Quite honestly, I haven't wanted to write about my new-found cellist, under this superstitious notion that at the mere mention of his name, he would disappear in a wisp of smoke like a candle wish on a birthday cake. Several weeks passed before Kevin and I were able to schedule a real-life rehearsal with Maria, during which I lost more sleep and practiced more hours than I care to admit. Okay, I confess: I practiced as though my musical life depended on it. After all, I didn't want to blow my opportunity... What if he didn't come back?
We would set our sights on Beethoven's Op. 11. And yes, he would be carrying with him a copy of Brahms, just in case. The idea of running through the B major trio seemed surreal; I'd listened to it so many times over the years I had the first movement practically memorized. When I pulled my very own copy out of the mailbox, I felt almost guilty at the thought of laying my fingers on such a hallowed piece--couldn't stand the thought of butchering it. The first late night run-through alone in the studio surprised me, though; even the upstairs neighbors said they liked it. Maybe I'm not as bad as I thought I was!
Kevin, on the other hand... While I was growing up in my somewhat normal childhood, his was spent on six-hour practice days and extensive touring, performing with Carnegie Hall's orchestra-in-residence, The New England Symphonic Ensemble. He envied the freedom of my youth, but I envied his early start, which gave him a native fluency with his instrument that I doubted I would ever be able to match. I'd found a recording on youtube of his playing: brilliant! He could be playing with anyone--yet he insisted upon making the trip down from Anchorage through the mountain pass to play with me. Why?
While our pasts couldn't have been more different, we both came up to Alaska with the similar intention of leaving music behind for good. Likewise, after we got here, we both discovered that we couldn't run away from something that was laced up in our shoes; Alaska proved to be the perfect place to rekindle abandoned dreams. So, regardless of our pasts, our obsessions were alike, and we both went after it like we were making up for lost time. This common ground would be the perfect kindling to fuel our momentum, despite the formidable logistics that set us apart.
I finally found a clear space in the schedule for all of us to meet at Maria's and fixed a date. Oh, I'm such an awkward fool on dates! I feared the worst, but when Kevin and I finally sat down face to face, we really had way too much to talk about and way too much in common to leave room for awkwardness. We were two peas in a pod, actually! Uncanny, to say the least. Rehearsal began with my fair share of bungles and slip-ups, but the ice had been broken, and it could only go uphill from there. Our voices blended so well; already, I knew we were a match. Trying my best to simply enjoy the moment as it existed, I looked at the three of us there, playing Beethoven. Across from me sat someone without judgment, a true musician who not only was excited to be playing with me, but truly viewed me as an equal in every respect. Across from me played the cellist of my dreams. Only, this was real.
"Well, let's run the first movement of Brahms, shall we?"
(Aurora borealis, 10-13-12. Photo courtesy my next door neighbor, Stephanie Snyder)
The first snowfall came in a silent, smothering hush of white, making travel difficult for those who hadn't gotten around to changing tires. As a result, the church was noticeably thinner in audience for Saturday's performance by Kathryn Hoffer, Roxann Selland Berry, and Maria Allison. Many of the familiar elderly faces were absent, but so many of the loyal regulars managed to make it in spite of the weather. And me? I wouldn't miss it for anything. Kathryn is the concertmaster of the Anchorage Symphony, and Roxann is the principal flautist. Not only that, but they were performing a new work by Canadian composer Kenneth Nichols. As the trio shared a fresh program of modern works, I felt privileged to be able to enjoy such a treat. Looking out across the audience, I could see I wasn't alone in my sentiments.
We have such a beautiful audience here in Soldotna. I've never once taken for granted a single gracious face or thirsty ear. I can always trust their welcoming applause, un-jaded enjoyment, and appreciative reception. They come ready to soak up any culture they can get, and I feel deeply that it is our responsibility as musicians to make it happen for them. The town of Soldotna exists amidst a harsh wilderness in a climate that promotes isolation and silences our efforts to shine, and a lot of good ideas simply never get off the ground. And that's the part I hate about living here. Musicians like Paul Rosenthal, Zuill Bailey--and tonight, Kathryn, Roxann, and Maria--are my heroes, and I'm so incredibly thankful to be able to experience world-class musicians in such an intimate setting because they took an interest in creating the venues in the first place.
I crave to emulate that concept myself, but I need help from others in making it happen. I know there are more like-minded, capable people out there--people like my new cellist-friend Kevin, who could be anywhere playing with anyone, but fell in love with Alaska and came to stay. It truly is a bewitchingly beautiful state, and what setting could possibly be more profoundly inspiring to us artists and musicians? The snow may seek to suffocate, and the mountains may rise in resistance, but we will stubbornly tackle them for the rewards to be had, for the sake of the shining beauty that's to be shared with those thirsty ears.
If I'd known the press was going to show up to the dress rehearsal, I probably would have gussied up a bit instead of showing up in a grubby shirt and pony tail. Luckily, they didn't get too personal and left me in the background of the photo they used for the front-page article in the Peninsula Clarion. It's a pretty good read, and explains the gist of our annual Evening of Classics concert. You can also catch a glimpse of some of the wonderful people I get to join on the stage. The article doesn't really do justice to their hard work, incredible skill, and beautiful hearts. (Also, they incorrectly depicted me as the wise-crack of the bunch, when everyone knows I should only be taken very seriously. Very. Seriously.)
More entries: September 2012
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