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The Chord Whisperer

From the bright lights of Massey Hall and concert venues across North America to a dusty street corner in a small town in British Columbia, Freddie sets himself up for the day.

“I played back up, I played in warm up bands and now, finally, I’m headlining my own show every day,” he says with a grin.

Slowly, he lowers himself to the sidewalk, folds up his legs, places his guitar in the familiar hollow and curls himself around it as if he were protecting a small child.

“How’d you end up here, Freddie?” I ask.

“Well, it wasn’t easy, I’ll tell you that. I spent most of my life strumming away in other people’s shadows. But you just have to keep on working and following your dream if it’s what you love to do. People know me here. People listen to me here. This is all I ever wanted.”

“But, Freddie,” I persist, “wouldn’t you rather play in one of the comfortable lounges around town or put on a few concerts instead of spending your days sitting on hard cement in the sun and the rain with people strolling by as if they didn’t see you?”

“They don’t need to see me, son, they just need to hear me.”

He blends seamlessly into the cement in his tan cardigan and trousers; it would be easy not to notice him. But they hear him, there’s no doubt about that. Busy people with busy lives slow down for a few paces when they pass Freddie and his guitar. He’s not asking for money, there’s no cap lying on the pavement. He’s simply playing to be heard.

At the end of the day, he struggles to unfold his cramped legs and slowly rises to his feet; he throws his guitar over his shoulder and ambles home to his wife of 34 years, a hot meal and an evening in front of the television.

“How was work today?” she asks.

“It was fine, my love … except for another one of those ‘socially conscious’ types peering down at me asking why I play on street corners and wouldn’t I rather be in some fancy bar or café. He felt sorry for me, I could tell … and maybe disappointed too, because I didn’t give him the tragic ‘fall from Grace’ story he was expecting. Folk just don’t get it; always looking to improve their lives by fixing someone else’s.”

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