Chris Giles

  I met Chris Giles on a warm May night on a street in front of his basement apartment in Provo, UT, in 1976.  He was a member of my student branch, and his reputation as pianist wunderkid preceded him.  He was a bit famous for winning international competitions--had shared some space in the Daily Universe, BYU's student paper. which I, of course, read.  On this particular evening he was sitting in his car with a roommate, Jerry, and they were seriously discussing black holes.  When I chanced by, they must have recognized me as well, and they invited me to join them in the car and in their discussion.  I was a newly-returned missionary attending summer school and still navigating the murky waters of getting back into the social stream, but nevertheless I crawled in between them and joined in.  At the time I was dating a University of Utah senior medical student, John Ward, but history will bear out that that didn't take off, a fact that grieved me at the time because Dr. Ward was headed back to Duke University as an intern--I had just returned from Duke University as a missionary.  The thoughts of returning there were captivating to me obviously.  Dr.  Ward went on to make history in internal medicine--I googled him.  

After a good rousing depletion of black hole theories I made my exit but not before I had been given a pair of Chris' pants to mend.  In retrospect, I must have offered to take his mending home, but one gives pause to wonder how the topic would have come up, right?  When I stepped through my apartment door, the phone rang, and two hours later I had what appeared to be a new friend AND a date to a movie in two days.  What was to follow became one of the greatest adventures I had been on in my brief 23 years and certainly one of the more flamboyant chapters in my life.

Date night arrived.  Unfortunately, I had spent the day poolside with a friend, and my sunburn was record-breaking.  I was very very uncomfortable.  Chris and I walked to the downtown Provo theatre via a city park where we sat briefly.  It turned out that this guy could identify weeds along the way in the cracks of the sidewalk and even knew the medicinal qualities of some of them!  Fascinating.  I believe the movie we saw was  "The Other Side of the Mountain" about a champion skier who becomes a teacher after a skiing accident leaves her  a quadriplegic.  At the conclusion of the date we said good night pleasantly, and I minced my way into my apartment.  Minutes later Chris returned with aloe vera for my burn.  I thought that was kind.  I was to later learn that he had a whole chest of herbs which he kept in his bedroom and through which we rummaged frequently. That sunburn rocked my world for two days, but when I eventually surfaced, Chris once again appeared at my door.  He was a congenial pleasant conversationalist and ever the gentleman.  Who knew fame came in such a down-to-earth charming package?

Thus began one of the most delightful courtships--full of warm summer Provo nights, hours in piano practice rooms in the Harris Fine Arts Center, endless walks, hand-holding in church, and the deepest conversational forays into topics I had never even considered.  My time spent with him was magical.  I still have vivid memories of countless nights spent on the streets of Provo long after the city had gone to sleep.  Our silliness was earth-stopping.  It was beyond Disney magic.  We were hysterically funny and foot-loose with no one but each other to appreciate how clever, creative and down right show-stopping we were!  We danced and sang.  We challenged each other to utterly stupid contests.  Chris was not only a gifted musician, but I was to find out he was a mimic--especially of other people's walks.  Watching him impersonate literally laid me out on the road!  I later found out that he did an imitation of bacon cooking that could bring the house down.  I tried to imitate this skill for my fifth graders and got a few laughs, but I just didn't have the touch. The lure of sprinklers in the park was too much for us as well.  We drenched ourselves.  Such awesome fun the likes of which I have never repeated. Those nights stretched into the wee hours of the morning, but we were oblivious to the realities of seven o'clock classes.  I remember taking naps on the lawn after my daily German class and then wandering off to sit in a practice room for another couple of hours while Chris practiced.  Then we were once again off into the mystery and intrigue of yet another Provo night.  Night after night.

Let me pause here and focus for a moment on the music.  To say that the piano played a part in our courtship is an understatement of gigantic magnitude.  I fell in love with the music first and the musician second.  Entering the world of classical piano was like changing dimensions for me. This new realm bore me away.  I feasted on it.  I was swept away unexpectedly.  The joy caught me completely off guard.  One Sunday evening after a 10 stake fireside we stopped off at the private studio of Dr. Nibley--Chris' piano professor.  The piano there was a 9 foot Steinway--several cuts above those in the practice rooms, and Dr. Nibley had generously given Chris a key to the room.  On this particular evening Chopin began to expand that office.  The music was so transfiguring that I began to cry.  Emotionally, this was a place that I had never felt my spirit go before.  Truly exquisite and equally transformative.  At the conclusion of the piece, I spontaneously fell to my knees at his feet, completely withered.  My composure returned after awhile, and we were both spellbound at my emotional expression. I will never forget that sacred experience.

