Catherine Lienhard

My paternal grandmother Cathy Henderson was a pianist/singer in St. Paul, Minnesota. Proof that musicians always find curious ways to ply their trade, Cathy found a niche demoing sheet music to interested audiences on the radio. One can only imagine — “Here’s Cathy performing ‘Stardust’, now available for five cents at Walden Music at the corner of State and Euclid!” 

Today while cleaning my studio, I found a letter she wrote a few months before she passed away. I was 14 at the time and had just started at HSPVA where I was studying jazz piano. She writes:

Glad you are learning some other music. I love “Autumn Leaves” and “September Song” — Weill was the guy who wrote “Mack the Knife”. I continue to increase my library of tapes of my old music: Honky Tonk, ballads, Stephen Foster, Chopin, etc.

Hope your cough is better — I know all about coughing. Oregon is no place for lungs.

(she died from smoking-related emphysema)

Such a nice letter though, an expert on The Great American Songbook sending recommendations to a young student of the same. Had I only been older (or wiser). Glad I held on to it though. Maybe it’s a grandparent’s instinct to impart wisdom in the hopes that one day it’ll become retroactively useful, or at least appreciated?

What’s perhaps ironic is that years later “September Song” would become one of my favorite tunes. Coincidence or genetics? (or just mutual good taste!)

She signs off with a bit of musical notation humor:

Sometimes B# [sharp]
Never Bb [flat]
Always B natural