Recuerdos de la Alhambra

  • Feb. 5, 2013
  • #8027

If a master musician like Christopher Parkening can make music out of old guitars, just imagine what The Master can do with your life when you place yourself in the hands of Jesus.

Recuerdos de la Alhambra

Hi, this is Joni Eareckson Tada with a great story!

It was a delightful evening and my husband Ken was out back standing outside over a barbecue, flipping steaks, and "talking fish" with his friend, Chris Parkening. Ken would describe his latest ocean-fishing adventure of fighting tuna, and Chris would counter with his tales about the trout he was able to hook-and-release by the stream right near his cabin. The steaks were great that night, and I was secretly hoping during dinner that the discussion just might turn from trout and tuna to something more refined — like music. Surely, Chris Parkening, world-class guitarist, would enjoy talking with me about 32nd notes, compositions by Segovia, and his latest sell-out performance at The Hollywood Bowl.

Well, shortly after dessert and as we were moving into the living room, I pulled our guest aside and confided to him. I said, “Chris, I’ve got a dream that one day I’ll be able to sit really close to you and watch you play ‘Recuerdos de la Alhambra.’” It’s a beautiful, haunting guitar piece with lots of grueling 32nd notes. It was one of my favorites from his classical albums. “Yeah, Joni,” he said, “we'll do that sometime.” And then it was time for fish videos.

When Chris was about to put on his coat to leave, Ken said, "Wait a minute, buddy, there’s something I want you to see." My husband disappeared into the bedroom and returned with his old high school guitar. It was dusty, cracked on the face, the steel strings were fossilized they were so old, and probably the last thing it played was "Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore." But Chris took it from Ken as though he were being handed a Stradivarius violin. “What’s this?” he said with a smile. Then he sat down and began tuning the old strings. Then, without a word, Chris closed his eyes, nodded a few times as though he was reaching for something in his memory, and then he launched into this…


It was “Recuerdos de la Alhambra.” I was breathless. I couldn’t believe it. Tears welled in my eyes as I’m sitting there next to our friend weaving this melody that turned our living room into this romantic Spanish hideaway. And all of a sudden, the night seemed filled with love and mystery, with stars above and the heavy scent of jasmine filling the air. This was my own private concert! I couldn’t get over it. I smiled and I sniffed. Chris was even getting all the 32nd notes right.

And it was a gift sent straight from heaven. I could hardly sputter the words "thank you;" I was so overcome. Even Ken was impressed. After our friend was done, Ken turned his guitar over in his hands to make certain the guitar had not changed. Yet as quickly as the enchantment came, it left. Chris and Ken slapped each other on the back, said goodbye, and then my husband walked him out to his car.

And while they were gone, I stared at that high school guitar — sitting innocuously on the couch. Was this the same thing that only knew "Kumbayah” a moment ago? Yes, it was the same old cracked musical instrument; but it was changed completely, all because Chris Parkening, a master musician, gave it his touch. And it is a lesson for us … we — you and I — are “Michael, Row Your Boat Ashore” people, but you place us in the hands of Jesus, and what beautiful music for the Master we can make!

© Joni and Friends


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