A string of freebies this week, and on Thursday, it was a drive to U of Penn Hospital for a Musicians on Call gig with my good friend Ansel Bonham, my connection to this program.

Tonight was the first time for me to do a cross section of adults. Usually, Ansel and I do the two children’s hospitals in town. So I was looking forward to a new set of challenges tonight.

I met up with the chatty volunteer guide and Ansel and we set off to a night’s rounds. We first went to the post operation ward and went from door to door to see if the patient wanted some music. Many declined (no wonder, after a recent operation), but those who asked us in were quite happy to have us play for them. Again, the gig involves trying to match up a musical style to what I try to gauge from the patient. So, we played blues, swing, country, Irish, folk, rock and roll, and we did quite well, more from the quality of how we played it and less from the recognition of the song.

The second ward was the chemo-med ward with folks dealing with various cancer, etc. situations. Often we had to play from the doorway since we couldn’t come into the room. Cajun, Johnny Cash, Beatles, Bach, Motown, John Fogerty, etc. One lady who was going through chemo was particularly intent on our performance and didn’t request anything in particular. So I played John Gorka’s Branching Out, a very positive and well-written song. She simply stared into my eyes, and I into hers. Very powerful.

Two hours on the floor and I said that I had enough. So we packed it in for the night. It was a long drive back with lots of time to think on the connections we had made. I was glad the Phillies are back on the radio. Baseball gives you time to think.

But I also reflected on the chemistry Ansel and I have when we play. We were really, really good tonight – concert-grade performance with Ansel’s usual brilliant playing. I had a great time making music with him, and that was the the take-away from the evening. This friendship makes everything else, the performance opportunity, the good cause, the patient feedback, etc. a side note to our musical and personal connection. I have some mighty fine friends.