical thing that brings us all together, music. Just as it did my parents. I lost them, then discovered them in the best way.”

Eleanor Bidwell Piano Works CD.
Track #1. Schumann Symphonic Etudes Op 13, #3.
Track #2. Bach; Fantasia & Fugue in A minor.
Track #3. Schumann; Etudes Symphoniques Opus 13.
Track #4. Chopin; Mazurka Opus 33 No. 2.
Track #5. Brahms; Intermezzo Opus 119 No. 2.
Track #6. Brahms; Intermezzo Opus 119 #3.
Track #7. Prokofiev; Four Visions Fugitives Con Una dolce lentezza.
Poetico, Dolente, Feroce.
Track #8. Debussy; Les tierces alternees.
Track #9. Chopin; Mazurka Opus 17 #4.

Eleanor Bidwell at the St. John’s Organ.
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Boonton.
Track 10: Trumpet Tune by Henry Purcell.
Track 11: Prince of Denmark ’s March by Jeremiah Clarke.
Track 12: Jesus Joy of Man’s Desiring by JS Bach.
Track 13: Prelude in B flat Major by JS Bach.
Track 14: Now Thank We All Our God by Karg Elert.

David C. Bidwell CDs. Vol #1.
Track 1: Sebastian Bach Italian Concerto Movement 1, Allegro.
Track 2: Liszt Consolations final part #6.
Track 3: Chopin Polonaise Op 53 #6 in A flat.
Track #4: Chopin Etude No 3 in E Op 10.
Track #5: Chopin Etude No 5 in E minor. Op 25.
Track #6: Brahms Intermezzo Op 117 #2 in B flat.
Track #7: Brahms Ballade Op 118.
Track #8: Brahms Op 118 Intermezzo #1.
Track #9: Chopin 4th movement Sonata #3 Presto non tanto.
Track #10: Chopin Prelude OP 28 #21.
Track #11: Chopin Prelude Op 28 #22.
Track #12: Chopin Prelude Op 28 #4 E minor.
Track #13: Chopin Prelude Op 28 #20.

David C. Bidwell CDs. Vol #2.
Track #1: Chopin Prelude Op 28 #6 B minor.
Track #2: Chopin Prelude Op 28 #1.
Track #3: Robert Schumann Aufschwung.
Track #4: Chopin Fantasie in F minor Op 49 Part 1.
Track #5: Chopin Polonaise in A Op 40 #1 (Military.)
Track #6: Chopin Ballade #3.
Track #7: Chopin Scherzo Op 31 #2.
Track #8: Rachmaninoff Prelude in G sharp Minor Op 32 12.
Track #9: Rachmaninoff Prelude in C sharp minor Op 3 #4.
Track #10: Schumann Fantasiestucke Op 12 #1 Des Abends.
Track #11: Chopin Nocturne Op 9 #2.
Track #12: Chopin Prelude Op 28 #20.

David C. Bidwell CDs. Private Collection
Track #1: Chopin Fantasie Impromptu.
Track #2: Chopin Waltz in A Minor.
Track #3: Beethoven 1st Movement Sonata in F Sharp Major Op 78.
Track #4: Chopin Prelude Op 28 #23.
Track #5: Chopin Mazurka Op 67 #4.
Track #6: Chopin Polonaise Op 53 #6 in A flat.
Track #7: Brahms Ballade Op 118.
Track #8: Brahms Intermezzo Op 117 #2 in B flat.
Track #9: Chopin Nocturne Op 27 #1 in C Sharp minor.
Track #10: Chopin Nocturne Op 15 #2 in F Sharp Major.
Track #11: Chopin 3rd Movement Sonata #3.
Track #12: Chopin Prelude Op 28 #20.
Track #13: Chopin Nocturne in C Minor Op 48 #1.
Track #14: Handel Rejoice Greatly, with Betty Ann Cluthe- vocalist.

6 thoughts on “A Love Story Woven on a Chopin Canvas”

  1. Dear Shirley,
    I can hardly express my thanks to you- even with all the practice I’ve had because you do bring to this world so exactly what my parents brought that I have no argument with ANY explanation as to how that can be. I must simply say it is playing music with the magic it so well deserves.
    I will always be listening in to your music, and feel more than blessed knowing the amazement and appreciation will never get old. Best wishes, and many thanks for this honor for my parents on this 4 year anniversay of Dad’s passing. In my mind and heart my parents are more with me than ever, and for all the tracks I so dearly miss- there will always be you.
    John H. Bidwell.


    1. Hi John, I just returned from an evening teaching in the East Bay– greeted by your kind words. Thank you for a rare opportunity to connect with your parents on the sublime level of music-making. It was a personal joy!

      Warm Regards, Shirley K


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