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Reddit Online Community Helps Family Bring Long-Lost Music to Life

Matt L'Italien's grandparents had written two love songs, but years after their deaths, no one in the family could perform the music. So he took his plea to Reddit.com, where he was overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers. You will be too -- check out this amazing story and the beautiful renditions of his grandparents' songs.


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Matt L’Italien’s grandparents, David Rosenthal, a psychologist, and Marcia Kensinger Rosenthal, a nurse, married in 1950, and were deeply in love throughout their lives, even though the odds were stacked against them.

“My grandfather was Jewish and she was not, so it made things pretty difficult for them to get together,” L’Italien, a 21-year-old college student from Boston, told Gimundo.

David Rosenthal died of Alzheimer’s disease in 1996, after 46 years of marriage. L’Italien never knew him, but remembers his grandmother as “a phenomenal woman.” When he was eight years old, she developed Alzheimer’s as well, and passed away several years later.

But recently, his aunt, Amy Rosenthal, came across a few remarkable, long-lost pieces of the couple’s history. The family was thrilled when she discovered an old love letter between the pair, which had been stuck for years on top of a chest of drawers.

“It was amazingly adorable,” says L’Italien.

Along with it, Rosenthal found two more love letters, of sorts: the carefully preserved piano and lyrics sheet music for two songs that they had written together decades ago, entitled “In and Out of Love” and “I’ll Never Regret (Loving You).”

L’Italien’s grandparents had played music as a hobby for many years, but had never recorded any of their music, to his knowledge. His family members longed to hear the songs performed, but none of them were able to play piano well enough to do them justice.

So L’Italien had an idea. He often frequents Reddit.com, a large online community where “Redditors” can converse, share links, and ask for and provide help to one another.  His college roommate, who also uses the site, had recently received $100 from an anonymous stranger on Reddit, who simply asked him to pay it forward in some way.

“Reddit really is a place of benevolence,” he says. “They actively want to help their fellow man.”

So L’Italien knew it was the perfect place to find someone to help fulfill his family’s wish. On April 11th, he created a post on the site: “My family recently found two songs on sheet music written by my late grandparents. Would anyone like to play them for us, so that we may hear them?” he wrote in the thread’s subject line, including scanned copies of the two pieces of music in the body. Then he sat back and waited for a response.

L’Italien had expected that a couple of amateur musicians might take an interest in his plea for help, but the response he received was beyond his wildest dreams. “Within a couple of hours, it was number one on the site,” he says.

The post has since received over 3,700 upvotes, and 900 comments—and in the space of hours, amateur and professional musicians alike had already begun to share links to their renditions of the songs. At least a dozen have been posted to date: some are instrumental, some are vocals-only, others include both. One musician converted one of the songs to a guitar performance, and posted his tablatures so that other guitarists could play along. Some of the site’s community members have even collaborated, building a vocal performance on top of another Redditor’s piano recording.

For L’Italien, who was just a child when Alzheimer’s disease robbed his grandmother of her memories, these strangers’ renditions of her songs have brought her back to life in some small way. 

“It was really sad to have my last memories be of her in such a debilitated state,” he says. “I’m really happy that I can look back at this music she produced and really bring back that element of character and wit and brilliance that she had.”

After receiving such an outpouring of support and assistance from the Reddit community, L’Italien sent an email to his mother and aunt, sharing some of the comments and videos he’d received.

“They don’t really understand how many people took this up, but they’re incredibly grateful to hear the music that their mother played,” he says.

“My aunt who had the sheet music, it’s her birthday, and she said it was the best birthday she could ever imagine.”

Here’s a sampling of the wonderful recordings created by Redditors.

 

 

Filed under: Arts and Culture, Features, Heroes, History,

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