The Christmas Concert Conundrum: Part Two
The next morning, as the sun had just begun to sprinkle its tiny, warm rays across the now frozen fields and forests of Neopia Central, inside Ricky the skunk Kiko’s garage, four pets, including Ricky himself, were preparing for the band rehearsal. Kevin the green Scorchio and Paul the red Nimmo were tuning their guitars and the disco Kyrii AJ ran through vocal exercises. Ricky, who had prepared his drum set earlier, was anxiously watching the clock on the garage’s wall, waiting for Daryl to show up, hopefully with an answer to his piano’s problem. The camouflage Techo did enter the garage, eventually.
“Well, now that everyone’s here,” AJ sneered in Daryl’s direction, “we can finally start practice!” The Techo did his best to ignore AJ; he just walked over to the piano, took off his jacket, scarf, and mittens, and sat down in the stool.
“Okay,” AJ said directly to the group, “most of the songs went smoothly yesterday, especially ‘Rockin’ around the Christmas Fir’ and ‘Adolph the Blue Nosed Raindorf.’ However, we were having a little trouble with ‘Santa Kaus Is Coming to Town.’” AJ stopped talking to look at Daryl, who just kept his eyes focused on his music. “Let’s just run that one.” The Kyrii counted off the prep beats with his hands and soon and a burst of sound came from the group, which was now performing their rock and roll version of a Neopian Christmas classic.
The song went smoothly. Ricky kept a steady beat on the drum set, backed up by Paul’s bass guitar’s strummed chords. Daryl’s piano and Kevin’s guitar played a background harmony to AJ’s vocals that filled the garage. Then some odd sounds that didn’t mesh with the rest of the music started to come from Daryl’s piano. Though still concentrated on playing his part, Ricky cringed when he heard these terrible chords, and the others noticed them too. Though the repugnant notes continued, the song eventually ended when AJ finished his last line of lyrics and signaled for the instrumentalist to cease playing with his paw.
“Even though the bass guitar, guitar, drums, and especially the vocals were all great,” AJ said, turning to the group, “the piano part still isn’t there.” AJ stopped and looked directly at Daryl. “I like this song, we like this song, but we can’t perform it tonight.”
The band barely reacted to AJ’s announcement. “Okay,” Ricky half said, half muttered.
“Well,” AJ started again, ignoring the groups lack of enthusiasm, “now that everyone is aware of my decision, our decision, I guess we can start packing up and get everything to the party for the performance tonight. Remember, guys, dress classy. Wear a tie.”
Paul and Kevin started to pack up their stuff. AJ was preparing to leave too, and right before he did, he turned to Ricky. “Hey, Ricky,” AJ asked. The Kiko looked towards him. “I gave Skeith Heavy Lifting your address, so they’ll be here to transport your piano.”
“Great!” Ricky replied, but it fell on deaf ears as everyone except himself and Daryl were out the door. Now that Ricky and Daryl were finally alone, Ricky turned to the Techo. “Okay, dude, did you figure out what’s up with this piano?”
“I actually think I did,” the Techo replied, contently. He leaned to his side and picked up a huge book off the ground. “Sorry I was late,” Daryl apologized as he flipped open to the bookmarked page, “I was up all night looking for this, but I found it.”
“What? What did you find?” Ricky asked as Daryl handed the open book to him. Ricky’s eager eyes scanned the words. “I don’t get it,” Ricky said, looking to Daryl.
Daryl sighed. “This page is all about this grandmaster pianist, Lupevig van Haven.”
“Oh, yeah,” Ricky said, nodding his head, “I have heard of him.”
Daryl continued. “He was like the most famous pianist, ever. He composed tons and tons of music and stuff, all for the piano. However, his musical endeavors continued into a time when the Tyrannian Concert Hall started to get more audience members coming to see rock acts, like Moehawk and Sticks N’ Stones. So, one night, he was performing his latest musical masterpiece there, but the crowd wanted rock music, not classical. So, he just got up and walked off the stage.”
“So?” Ricky asked. “The point to this story is...” The Kiko let his words hang as he awaited an answer.
“The point is,” Daryl said, “the song was never finished. Lupevig van Haven refused to replay that song ever again; no one ever heard the end of it. This book told that story, and also has the first half of the unfinished song transcribed in it.” The Techo then pointed to some written music in the book’s upper corner. “Look at that. It’s the written version of Haven’s song that remained unperformed. And look at the first chord.”
“What about the first chord?” The Kiko asked, but soon eat his words as his eyes quickly lit up. “That’s the chord the piano played!”
“Yeah!” Daryl exclaimed. “But there’s more.” The Techo turned the page of the book to reveal a picture. “This event really rocked the classic music world, well, at least what there is of a classical music world. Some painter that was at the concert later painted a scene of what the event was like, and the book includes the picture.”
