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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Don’t Quit

Ignacy Jan Paderewski (November 6, 1860 – June 29, 1941) OBE was a Polish pianist, composer, diplomat and politician, and the third Prime Minister of Poland.
Ignace Jane Paderewski, the famous composer-pianist, was scheduled to perform at a great concert hall in America. It was an evening to remember — black tuxedos and long evening dresses, a high-society extravaganza. Present in the audience that evening was a mother with her fidgety nine-year old son. Weary of waiting, he squirmed constantly in his seat. His mother was in hopes that her son would be encouraged to practice the piano if he could just hear the immortal Paderewski at the keyboard. So, against his wishes, he had come.
As she turned to talk with friends, her son could stay seated no longer. He slipped away from her side, strangely drawn to the ebony concert grand Steinway and its leather tufted stool on the huge stage flooded with blinding lights. Without much notice from the sophisticated audience, the boy sat down at the stool, staring wide-eyed at the black and white keys. He placed his small trembling fingers in the right location and began to play “chopsticks”. The roar of the crowd was hushed as hundreds of frowning faces pointed in his direction. Irritated and embarrassed, they began to shout,
Get that boy away from there!
“Who’d bring a kid that young in here?
“Where’s his mother?”
Somebody stop him!”
Backstage, the master overheard the sounds out front and quickly put together in his mind what was happening. Hurriedly, he grabbed his coat and rushed toward the stage. Without one word of announcement he stooped over behind the boy, reached around both sides, and began to improvise a countermelody to harmonize with and enhance “chopsticks”. As the two of them played together, Paderewski kept whispering in the boy’s ear,
Keep going, don’t quit. Keep on playing… don’t stop… don’t quit.
And so it is with us. We hammer away on our project, which seems about as significant as “chopsticks” in a concert hall. And about the time we are ready to give up, along comes the Master, who leans over and whispers, “Now keep going, don’t quit. Keep on… don’t stop, don’t quit.” as He improvises on our behalf, providing just the right touch at just the right moment.
A Short Biography of Ignacy Jan Paderewski (1860 – 1941)
Ignacy Jan Paderewski was born in Kurylowka, in an area annexed by Russia following the partition of Poland (presently in the Ukraine). He became one of the great piano virtuosos of his era, a composer, and a tireless political activist campaigning for Poland’s independence, a philanthropist and a statesman with international impact.
On 22nd February, 1916, he gave a recital for President Woodrow Wilson of the USA at the White House, during which he delivered a speech about Poland’s plight. He was asked for more material about Poland and for arguments for her restoration as a sovereign nation.
In December 1918, he returned to Poland to a hero’s welcome. Marshal Piłsudski asked him to become Poland’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. In the latter capacity, he represented Poland at the Versailles Peace Conference and was a co-signatory on Poland’s behalf of the Peace treaty. In 1920 he resigned his political offices and resumed his musical career.
On the outbreak of the Second World War, he became head of the National Council in Exile. He passed away in New York on 29th June, 1941 and was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery, by a special act of Congress.
When Poland regained her freedom following the fall of Communism, his remains were returned to Poland and were re-interred in Warsaw’s St. John’s Cathedral. This was his wish – that his body be returned to a free and Independent Poland.

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