Excerpt from Grace Like a River

Grace Like a River

by Christopher Parkening & Kathy Tyers


“Success” – 1974

The center of a concert stage can be a lonely place. As I carried my guitar onto the stage at New York City’s Lincoln Center in March 1974, I felt as if I were stepping onto a tightrope over the Grand Canyon. A solitary black piano bench and a footstool had been placed under brilliant stage lights. Other than that, the stage was empty.

I couldn’t see the audience very well, but I knew it was a full house. I also knew that everyone out there expected something from me. Many had come hoping to enjoy the music and escape life’s pressures for a while. A few were critics, who knew every measure of every piece. They would notice any mistake, and they would listen for what might go wrong.

The pressure on a classical soloist to play perfectly in front of a demanding audience is daunting. This tour had been relentless, and I was exhausted. The pace, the pressure, and the schedule seemed unending. I’d been on the road since mid-January, performing at venues in California, Washington, Wyoming, Tennessee, New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. I had played fourteen concerts and had five more to go on the first U.S. leg of this tour. I hadn’t seen my home in four and a half weeks and was emotionally and physically drained.

But this was New York….