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Harris Blackwood: And the band will play on
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Mercer Crook is a rock ‘n’ roller.

As a band director, he taught students at East Hall High School great marches and introduced them to all kinds of music.

But in retirement, Mercer formed a band, not marching, but rockin’.  He likes to cut loose with old-time classics.

Mercer Crook is also a survivor.

A car crash in 2009 took him to the brink of death. But he fought back and until a few weeks ago was going strong.

Then, a disease that attacks the nervous system sent him to the hospital. Once again, that rock ’n’ roll heart and fighting spirit is battling back. If I were a gambling man, I’d bet on the comeback.

In retirement, Mercer not only formed his show band, but he is a leader of the Northwinds Symphonic Band. When his good friend and fellow retired band director Ron Evans died, Mercer took the helm and the symphonic band has never sounded better.

A tough guy like Mercer wouldn’t want flowers. That’s too fru-fru. On a recent Sunday, a few friends decided to give him notes — not handwritten cards or letters, but musical notes.

Members of the Green Street String Quartet set up in a hospital waiting room and offered an inpatient concert for their friend. My wife and I got to tag along.

Hans Christian Andersen once wrote, “Where words fail, music speaks.”

Music, be it rock or Bach is Mercer Crook’s language.

The quartet of Jon Kerrick, Curtis Malcom, Jamie Mancuso and Linda Williams played beautiful music and the maestro drank it in like a soothing tonic. At times, his hands were keeping time, as only a conductor can do. His head swayed and occasionally his eyes closed as he absorbed the beauty of those moments.

A few folks who were there to visit others stopped by and enjoyed the sounds, as well as a few members of the hospital staff.

Kerrick and Malcom, by the way, are medical doctors. I’m not sure who prescribed this musical elixir, but it sure boosted the spirits of a friend.

When Mercer had his car wreck a few years ago, some thought he wouldn’t make it. A few months ago, I asked Mercer about his band playing at an event I’m hosting in 2018. At that hospital concert, he reminded me of that and in his gravely voice said, “I’m gonna be there.”

If, by chance, all this talk of beautiful music has left you wanting more, I have good news for you.

The Green Street Quartet is going to offer a free concert at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, in the chapel of First Baptist Church on Green Street. They will play a full program of romantic selections.

Did you get the free part? If you are a cheap Valentine, this is your opportunity to make someone feel incredibly special. I heard a couple of the songs they will play and they will kindle the fire of romance.

There is something about a couple of violins, a viola and a cello in beautiful harmony that is unlike anything I’ve ever heard.

Go to early dinner, or make a late date for after the concert. The concert with either be the perfect dessert or appetizer for your special evening. 

See you there.

 

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

 

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