Ricky stared long and hard at the picture in the book. The color contrast was the first thing he noticed. The Tyrannian Concert Hall was filled with a darkly painted crowd, and the only light colors were in Lupevig van Haven’s part of the painting. He was sitting at a stool, playing on the piano. The piano was lightly painted, too, but aside from that color contrast, something else about it really caught Ricky’s eye. The more Ricky looked at that piano the more he noticed about it. Though painted with a golden aura around it, the wood was dark and almost seemed shiny. What was the most peculiar was that the piano had a silvery plaque on the front of it.
“Hey!” Ricky exclaimed, finally getting it. “The piano in the painting is the exact piano I have!”
“Yes!” Daryl sighed with relief, knowing that Ricky knew what he did. “That piano must’ve found its way to the Haunted Woods, where you bought it and brought it here, to your house.”
“And it’s definitely not a coincidence?” Ricky asked his Techo band mate.
Daryl shook his head. “It’s the same piano, I’m sure of it. Besides the resemblance, why else would it play that chord? I mean, that chord isn’t a commonly used one, and along with Haven never finishing it, that’s what the arrangement is known for. It uses that weird chord, the same one your piano played.”
“Okay,” said Ricky with the wheels in his head started to churn and turn. “Let’s say that the piano is haunted, or whatever. Why in Neopia would it be playing the opening chord of a musical piece?”
The Techo shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t like that we play rock music and it tries to screw us up. After all, that is the desire for that music is what made Lupevig van Haven not finish his performance on this piano. Or, maybe it just wants to finish the song that Lupevig started. Perhaps pianos need closure.”
“Or maybe a combination of both,” Ricky chimed in.
Daryl nodded. “We might not know the reason, but we do know that the piano is doing something, and not with the help of anyone but itself. I mean, we live in a strange world. There’s unbelievably advanced technology on Virtupets and mysterious magic in Meridell, then I see no reason why a piano wouldn’t be able to have a mind of its own.”
Ricky chuckled a little. “Yeah,” he agreed, “I guess you’re right there!” He paused for thought, becoming more serious in his tone. “But what are we going to do? You heard AJ, Skeith Heaving Lifting will be here to move the piano to the party where we’re performing. We haven’t exactly fixed the problem.”
A small, confident smirk started to appear on Daryl’s usually uncertain face. “Okay, I think I have a solution, just hear me out before you completely veto it, or anything.” Listening intently, Ricky nodded, eager to hear what the Techo had to say. “During the performance tonight, I think we should just let the piano play what it wants to, alone. If the whole thing’s goal is to embarrass us in front of some pets because we play rock music, then let’s let it. If it wants an audience to hear Lupevig van Haven’s arrangement, then we should just let it.”
“But it’ll ruin the performance!” Ricky objected.
“Yeah, I know it will. And AJ won’t be happy.” Daryl sighed. “But if we give the piano what it wants, then maybe it’ll just stop messing our songs up.”
Ricky paused and thought for a long while. He then spoke up. “Do you think that ‘it’ can hear us?” he asked, motioning toward the piano.
The Techo chuckled. “I don’t know! Anything’s possible.” Ricky smiled back. “Well,” Daryl said, getting back on topic, “the piano only played that chord when we play ‘Santa Kaus Is Coming to Town,’ so–”
Just then, the two heard a knock at Ricky’s front door. “Oh!” Ricky said in realization that Skeith Heavy Lifting must be there to move the piano. “I have to get that!”
“Okay,” Daryl said, “that’s fine. I’ll head out, you just think about it.” Daryl paused, but then finally stammered, “I wouldn’t want to ruin the performance; this is a group, after all.”
As Daryl bundled up in his winter attire and left the garage, Ricky headed to the front door and greeted a burly white Skeith from Skeith Heavy Lifting. The Skeith took care of the piano, while Ricky did his best to take care of all the thoughts swimming through his head. Though the piano was long gone, the Kiko’s thoughts about it weren’t. He knew he’d be thinking about what Daryl said until the performance that night.
That night came soon for Daryl. With his arms hugging his own body, Daryl shivered as he walked up to the house. The Techo was dressed for the performance, not for the cold weather outside that night. Ignoring the decorations scattered all over the front of the house ranging from wreaths to red ribbons, Daryl found the back entrance of the house. When he opened the door, he saw three of his four other band mates preparing for the performance, all dressed in white button down shirts and black ties, like Daryl himself.
As usual, Daryl silently walked into the room trying to garner as little attention as possible. He looked to Ricky, who was looking over music. The skunk Kiko didn’t notice Daryl’s entrance.
“Hey!” the voice had Daryl turn his head to see Kevin, the guitarist and a green Scorchio, walk up to him with Paul close behind. “Daryl, Ricky told us all about that piano problem of yours.” Daryl, at first surprised to have social interaction with members of the band aside from Ricky, didn’t know what to say. He mumbled a nonsensical phrase or two, but Kevin continued his talk. “We managed to convince AJ to let us play ‘Santa Kaus Is Coming to Town,’ so hopefully that piano can just let lose at that point and do what it has to.”
