Harrell Beck

The Wisdom of Harrell Beck

Student of Verdi


Harrell loved to tell stories about his favorite musicians. One of them was the opera composer, Verdi.  He said, “I’d like to be Giuseppe Verdi. With a name like Beck, his name alone is music!” Never mind that translated into English Verdi’s name is just plain “Joe Green.” Harrell was passionate about stories that exemplified God’s gift of creativity -- especially if that creativity sprang from a cheeky attitude. In 1985, Harrell said,

“What a man Giuseppe Verdi was! He lived in Milan. He hated organ grinders (all the guys with the monkeys!). When he died, they found three hundred crank organs in his basement. He bought them so he wouldn’t have to listen to them.  I thought of doing that with parishioners, but maintenance is very awkward!

One day Verdi walked down the street and heard an organ-grinder. Dirty, wrinkled -- even the monkey had fleas.  Worst of all, he was playing the tune badly. Verdi said, “Pick it up! Pick it up!” and went to lunch.  Three weeks later he came back, and met the same guy. All spiffed up, fore and aft, even the monkey was clean and had a ribbon in his hair. Best of all, the guy was playing the tune magnificently. Verdi thought to congratulate him, went around to the front and noticed the guy had a banner in his hat on which were written the following words: “Master musician: Student of Verdi.”

The Nails Harrell F. Beck March 8, 1985