Angels among us

I have in my hands (well, until I started typing, I had in my hands) the first draft of the sheet music of Complete with Angels, from the CD Drivin’!

This is a HUGE success, almost on the order of the success of notating What the Stars Saw on the Prairie with its “3-hand” section. I am extremely pleased right now.

Not because it was particularly difficult to notate. It wasn’t: rondo form, with repetition galore*, the trickiest part was remembering where I was in the piece, so I knew which version of cadence was coming round the bend. This first draft probably only took a couple of hours to get down.

Complete with Angels is one of my older pieces; it was actually composed before I released A Handfull of Quietness, but it wasn’t recorded until 2011 because it didn’t belong on any of the other CDs. Complete with Angels has always, in my ear, segued straight into Drivin’!, so like that other piece, it had to wait for additional lively-esque pieces to make a CD. That took a while!

During that while, I … forgot that Complete with Angels even existed. And then I forgot how it sounded. And I didn’t notate any of my work in those days, I just relied on my (mostly) great memory for music.


One day, many years ago, still during that long waiting period for the lively CD, I came across an old list of my repertory. It included several pieces I had forgotten about. With one exception, as soon as I saw the titles I heard the music in my head.

Complete with Angels was the exception. I saw its title, remembered that I used to have a piece with that title, and then … nothing. No music in my head. No idea of a tempo, a meter, or a key. If I could even have remembered the key, maybe I could have pulled it back from oblivion. But no: it was well and truly forgotten. I would not be exaggerating to say some panic ensued.

My husband couldn’t remember anything about it. I called my friend Phyllis, who probably knows my repertory better than anyone who is not me, and asked her if she remembered my piece Complete with Angels.

“I remember I really liked it,” she said. “Anything about it,” I asked, “anything at all? Key? Tempo? Anything?” Nada. It was gone. For a piece I hadn’t thought of in years, I was devastated. How in the world could I forget about, and then forget entirely, a piece that Phyllis thought was good????? 

Then my husband became determined to save the day and he went on an archeological dig in the garage, into boxes of ancient cassette recordings of my playing (which recordings I had also forgotten about; we’d moved 6 times in the interim). Sometime later he returned to the house, grinning widely, with a cassette in his hand of a radio performance I had done way in the last millennium. Song titles written on the cassette included Complete with Angels.


I only had to hear the opening, and all the music came back. I did have to play it a few times to be able to return it to my repertory, but it was just sitting in my mind somewhere waiting for me to find the key to its room. Well, waiting for my husband to find the key to its room!

Since then I have made a point of playing every piece that hasn’t been recorded yet at least a few times a year. Also, I record when I’m improvising. Also, I notate my new music as it comes along. And nearly all of my recorded repertory is notated (just 2 to go). Nothing will escape me now!


  • to memory
  • to recording
  • to notation
  • to determination
  • to Alan

thank you, thank you, thank you for Complete with Angels. I am so happy to be able to play it and to have its notes in hand. My life truly is complete with angels!

* Galore is Irish, you know: go leor—plenty. Nice to see some Gaeilge pop up in everyday English.

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