“Yeah, that whole thing, it’s cool, man. It’s cool.” With that phrase, Daryl heard the first spoken words of Paul, the red Nimmo bassist.
“So... what’s the plan?” Daryl asked, still not completely sure with what was going on.
By this point, Ricky had made his way over to the group. “Well,” the Kiko started, “We’re going to play the program like usual, I mean, these pets are expecting entertainment. At the end, you’re just going to be in charge of letting the piano take over, like you suggested.”
“Let the piano take over? You’re sure?” Daryl asked, still confused. He did have an idea of what was expected, but he could barely believe that the whole band, sans AJ, was going to allow him to follow his own gut feelings, and those feelings were nothing more than that.
“Okay, guys.” Daryl immediately recognized the booming voice of AJ as he entered the room and the group dispersed to separate parts of the room. They didn’t want a group discussion not involving the Kyrii to arouse his natural paranoia. It didn’t however, and AJ just continued talking. “I finished setting up the stage. We’re set to start our performance on the hour. You all remember the order of our songs?” AJ’s words were met with nods from the members. “Okay. And we will be playing ‘Santa Kaus Is Coming to Town.’ That’ll be our final piece, since it doesn’t fit anywhere else.” AJ eyeballed Daryl, but the Techo looked to Kevin, who smiled and winked. Daryl smiled himself. If that piano wanted to perform, that was what it was going to do.
The group headed out of their preparation room and into a lounge decked out with decorations ranging from plants like holly and mistletoe to fake snow sprinkled as a topping on the furniture. The chatter in their air was as abundant as the almost plausible Christmas spirit. Pets were also scattered through the room, some sitting on the sofas and talking while others congregated near the punch bowl.
The Techo continued on to the piano, however. Once he sat down, he noticed that some of the pets’ attention turned to the band. A few even walked over to them and formed a semicircle around where the instruments were set up.
“Okay,” AJ half whispered the group, turned to them, “this is my, and our, moment to shine like the star atop that Christmas Fir over there. Let’s not mess this up!” With that, the disco Kyrii turned back to the audience, however small and informal as it was. Flashing a huge smile, he gave prep beats with his hand, exactly like he did in rehearsals, and soon sound filled the room. Also like in rehearsals, the songs went smoothly. The opening song, “Let It Snowager,” drew more pets to the semicircular crowd. As expected by AJ, “Rockin’ around the Christmas Fir” and “Adolph the Blue Nosed Raindorf” were crowd pleasers, but the band kept the audience entertained with numbers such as “Fyora Got Run Over By A Raindorf,” “The Little Drummer Koi,” and “Pine Cones and Krawkberries.”
No matter what the crowd’s reaction was, which was usually a polite applause, all through the songs, Daryl’s mind was racing with second thoughts about playing “Santa Kaus Is Coming to Town.” He didn’t want to ruin the performance (which was going unexpectedly well). The Techo saw the happy faces on the pets and how some of them enjoyed the music so much that they even began pairing up and dancing to the songs.
However, with the cut off of “O Christmas Fir,” AJ announced that the last song they’d be playing would be “Santa Kaus Is Coming to Town.” Turning back to the group, AJ eyed Daryl up specifically. The Techo averted the Kyrii’s gaze, however, and looked to Ricky, who was sitting behind the drum set. The Kiko smiled at Daryl. The Techo then noticed Kevin looking back at him with a smirk and when the Techo looked at Paul, he saw the Nimmo nod.
AJ then started the band. The melodies and harmonies poured out of the instruments as Daryl thoroughly pressed down on the keys of the piano as the proper entrances and beats came and went. He knew that the piano would soon play that fateful chord. What he didn’t know was what he was going to do about it. He finally had the band’s backing about letting the piano go on its own to see what its purpose for playing that chord was in the first place.
For the first time, Daryl realized that he was playing a Christmas concert. Christmas was also known as the Day of Giving in Neopia, and Daryl knew that he was going to give a lot in the couple of seconds. Not only did he know he had to give the piano a chance to do whatever it had to do, but he had to give to his band members, the pets that had put so much faith in him and his seemingly outlandish ideas about this piano. Daryl was going to give them relief, relief that all the faith they put in him was going to pay off.
Then, the chord was played and immediately Daryl took both of his scaled hands off of the piano. When the other band members heard the hideous sound of the contrasting chord, they stopped playing their instruments, as well. With no band to back him up, AJ stopped singing his lyrics and the piano, all by itself, began to play Lupevig van Haven’s lost arrangement.
As the delicate melody brought forth by the piano reached out to the ears of everyone in his room, Daryl looked at AJ, whose mouth was wide open in disbelief that a piano was playing a song by itself. The audience didn’t realize the peculiar happening, though, and continued to dance and partake in the spirit of the holidays.
Sitting with a satisfied smile on his face, Daryl knew that he still wouldn’t understand why exactly the piano acted as it did, but he did know that that was something he’d never know. So, he just sat back and enjoyed the show.