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Emily Grossman

Night and Day

February 26, 2012 at 2:30 AM

Ill winds almost kept me from attending the annual Paul Rosenthal concert, despite the weeks of anticipation that preceded it. Some days, it's just easier to get out the door than others, and I wasn't sure if the rawness of my mood would be up for the Tchaikovsky trio. But if I could get there early enough, I might be able to slip into the front row without drawing attention to myself, thus avoiding the small talk. I hate small talk.

The front row also allows you the rare opportunity to engage intimately with world-class musicians, and this year I heard that cellist Zuill Bailey had been appointed as the new Artistic Director of the Sitka Summer Music Festival. Three years ago, I had the pleasure of playing the Beethoven triple concerto in the Anchorage Symphony with the Perlman-Quint-Bailey trio, and was already aware of his skills.

Thankfully, two kind, elderly people allowed me to squeeze into the front pew at Christ Lutheran. As I waited for the performance to begin, I thought back to that particular Anchorage concert and remembered a strange scenario that unfolded afterward, in which a friend and I ended up joining the trio for a drink across the street. Not wanting to impose, I remember feeling both lucky and awkward, being unable to think of anything clever to say. During the course of our chit-chat, the pianist mentioned something about her father being such a humanitarian. "Oh, so what does your father do?" I asked. "My father is Itzhak Perlman," she replied. "Oh..." I also told Zuill that I'd enjoyed hearing his cello through the floor of my hotel room. Creepy, I know, but I meant it as a compliment. I hate small talk.

Regardless. I doubted he remembered such trivial encounters; I hardly remembered it myself. I can never hold a decent conversation with a good cellist, because it's impossible to hide the fact that I have serious cello envy. Inevitably, they end up sidling cautiously toward the door in order to escape being locked up in my pigeon coop and being forced to play Brahms with me as I hope for Stockholm syndrome to set in.

The concert began. Zuill took his seat just four feet away and immediately swept me off my feet with the unfurling of the first phrase of Bach's C major cello suite. I decided to make it a date--a date between me and the imaginary cellist I've never had but always wanted. No one would know any better. For now, it was just the two of us, like a romantic dinner with candles and roses and all those things that girls like. As long as he was on the stage, he would be unable to escape the attention of my desperate ears.

His style? I would liken his approach to that of a gypsy or a pirate. Plundering his phrases with skill and panache, thirsty for the next adventure, he brought a sensual nature to Bach I'd never before encountered. Entranced, I hung onto every note. Then, as he paused dramatically before his next daring feat, he lifted his eyes with a smirk, directly at me. Did I imagine that, or did that cellist there just flirt with me? I hoped the elderly man next to me wouldn't notice I'd broken a sweat. But no, he'd barely lifted his eyes from his Sudoku puzzle.

The rest of the concert proved equally engaging; I was held captive by every note. I even rehearsed my proposition, trying to figure out some sort of draw to get him to stay in Soldotna. Like, say, a schoolroom of needy children who have no cello teacher and will inevitably turn to crime and mediocrity; only he could save them. Or how about moose? We have lots of them. And lots of darkness, snow, and sub-zero temperatures with no night life and lots of knitting projects. Hmm, maybe I could take him to Trustworthy Hardware Store. It has plenty of... stuff to look at, like ropes... Surely, you can't turn down this great town of Soldotna!

Alas, none of these ideas seemed convincing. I would have to tie him up and lock him in the pigeon coop, and pray for Stockholm syndrome to set in. Having no rope, I ducked out of the church after the concert without even taking the time to awkwardly thank him for the candles and roses. I hate small talk.

Every single night since the concert, I am haunted by the cello that got away, its vigorous resonant C string piercing me to consciousness like an alarm clock. Every night, that is, except this morning. This morning, for a change, I awoke with the song "Night and Day" playing in my ears.

"I need a cellist. Where can I get a good cellist?" I confide with a friend at the coffee shop. Speaking into her smart phone, she asks,

"Where can I find a cellist?"
"I don't know what you mean by that," replies the smart phone.
"Where can I find a cello player?"
"I don't know where you are."
"Who plays the cello in Soldotna?"
"What was that again?..."

From Marsha Weaver
Posted on February 26, 2012 at 3:35 PM
Emily, I SO love your writing!! :) And thanks for the tip about the Trustworthy Hardware Store. I'll probably never get to Soldatna, but if I do, I LOVE a good hardware store!!! Probably something to do with going with my Dad to pick up finishing nails or some other such treasures at the neighborhood hardware store when I was a kid. I can still hear the old wooden floorboards creak.....
From Rebecca Hopkins
Posted on February 26, 2012 at 4:20 PM
I too love your writing Emily. It's a treat to come here and see you have posted. I hope you keep hardcopies of your blogs just in case a server gets wiped out. They are all too wonderful to lose.
From Emily Hogstad
Posted on February 26, 2012 at 4:40 PM
So perfect, especially with the recurring phrase "I hate small talk." Although not nearly as remote as you, I suffer from my own bouts of isolation, and it can be heartbreakingly painful. I wonder if some point you're going to end up leaving. Maybe not this year, maybe not in five years, or ten years, but...someday I think you will. But we'll see - you're the mistress of your own destiny, after all...
From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 26, 2012 at 7:15 PM
Thanks so much! I'm not planning on moving. I'm planning on praying until a cellist drops from heaven with a copy of Brahms in his hand.
From marjory lange
Posted on February 26, 2012 at 8:50 PM
If there's a '' like this site, post that wonderful picture you painted of the Juneau Falls and its valley, some of those photos you have shared, subtly sing the praises of wide open spaces, and see what transpires...
From Randy Walton
Posted on February 26, 2012 at 8:52 PM
Is the cello your second favorite instrument? It's my second fave.

Re: prayer for cellist dropping from're gonna wear holes in several knees! :):)

From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 26, 2012 at 9:25 PM
Good luck finding your cellist. All of us will pray with you.
From Rebecca Hopkins
Posted on February 26, 2012 at 11:08 PM
I sure will be praying that you get your cellist, Emily!

From sharelle taylor
Posted on February 26, 2012 at 11:43 PM
"Inevitably, they end up sidling cautiously toward the door in order to escape being locked up in my pigeon coop and being forced to play Brahms with me as I hope for Stockholm's Syndrome to set in".

I like your blogs. But I love that image.

Best wishes re: quest.

From Ellie Withnall
Posted on February 27, 2012 at 3:45 AM
Get them young and mold their vulnerable little minds so they believe snow and dark, and hardware stores are the pinnacle of cellistic achievement.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 27, 2012 at 4:00 AM
That's kinda how I get violinists to join me. My studio is actually a colony of little drones that I hope to soon use to conquer the world. I need some more brainwashing tactics to make a cellist stay. Any ideas?

PS I just now removed the possessive on Stockholm. Apparently, Stockholm syndrome is named after a place, not a guy. (Yes, I am currently studying the subject...)

From David Fowler
Posted on February 27, 2012 at 5:34 AM

Stephane Grappelli solo on "Night and Day"

From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 27, 2012 at 6:01 AM
Augh, where did you get this? I was just getting up to pick it out by ear and start honing my jazz improv skills, and I clicked on your link and voila!
From David Fowler
Posted on February 27, 2012 at 1:45 PM

Click on "transcriptions"

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