A touch of the Master’s hand

Published 8:54 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The faint thud of our rhythmic steps filled the companionable silence as Mike and I strolled to our vehicle. Each of us was lost in our own thoughts and the accompanying feelings provoked by what we had experienced in this autumn twilight in the South. On any ordinary evening, my thoughts quickly form into words and gush from my mouth, but this was no ordinary evening. The beauty of the performance we had been privy to moved me beyond words into an almost unearthly realm of delight and wonder.

Pausing in the afterglow a moment or two longer my heart rejoiced that God would touch a mere man with such a gift.

Mike hurried into the house after delivering the last kiddo safely home from school without much time to quickly grab a bite and dress for our evening out. We may have reconsidered having to rush and opted to pass on this performance, but since we had purchased season tickets to the Brownstone Center we decided to head to PRCC campus in Poplarville.

The black sheen of the baby grand glistened under the stage lights as Phillip Fortenberry, the man at the piano, moved toward it. As his slender fingers found their place on the ivories he began to weave the story of his life into the performance.

At the tender age of 3, Fortenberry received an astonishing and somewhat frightening gifting from God. As he played under a large oak tree in the back yard outside his Columbia, Mississippi home a shot of energy ran through his body. He was filled with an unexplainable compulsion to run into the house and play the piano.

Fortenberry and his babysitter/housekeeper, Little Bit, were equally astounded at what flowed from his fingertips. He promptly sat and played to perfection any song that he had heard in church or on the radio. Little Bit called his parents who rushed home to marvel at what had occurred.

This unlikely and humble beginning set a magnificent career into motion, which has spanned the globe. Performances at the White House, Carnegie Hall, Broadway, and numerous tours both on American and European soil are a part of Fortenberry’s musical legacy.

The passion and perfection of his performances touch men and women, boys and girls calling them to also use their gifts and talents to bring life and joy to others. Fortenberry received formal training so that he could read music, but he is quick to give the glory to his Heavenly Father. Fortenberry moves audiences the world over with his story of a little boy whose life was forever changed by a touch of the Master’s hand.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at lilsisjan@yahoo.com.