In piano music, a glissando is a slide up or down the keyboard, hitting every white key (usually) in sequence. A glissando usually either starts or ends on a definite pitch, almost always occupies a definite time interval, and is marked in sheet music by a diagonal jagged line indicating the direction in which it is played. Playing a glissando can be hard on the fingers, particularly if the surface of the keys is high-friction; I once knew a pianist who kept a chalkboard eraser at the end of the keyboard for use on glissandi.

One of the more amusing stories of my piano career involved the use of the glissando.

The daughter of my home church's pastor attended Virginia Tech, but was not involved in the Wesley Foundation. She and her then-boyfriend, now husband, have attended Blacksburg United Methodist Church since they started at VT, 3 years ahead of me; her husband is now the youth director there, and she's a VT grad student.

I never played piano for my church's youth choir while I was a member; I enjoyed singing more (and still do), and there were plenty of other people willing to accompany. When I got to Wesley my freshman year, though, the Singers co-chairs caught me playing around on the piano one evening, and the rest was history. I wound up accompanying one song that year, and more each successive year.

The time was April 1998, Wesley Weekend. Each Wesley Weekend, the Singers do a Coffeehouse show on Saturday night at Wesley, then perform most of the Spring Tour program on Sunday morning at BUMC. On Wesley Sunday, Jody and Todd were sitting near the back of the church, watching our choir perform.

As I started playing the opening song, Jody looked toward the front and thought she could see me behind the piano, but wasn't sure from that distance. The verse of that song built from a spare accompaniment at the start into a quick resolve-clash-resolve-hammer the tonic chord sequence at verse end, and rode a glissando into the chorus. As Jody told me after the service, her thought pattern went something like this:

verse starts building

"You know, I think that's Josh playing."

resolve-clash-resolve-HAMMER, then


"Yep, that's Josh, all right."