The Piano Man left for France Monday on a two-month-long performance tour. Francis Vidil left his heart behind in Pilot Point with his wife Marie and the regulars at Lowbrow’s Beer and Wine Garden.
“Francis and I fell in love with this town when we stumbled upon Lowbrow’s while searching for a home in the countryside of Celina,” Marie said. “The piano stood in the corner, disabled. He said we will fix that, and he did. Two days later, music soared from the keys.”
After they discovered Pilot Point, they decided it was the place for their new home. They moved to town last April.
Vidil is one of only a handful of musicians in the world who play the trumpet and piano simultaneously. He invented his own version of the water key on the trumpet, enabling continuous playing with his right hand.
He stepped into the spotlight at the age of 8, traveling with his father, a chair organist, on tour in Paris. He was masterful as an organist, and his mentors called for him not to touch an organ before completing formal training.
“They banned me from playing the organ at an early age. They banned me from improvisation,” Vidil said. “I did it anyway.”
Vidil studied from an early age at a conservatory that focused on his classical training. As an adult, he followed his passion as a tenured professor in improvisation at the Versailles Conservatory of Music in France. He also mentored master’s classes for composers and instrumentalists at Pennsylvania State University.
He has performed on renowned stages in France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Greece, England, Russia, Iceland and Israel. He also reintroduced the organ into Havana, invited by the French Embassy in Cuba when churches were allowed to reopen in 2007. In 2001, the Chopin Festival chose Vidil to perform in New York City in a commemorative concert honoring the victims of the World Trade Center attacks.
Vidil has broken all the rules in following his love for improvisation, the organ, trumpet, piano and Marie. The greatest of these was Marie, his college sweetheart.
Parting ways with Vidil after studying classical music at the conservatory in France, Marie married, had children and moved to the United States. After 40 years apart from Marie, Vidil began searching online for her. He found her in Dallas and also learned that she was divorced. Vidil himself had never married.
They were soul mates in college, and they rekindled their love when they met again, marrying seven years ago. As the story goes among the regular patrons of Lowbrows, love surrounds the couple.
“Marie and Francis are like young lovers just married, taking advantage of every second they are together in the last seven years since they wed,” Tori Wells said as she worked on the World War I dog tag project at Lowbrow’s.
“It is a beautiful love story — one for the movies.”
At any given time, friends and visitors gather at Lowbrow’s to share in a game of dominoes or cards while drinking a glass of wine or beer. Many nights, the air is filled with music that dances off the keys of the early 1800s piano that Vidil restored.
“They are a special couple,” said City Council member Paul Young. “It is an honor and blessing to call them neighbors.”