A number of people have asked me about the origin of the title, “Leaning Toward the Fiddler. ”
Some years ago, a poet and close friend of mine from college, Lisa Sitkin, relayed the story she’d heard from a friend of hers told to her by her Grandma Pearl, who grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the early part of the last century. Grandma Pearl described a day in the summer when a number of pianos were moved into tenement apartments in her neighborhood. Rather than lugging these pianos upstairs, the movers raised them with ropes and lifted them from outside into the windows of the apartments on the upper floors. The scene she described was of six pianos dangling in the sky against the backdrop of the apartment buildings as the light grew dim.
Some time later, when I came upon Lisa’s poem recalling this scene, I pretty much knew I had to set this to music. The title for my album, “Leaning Toward the Fiddler,” comes from a line near the end of the poem:
A Joyful Time
That was the year the music-making men
toured the neighborhood, showing off
their lovely hands.
Girls perched on window sills
with their knees pulled in close,
gazing into the afternoon.
Sheets fluttered on the lines
when a breeze came up, brushing
against the other linens.
That was the year the baker’s sones grew taller
than their father, becoming more
and more beautiful,
and the baker’s wife held forth on her stool
by the counter as a bright dusting of flour
drifted down around her.
That was the year six pianos arrived on the same block,
and stood, shiny and upright, in a pool of stillness
in each small apartment.
As the heat drew down at the end of the day,
the nimble-fingered accordionist leaned
toward the fiddler,
and the boys just home from school knest
on the sidewalk, drawing pictures in colored chalk
for their sweethearts.