I had never had a friend like this.  To find somewhere along the way that the feelings went deeper than that surprised me.  So this was love...hmmm.  In the midst of that summer I passed classes, cooked meals, made friends in the branch and woke up each day smiling.  Chris prepared for and entered the first Gina Bachauer International Piano competition sponsored by B.Y.U.  I learned to massage his hands.  I even developed the beginnings of a critical ear as I sat hour upon hour upon hour listening to him.  Although his first place title in that competition would not come until the following year, he placed second in this one and received accolades.

At one point our differences entered, and we backed away from the intensity of the growing relationship.  But our friendship was so deep and intense that we soon found our way back together.  On President Carter's election day in the Provo Temple, Chris asked me to be his "elect lady".  We were married on Carter's innauguration day, January 21, 1977, in that same temple.  Our story continued for the next 13 years. 

(a Christmas card sent to our family by President 
and Mrs. Nancy Reagan--Chris had played in
the Library of Congress that year, 1983)

(brothers,  Tony and Brad)

 (with Uncle Bill)

(with good California friend, Kitzi--Provo)

(fishing with Mr. Munk)

(at a reception following a performance with
the Utah Symphony in Salt Lake City, 1981)

(a 50's dance in Logan, 1987)

(with Reid Nibley and a Russian violinist)

(piano recital at the home of Spencer and Ila Taggart
Logan, UT  1987)

(notice Chris almost dead center)

(with his father and brother Tony and Maurice Abravanel of
the Utah Symphony)

(From biographical notes written by Chris found tucked away in some old files recently)

  • Born July 4, 1951, at St. Johns's Hospital, Burbank, CA.  A perfect baby and firstborn in the family.  Why was I born July 4th?
  • First music that I heard and liked was symphonic music.  Music entered my soul.
  • Began instruction at the piano at age two because of an observable interest.  Taught by my parents.  An inspired move.  I played "Jingle Bells" and other tunes at this age.
  • Age four--putting chords to music and improvising
  • Age five--given a test by my parents.  I recognised and could name any tone on the piano without looking.  Started kindergarten, but wasn't interested.  Liked girls!
  • Age six--1st grade--still not interested.  Began formal piano lessons with my grandfather, Thomas Giles, head of the University of Utah music department from 1913-1945.
  • Interest in school increased somewhat in 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades
  • Piano ability increased considerably.  Played in a recital at age seven.  Grandfather died when I was almost eight.
  • Lost a year of lessons
  • Third grade teacher recommended University of Southern California Preparatory School of Music.  I was accepted under scholarship.  Was a student there for four years
  • Gave full recital at age nine--youngest to do so under sponsorship of U.S.C.
  • Developed insecurity in childhood
  • I was a critical person.
  • Saw psychologist at age nine.  Don't know if it helped, but I found out that my I.Q. was 125.  I have always been a curious person--getting to the bottom of all things that interested me.
  • School habits from 4th to 6th grade were not all that great, but I think I learned a few things.
  • Continued to develop in musical abilities
  • Entered junior high school a highly insecure person.  No girlfriends through junior high school.  Did well in music and science.  In 8th grade received the high mark in school in rock naming test.  Astronomy fascinated me.
  • Eighth grade or 13 years old--1964--left U.S.C. to study with Robert Turner--just the person for me.  He entered me in a P.T.A. competition, and I won 1st prize in piano.  Received $100.  Entered same competition two years later and won again--$200 1st prize.  But that didn't take care of my insecurity.
  • Unhappy through junior high school.  I was picked on a lot.  One reason was because of my musical talent.  Playing the piano was a "sissy" thing to do.  But for some reason I developed an ability to love people.
  • High school was a challenge for me, academically speaking.
  • Became less insecure because of my first real girlfriend when I was 17 years old.
  • I continued to play in concerts and win competitions.  Of course, one or two competitions came up occasionally where I took 2nd or 3rd place or didn't even make the
    finals.  This was very motivating for me.  Out of about 15 competitions through high school and part of college (before my mission), I took 1st place in about nine of them.  The others were just being selected among a few to play with various orchestras.
(quote found in Chris' handwriting in a random file)

We, the willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful.  We have done so much for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything for nothing.


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