October 28, 2008 at 10:51 AMI first fell in love with Aaron Copland over an old tape player, lying on the green shag carpet in my upstairs bedroom. I’d stolen a tape from Daddy’s collection under the stereo, and from that point on, it belonged to me. Or should I say it owned me?--I don’t recall; we were completely enmeshed. It was my escape, my newfound deeper connection with life, love, beauty, and death.
From one single note, hope grew in small green shoots, pushing toward light from the thawed earth. From there, all of creation joined in the celebratory dance. It was all so terrifyingly beautiful, the tenuous hold that life keeps over death: in the dark shadows, unseen, death waited. But with all that death around, what better reason to celebrate being alive? Simple, I know, but nothing is more satisfying than to be grateful for such a gift as life.
I listened to it every day. I fell asleep there on the shag green carpet, dreaming that someday I could play it myself. I would play like that, that’s what. But instead, I played that tape until it broke, that’s what. I cried that day, and since I was afraid to tell my parents I’d broken a tape that I’d stolen, I hid it away and never found another copy. (If anyone happens to know where I could find a recording of the St. Paul chamber orchestra’s version, I’d love to have it again!)
Years passed, and eventually I’d all but forgotten about Appalachian Spring. Then, by twist of fate, the Anchorage Symphony added it to their October 2008 program. When I found out about it last spring, I just knew that something would prevent me from playing it. I didn’t even dare hope that I would live long enough to see the end of October. What happens after lifelong dreams are realised, anyway? Isn’t that the end of the movie? Do the credits roll? Everyone gets up and leaves the theater? I wasn’t sure.
But no, I showed up to rehearsal, business as usual, and we began to hash out the difficulties that come with Copland: counting, counting, and counting. It would have been easy to be so occupied by the working out of our parts that we’d neglect to see the forest for the trees. Copland made sure I wouldn’t forget, though. Without fail, the sounds would pull me from my efforts, and suddenly I’d become so overwhelmed I couldn’t see the music for the tears. Surely, I’d have to put an end to this emotional spillage before Saturday’s performance! Most of my rehearsal time, I’m ashamed to admit, was spent trying to keep myself pulled together.
Fortunately, a major portion of the music was given to only the front half of the section, so I could afford the luxury of sitting back to listen. In fact, the very last refrain worked out this way. We proclaimed our joy in unison, then I set my bow to rest in my lap while the rest continued to speak in devout, hushed tones. As I sat on the stage during those final notes, I got a distinct familiar feeling.
I don’t know, it was kind of like dying. But I’ve never died, so what do I know?
Some things, you just know.
I'm glad you got to play it! It's such a powerful piece of music! Especially that ending where it says "like a prayer" in the score. Ah! so many images running through my mind!!
So now I'm curious as to who's going to spread the wealth and buy me a ticket to Japan and Canada? It is my sincere belief that recipe trading, not stock market trading, is the best way to end world hunger and promote peace. (How's that for a campaign platform?) I'm electing George as my running mate, on account of his venison parmesan.
Email me about which photos you may be interested, and maybe I can help you out.
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