From 1986 – 1997, my wife Judy and I, along with our two sons Aaron and Daniel, owned and operated a New Hampshire bed and breakfast inn, Cranmore Mountain Lodge, in the White Mountains. During the evenings, I would often play piano and over time, these “mini-concerts” became a regular inn “feature.” If I were not at the piano after dinner, the lobby Innkeeper buzzer would usually be pressed by 8 PM and I knew exactly what that meant.
The guests seemed to prefer the music of Broadway, the big shows, like Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Man of La Mancha, Cats, Fiddler on the Roof and others. Scores from popular films or background music such as Love Story, Unchained Melody, the Godfather (Speak Softly Love) and romantic ballads were always requested. Eventually I recorded a tape cassette and when CDs were introduced, I recorded and offered CD s for sale as well.
|Daniel, Dennis, Judy and Aaron, circa 1992|
The setting was a beautiful common room with fireplace and this wonderful baby grand piano. Over the years, this room became the favorite of our inn guests, typically folks who enjoyed experiencing New England at a traditional and historic bed and breakfast. It was a wonderful time, with guests singing, humming or simply relaxing in easy chairs and rockers, as the treasures of Broadway and film were being played for them. Occasionally, a guest would ask me to accompany them and they would perform. On rare occasion, the vocal range and star quality were magnificent. Unfortunately, more often than not, some soloist requests, (and the thumbs-down performance that followed ), occasioned fear of “early guest checkouts” in me. Fortunately, inn guests tend to be rather “forgiving” and just seem to giggle a lot. At Cranmore Mt. Lodge, music was part of the inn’s character. The common room made the travel experiences memorable for the guests.
The style and interpretation of the music was mine and “the common room” became my stage. I was its star soloist and performer. Why, come to think of it, I even owned the theatre. For the guests, sharing stories and experiences of their day, (with my music providing the background to give those tales “color and drama”), added something intangible to their trip. The inn became theirs. They were comfortable. They knew they were coming back. When the day of checkout arrived and they would say their goodbyes, they usually had a CD packed for themselves and a few others as gifts. The White Mountains National Forest area will always be known for its beauty, its foliage, and spectacular vistas. Tourism will always be its major industry. We were able to add another dimension to their trip.
I have long since sold the inn and with it, my wonderful baby grand. I miss that piano, the feel of the keys, the shiny black finish. I think back (ten years already) to those times at the keyboard, with my captive audience in attendance. All those people and yet, in a strange way, always feeling alone. I had found my place and life was truly wonderful. I have never had a piano lesson. I am self-taught. My CD, Dennis Inn Concert, the Sounds of Cranmore Mt. Lodge has never gone Silver, Gold or Platinum. It ain’t going to get any special recognition either or referenced on the Juilliard School web site. Yet, “somewhere out there” that CD is playing.
I am older now and many miles distant. It is nighttime in Newport Beach CA and as I sit in my home, I close my eyes and see the common room, the fireplace, the couples, the families. The piano is still shiny black and my fingers can feel the wonderful smoothness of the ivory. I am still their Innkeeper and they will be my special guests forever. The “Memory” feels good. Yes, the sounds of that time are alive and well… both for my inn guests ….and for me.