What do you get when you combine six or more months of snow with four hours of daylight or less, and temperatures between 0 and 80 below for weeks on end? Well, it’s not necessarily the world’s biggest popsicle festival (but perhaps that’s not a bad idea for next year). The winters in Alaska are difficult for even the hardiest and most emotionally stable folks. Suicide rates in Alaska are more than twice the national average, and the state ranks number one in alcohol-related deaths. These statistics typically double in rural areas. Although the majority of Alaska’s population lives right in the Anchorage area, the rest of the state lives in isolation much of the time. Yeah, it’s quaint, and it can be pretty quiet and peaceful; if you’ve ever wanted to retreat into solitude for an extended period, you could disappear here for a long, long time.
People get in a desperate way when breakup is two months out and the snow machine is broken. There’s only so many idling strolls you can make around the local grocery store before you look for something better to do. Everyone has addictions. For me, it’s coffee, internet, and music. While the government is not currently providing funding to the coffee/internet cause, they have deemed it a worthy pursuit to get communities involved in music.
This is where I enter. I happen to be friends with Dutch Harbor’s band teacher, a former Soldotna resident and french horn player. While I was dabbling around with the violin part of the Brahms horn trio, she was out scrounging up grant money to fly the pianist and me over to put on some programs for the school students. While she was at it, she got a very nice clarinetist to join us, too. So the four of us will make an attempt to entice people to do something better with their dark evenings than drink, abuse drugs, or kill themselves, basically. We will be playing three little performances for the school, each of us will lead clinics on our respective instruments, and then we will play for an evening concert/fund raiser.
They’ve asked us to play for 1 ½ to 2 hours. So far, my line-up consists of the following:
Saint Saens, Danse Macabre
Kreisler, Aucassin and Nicolette
Kansanlaulu, Finnish folk song
Milhaud, clarinet trio
Brahms, horn trio
If the clarinetist can’t get the swelling to go down from her tooth extraction, I’ll have to come up with some more stuff. I hope she gets better. We leave in one week.
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