are sitting at his Yamaha Clavanova piano wired into his
computer’s sound system, and I can hear the three-part harmony
that he is playing for the Andrews Sisters. Well, not the
‘real’ Andrews Sisters, but the three delightful singers who
will be performing their songs. He has created a CD of all three
parts, then broken it down and recorded each singer’s part
separately. He’s the consummate teacher and has created an
extraordinary teaching tool. The singers can play their part, or
the score in its entirety, at their leisure, cutting down on
practice time significantly. Sid Richardson can play anything.
He will modestly deny it, but I’ve heard too much of his music
to believe otherwise.
Sid grew up in a tiny town in New Hampshire.
Like many families who were struggling simply to survive during
the Great Depression in the U.S., his family was poor. But they
knew everybody in their little town of 1,000 people, and
everybody knew them. They were lucky to have a telephone at
home, albeit hand-cranked with six other families sharing their
party line. Sid’s father worked for the government-sponsored
Works Progress Administration and died when the boy was only
seven. Sid knew that the monthly financial support to the family
would end on his eighteenth birthday, so as soon as he was old
enough, he went to work in a department store. By the time his
birthday rolled around and the financial support ended, Sid was
paying all the bills and supporting his mother.
But Sid had a talent that would sustain him
throughout his life, and he and his mother saw to it that his
talent was nourished. He studied piano with a woman in Lowell,
Massachusetts, who had studied in Boston. And he flourished.
Sid attended college on a scholarship,
graduated and was drafted right into the United States Army. A
foot problem kept him out of combat boots and away from the
conflict in Korea, so the Army reclassified him and he became
the Company Clerk. As he tells it, he had two primary
responsibilities: to write recommendations for or against
promotions for the Colonel, and to alert the Sergeants as to the
Colonel’s presence when they were playing poker. Life at Ft.
Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, was considerably safer than life in
Korea, but was not without its challenges.
The war ended, Sid’s Army days were over
and an interesting thing happened. A local church needed a
pianist to substitute for a while and offered Sid the job.
Thinking it would be for a few months, he accepted. He moved his
mom down south to live with him. He had taught piano to children
since he was in his early 20s, and now found himself in a fairly
large town that had almost no piano teachers. He immediately
inherited 35 students from a teacher who was leaving town, and
his career began with a boom.
So Sid’s career became music – at the
church, teaching, accompanying singers at community concerts,
traveling on summer tours. There were three services on Sunday,
and the church grew to over 2,000 members. There were television
broadcasts and Billy Graham crusades throughout the world. There
was a wedding every Saturday, and almost uncountable violin,
cello and piano trios. He played in the synagogue as well as the
church, for community events and privately. Except in the
summer, he taught piano seven days a week. His students ranged
in age from five to 78, and he loved teaching.
In the summer he and his mother would travel
back to New England to visit family and friends, driving the old
coastal highways and staying along the way in motor hotels.
Motels, as they were called, usually had large signs out front
advertising “Vacancy” or “No Vacancy” so that weary
motorists could spot them from the road. The most modern motels
also offered a telephone in every room, but rarely a television.
Sid’s mother died in 1963, but he continued to make the trip
to New England as long as family lived there.
He loved to teach, he loved to accompany
singers, and he loved to travel. A musician friend asked him to
arrange some music, and an addition to his career was born. Sid
published books of music – sacred, patriotic, Christmas –
for Columbia and Warner Brothers studios.
He lived in Georgia for fifty years, but
never really felt at home there. He knew the community and they
respected his talents. He made good friends and had more than
enough to do at work and socially. The boy from New England
gained a Georgia accent, but found something lacking in his
He retired after 38 years with the church,
and limited his playing to substituting in various churches. He
retained a limited number of students. He began to travel,
visiting exotic places around the world. One tour came to
Thailand. He made friends in Chiang Mai, and considered living
here. Then he visited Pattaya, and decided to rent a condo there
for a few months. Thailand was becoming the home he never found
in Georgia. He went back to Georgia to finish a year of teaching
that he felt he owed his students, allowing them to find other
teachers. He needed time to make a decision. The cost of living
was steadily rising in the United States, and retirement incomes
didn’t go far. Sid wanted to enjoy his well-earned freedom. He
finally decided to move to Chiang Mai, and he thought that the
move would mean the end of his music.
That was not to be. No sooner did he settle into his condo
than a few neighbors discovered his talents. The next thing he
knew he was the new accompanist for the Chiang Mai Choral
Society, playing and teaching all over again. Now he’s
involved in the next Nakornping Production, Hats Off!, on
November 11. If you want to hear fabulous music and meet a
delightful gentleman, look for Sid Richardson. And enjoy his