Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A heavenly concert for Mary Abbay

One of the things most disturbing about the numbers of those who perished during the Hurricane Katrina cataclysm was that everyone, no matter where dispersed, lost someone they knew or were close to someone they knew who lost someone. In that way New Orleans is like a small town where everyone knows each other's business. Several months after returning from Cleveland, I was in the main New Orleans U.S. Post Office lobby. A display on the wall showed some of the forgotten victims who drowned, suffered heart attacks, etc. There was my middle school (Eleanor McMain Jr. High School) Spanish professor, Dr. Manuel Romero and his spinster sister. Both had drowned in the home they shared for a lifetime. Invited to my Bar Mitzvah, Dr. Romero gave me a hardback Spanish-English, English-Spanish dictionary. When my son was learning Spanish at Isidore Newman School, he used that very same dictionary, which was signed to me on the inside jacket. I was so sad to learn of his demise, but ironically, the dictionary suffered the same fate, falling victim to the swirling waters of Katrina's destruction.
Last week I learned of another dear friend who had been lost and it affected me in much the same way as when I learned about Professor Romero. When I managed Smith's Record Center in the 80s and 90s, I met a number of noted classical artists. One of them was a very sweet and very talented harpist named Mary Abbay Sayle. I don't remember why, but everyone referred to her as Mary Abbay instead of Mary. She was a genteel Southern lady with a very quiet disposition. I enjoyed her company when we would meet and I helped her sell some of her tapes that she put in our store on consignment. I don't recall her actually making CDs, but I certainly would have sold those for her too would she had asked. Mary Abbay made a name for herself, playing gigs with the New Orleans Symphony Orchestra and later when it was renamed and reorganized as the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. She loved playing chamber music, but was content to play solo recitals too. She was a music instructor and enjoyed passing the love of music to the young. Every now and then Mary Abbay would call on me to work as a disc jockey for a wedding reception. I was happy to do so. She would work at restaurants like the famous Sazerac Room at the Fairmont Hotel (formerly the Roosevelt Hotel), where she met her husband Tim, who was a chef there. He and she married and they later moved to Memphis where she continued to play at venues like the Peabody Hotel and he continued to ply his craft at famous kitchens in that city. Mary Abbay died unexpectedly on March 29, 2007.
A special memorial site can be found online at:
Surprisingly, a notice of her passing never was published in New Orleans' Times-Picayune. That will happen on Sunday. Mary Abbay's friends here have organized a memorial concert to benefit a fund for her three young children David, Georgeanne and Abbay. The concert to be held at St. Charles Avenue Presbyterian Church (State Street at St. Charles Avenue) on April 6 at 3:00 p.m. will feature several pieces of music by Faure, Debussy Respighi, Rutter and others, many with prominent harp solos. I urge all of my friends in New Orleans to attend the free concert to honor her memory and to consider making a donation to the fund. For more information call 504-920-0086. The address to send donations to the Mary Abbay Gourley's Children's Trust Fund is P. O. Box 111252, Memphis, Tennessee 38111-1251. Somehow, I know that the music will honor the memory of one of the most talented and loving individuals I have ever been blessed to have known. There truly is a reason that the harp is considered the instrument of the heavenly hosts. It is best played by angels.

No comments: