Music, Thy Name is Virginia


Virginia Hanigan and me circa 1960


When I was nine years old, my parents bought me a piano. I don’t specifically remember WHY I wanted a piano, but I did. It might have been my father’s singing. It might have been my singing. It might have been the woman pictured above.

Virginia Hanigan.

Virginia’s first memory of my family was somewhere around 1948-49. My parents were considering a move to the small town where I was later born. It was close to my grandmother and great-grandmother and would allow my mother to care for my grandfather.

Virginia remembers them coming to her church to audition, if you will, the choir that Virginia directed.

Did I mention that father was a singer? I thought so.

He liked the choir. Virginia liked the Striking Viking and his tenor voice.

There is no first memory of the woman who, at the age of 91, is still active in my musical life. She was always there. There when I was born. There when I sang in the children’s church choir. There when my parents bought me a piano. There when I needed lessons to try and play it.

Virginia had the patience of Job when it came to teaching me to play the piano. I learned how to read music quickly. But teaching my brain to tell my hands where to go was an other matter all together. I believe it was Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester, III in an episode of M.A.S.H. who lamented that he could play the notes but he could not make the music. I could eventually find the notes but I could not get that instrument to even hum a few bars.

It was close to nine years before I realized that I simply did not have the talent.

But Virginia did more than patiently put up with me. She took those nine years and taught me music. I listened to her play. I learned notes and time signatures and rhythms. I learned about composers. And I took that information when I was old enough to join the Senior Choir of the Lindsay First Presbyterian Church.  The very one where my father sang.

Every Thursday night 30-40 people would assemble in the sanctuary and practice anthems under Virginia’s direction. And she was a stickler. She could hear the wrong note or the strident voice. I learned about harmony. I learned about blending. I learned to listen to the music.

I sang with that group for four years. And then they sang for my wedding. It isn’t often the woman who designed and made your floral bouquet (she grew orchids) also directed the 40 voice choir at your wedding.

Then I lost contact with Virginia. She had moved to the Coast and I moved into another phase of my life.

In 2004 (I think) I came to the Coast to hear my daughter sing in a choir. My expectation was that the program would consist of  church music. I thought it odd that a choir would be singing in a performing arts center and even odder that my daughter would be singing church music.

But this wasn’t a “normal” choir. It was the San Luis Obispo Vocal Arts Ensemble. And this was not your “normal” choir music.

At intermission, I was walking through the lobby thinking about the music I had just heard when I accidentally bump into a woman. It was Virginia. She was an ardent fan of Vocal Arts and its director, Gary Lamprecht. She encouraged me to audition.

Since I joined the group, Virginia has not missed a concert. As close to front row as she can get. Her critiques are invaluable.

She lives alone with her beautiful standard poodle, Tiere. She still gardens. She still plays the piano. She still attends her PEO meetings. She still sings.

Last night I took her some prints of old pictures. Her eyes misted over as she played her memories in her head. She told me a few stories of her days in our hometown. We talked about music and life.

I can never thank her enough for all she has done for me.

Her friendship is beyond any measure of worth.

Categories: Church Choir, Music, piano, Singing, song, Uncategorized, Virginia Hanigan, Vocal Arts, Vocal Arts EnsembleTags: , , , ,


  1. Wow, what a beautiful story. Wonderful how you reconnected!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. She is another one of the strong women in my life. Just amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. She does sound amazing and how wonderful at 91 to be so independent and doing the things she loves.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful post about a women that means so much to you. I’m so happy you reconnected.

    Have a fabulous day. ♥


  5. Glad you connected, fond memories of the Hannigans. Once, on my way to my piano lesson my pants caught in my bike chain and down I went into the muddy roadside trapped under my bicycle. A passerby stopped and helped get me back on my way. I showed up muddy and distraught. Mrs. Hannigan suggested, to my relief, and, probably her living room furnishings, that we should skip that week’s lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ward, I will tell her hi from you. She is sharp and spry and doing well. I am so fortunate to be able to share Lindsay (as we remember it) with her. Have gotten some great stories about Mr. Hanigan.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is beautiful, Gael. I love how your relationship with Mom has bloomed from student-teacher to a glorious friendship connected through music and memories…just the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What a great friend to have reconnected with

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thought you would like this.


  10. Beautiful memories to savor…

    Liked by 1 person

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