Music Lessons


The Time & Place:
1495 Paris suburbia -- Chateau duPre, country home of Claude Frollo. The recently retired Minister of Justice throws a party for Danisha and Nadine. The guest list is endless. The entertainment? Wow!

(From Danisha's Journals)
Oh my goodness! When Claude Frollo told me of this "celebration", I had no idea what to expect. My instincts told me that this would be one of those staid and formal gatherings so common for the period. When the three of us emerged from time portals, I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I never felt more alive, more relaxed. Even Nadine noticed a change in her Mommy as she so timely observed, "I told you, Papa, Mommy is all better and she's happy 'cause she's home."
This is wonderful, to be back among familiar faces and surroundings. How long had it been since I stepped foot on this property? The last time was the summer before Bernard LaCroix met his end at the hands of a serial killer.

Claude Frollo had the chateau and surrounding grounds completely renovated; it took several years to get the home in order. At my insistence, Claude bestowed the name "Chateau duPré" -- Castle by the meadow -- because of the expansive green fields and pastures nearby. And it was a lively, welcoming home, totally different from the drab, austere ambience of the Palais.
The chateau itself was small by most standards; although it was slightly larger than Chateau D'Arcy. It had a charm all its own with its impressive, stately towers. From the south garden one could see the long colonnade winding its way along the uppermost story.

The grounds were the most beautiful; the gardens literally burst with colorful early summer flowers. The south garden in particular was Nadine's favorite. Red brick walls with wrought iron spires and a gate enclosed this area. Inside was a nature lover's paradise. Two giant oaks dominated the space; the walkways were attractively inlaid with red brick and pink mortar. Encircling those trees were redwood benches.
How did Claude Frollo get his hands on redwood? Well, time travel certainly has its advantages, and its rewards. You see, when Fern heard of the renovation, she immediately dispatched Iggy to California. Hmm... Many a guest who visits Chateau duPré often ask Claude, "What kind of wood...?"

However, for today, the questions about redwood benches would be forgotten as our guests posed slightly different inquiries. Come on, think about it: A Steinway concert grand -- an instrument that wouldn't be invented for another 300 years -- situated in Claude Frollo's grand hall. For the next several hours, what went on behind the heavy doors of Chateau duPré soon became the talk of all our 15th Century friends.


Later that afternoon...
"Hoo boy! This joint is really cookin'! Who'd had thought, Tony, that a couple of days ago me and Willie were hoeing cotton down at Parchman Farm, with that Ole Hannah beatin' down on us..."
That was Clevon Posey, a huge hulk of a man -- Well over six feet tall, big, brawny, and as dark as polished mahogany -- yet he was gentle, jovial, and very intellectual. At first, when our "Reunion in Rhythm" got under way, I voiced my concerns to Claude that Clevon's presence may be disconcerting to many of our guests. Let's face it: Not too many Black men resided in Paris' vicinity, let alone someone of Clevon's immense size.
But I was wrong again as Clevon charmed our many guests. And what a guest list! It was a virtual "Who's Who" of my medieval Parisian social circle. Claude Frollo made it his point to invite ALL of our friends from near and far, past and present.

There were the usual: Quasimodo, who tore himself away from his cathedral duties. Phoebus accompanied the d'Arcys: Marie-Louise, the family matriarch; Hubert, André and Marie-Louise's only child; Solange Marchand, Marie-Louise's niece; Theirry and Jehan-Henri, Solange's husband and son.

To my surprise, Renée LeBeau, nee de Chateaupers, came to the party. I hadn't seen her since, well since her wedding to Alain LeBeau. Alain is a highly successful textile merchant who was presently in Calais on business. Jehan Frollo, now getting his life on track, accompanied Alain on this trip. As Claude explained to me, Jehan would be gone most of the summer.
"There is still something not quite right, Danisha. Jehan is so apt to brood these days, but perhaps this job will keep his mind off his troubles," Claude Frollo said to me the morning before the party. Yes, Jehan was rather moodier than usual, but I just chalked it up to remaining post-traumatic stress. I agreed with Claude that Jehan's sudden plunge into the business world would help to snap him out of his depression.

More guests! I finally met the woman who everyone said I favored; the woman who played a crucial role in my family tree. I watched in anticipation as Isabelle LaCroix, a bronze-skinned goddess resplendid in sweeping burgundy velvet, dismounted from her carriage. Accompanying her were her husband Vincent and daughter Sybille. Rounding out this group were Laurent d'Anges, Sybille's new husband, and Martine, Laurent's longlost mother. Martine is my kin as well, so is Phoebus by virtue of being Martine's brother...


Much like finding my way out a dense forest, I never felt happier than when around these people. Seeing familiar faces again, and getting acquainted with new ones, was an exhilarating experience. After an absence of more than six months, we gathered in the grand hall, where that Steinway grand was prominently situated. Soon that room reverberated with a sound that our late medieval friends had only heard on rare occasions. For you see, as time travelers, we -- those of the future -- are able to give our friends from the past a taste of 1900's popular culture.

And what a treat!


We treated our guests to music of the 1930's and 40's -- old pop and swing standards that were the "thing" in my parents' and grandparents' day. With myself as accompanist, Nadine performed a series of cute songs and tap routines lifted straight out of a Shirley Temple movie. When she sang "When I'm With You", I glanced up every now and then to gauge Claude's reactions. Well, from the look in his eyes, I could tell he was filled with a father's pride.

The music flowed as freely as the wine; the conversation as delicious as the food. At one point during the evening, Laurent and Sybille d'Anges, the couple destined to produce the later lineage that resulted in my mother's family, approached Clevon Posey with much curiosity.
Somehow, someone had mentioned to Laurent that Clevon dabbled in folk music -- "New World" folk songs, as Laurent put it. During the course of the conversation, Clarice Flambert mentioned Raimon Cauant's name, a prominent French Renaisance musician. She informed Laurent that, "Monsieur Cauant is in Paris as we speak. He visited with us at Maison des Chénes a few days ago. The man wanted us to help locate a woman, a Felise LaCourbe."

At the mention of the woman's name, several eyebrows raised. I didn't understand but Laurent d'Anges immediately informed Clevon that "M. Cauant is a famous musician; I very much admire his work. And Mlle. LaCourbe is a poet -- She helped my mother..."

And where was Claude Frollo during this conversation? He hovered toward the little circle, explaining Martine's circumstances and Mlle. LaCourbe's timely intervention. Clevon Posey's dark broad face gleamed with delight as his lips parted, revealing a big toothpaste smile. He let out resounding laughter than seemed to shake the walls and rattle the windows.

"Son," he said to Laurent, "I really want to meet this Raimon, and Mlle. LaCourbe. I understand that this woman is quite talented...You know we have many fine poets where I come from..."

One never knows where fate will strike next. That mention of Raimon and Felise set many wheels in motion. It wasn't until the end of our party that Claude Frollo announced that he was packing Nadine and me off to Paris for the balance of the summer. Why head for noisy, overcrowded Paris, and not stay in the quiet of the country?

"My love, I want you to meet Mlle LaCourbe, and don't forget the surprise..."

Oh man! When he said, "Surprise..."


To Chapter Five!

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