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Emily Grossman

A Little Piece of Heaven

September 25, 2012 at 6:12 AM

The 28-seat flight across the inlet was full--save one seat, fortunately. I say fortunately, because the young, uninformed flight attendant insisted upon checking my violin with the luggage since it wouldn't fit in the undersized overhead bin. Standard protocol involves a simple tuck in the coat bin behind the cockpit, but she wouldn't have it. After informing her that I would be getting off the plane and missing the evening's rehearsal with the Anchorage Symphony, she politely agreed to buckle him safely into the last seat, which struck her as a funny sight, giving her occasional fits of giggles during the twenty-minute bumpy flight through torrents of rain.

Alaska Center of the Performing Arts

Anchorage, Alaska. Thursday morning, I rolled out of bed on my own whim: by ten a.m. I'm dressed. The hotel managers still remember me on a first name basis, and nodded a happy good morning to me as I passed through the lobby on my way to breakfast. Conveniently, my favorite coffee distributor placed a location just across the street from my hotel, literally in the same building as the Alaska PAC. What a way to begin the day, with a fresh toasted bagel and coffee amongst some of the same regulars I've seen there for six years.

The View from My Hotel Window (I cross the street to get to the corner coffee shop)

Meanwhile, from my seat in the corner, I spied a cellist (easily recognized by the large case that accompanies him) studying his part for the upcoming performance, sipping an americano before practice. We'd met briefly a year and a half ago, and trios were mentioned. I think about starting a conversation again today, but I'm not so good at that and have a phobia of being creepy, so I simply make up various plots while he finishes his drink and leaves.

It takes a while for the coffee to kick in, but when it does, I'm ready to tackle the day's schedule. Practice. Eat. Practice. Shop. Practice. Eat. Practice. Coffee. Rehearsal. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. It'll be me in my room and nothing but lots of time with my fiddle, and a large mass of repertoire that's had to be mastered in nine days' time. Three days remain. I have no cell phone. No one can find me. The sessions commence.

Anyone needs to be careful when scheduling six to seven hours of playing into each day, especially when one hour alone will be spent on the chords and runs of Capriccio Espagnol (still not so good just yet). Mandated practice breaks are tucked carefully under my umbrella, and alternate between coffee and walks to the 5th avenue mall. Outside, I could smell the familar downtown street odors of onions on the grill and alder smoked meats. Each ASO season's opening September concert always comes adorned with bright autumnal splashes. This year, it's also been adorned with so much rain, you'd think maybe you should call an ark instead of a cab. Flood advisories and road washouts kept many folk indoors--which is all the more reason why I can love being a musician in Alaska: the weather is perfect for practicing.

Mural on the 5th Avenue Mall

I also love playing with ASO because the elevator randomly stops to let on world-class musicians on their way to the same rehearsal I'm about to attend. This concert, the Harlem string quartet would be joining us for Randall Fleischer's orchestration of West Side Story Concerto for string quartet. I couldn't wait to hear how this collaberation would unfold.

I haven't played with any other symphony, so I don't really know how to compare us to anything else. We don't go on strikes; no one here is in it for the money, so evidently, we're here because we want to be. We seem to have an overly generous audience, and most of the concerts are sellouts with standing ovations (whether we deserve them or not). We have a generous list of donors, and, according to the conductor, our board of directors is the best. Everyone on it wants to be involved; it only takes one simple request, and somebody volunteers to help.

Admittedly, we're not the best symphony. But we have some of the best amongst us, and I've never attended a concert without discovering some new amazing talent in the group. This concert, I happened to secure the best seat in the entire house: front and left of the harpist, a brilliant young elfish man from Boise with magical powers. Entire sections of violinists miss their entrances following his cadenza in the Rimsky Korsakov. I had two more rehearsals to figure out how to recover from his ethereal effects in two measures' time.

And then, just like that, during the rehearsal break, the prayers of many were answered when the cellist I'd been eyeing earlier suddenly and unprovokedly approached me about coming to Soldotna to rehearse Brahms with me.

Really? I looked around to make sure I was not having another recurrent dream, and that this was in fact still the green room, not heaven.

Hello, cellist. I'm Emily Grossman. And your name again?

From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 25, 2012 at 8:59 PM
This sounds like a very nice way to spend a long weekend!

But what's up with the bear? :)

From Emily Grossman
Posted on September 25, 2012 at 9:13 PM
He doesn't want to be explained.
From sharelle taylor
Posted on September 25, 2012 at 10:55 PM
He's the reason for the violin case, with extra bear care built in. Sounds like heaven to me too, Emily.
From marjory lange
Posted on September 26, 2012 at 2:33 AM
I love your blogs.

From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on September 26, 2012 at 5:16 AM
OK Emily. Care to drop the cellist's name? (I'm thinking you might just run into "my" cellist under such conditions!)


From Emily Grossman
Posted on September 26, 2012 at 5:26 AM
He's from Boston.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on September 26, 2012 at 8:01 AM
Does anyone else see the opening of Beethoven's fifth in the whale photo? Dit-dit-dit-daaaht.
From jean dubuisson
Posted on September 26, 2012 at 9:05 AM
Thanks for the glimpse of heaven Emily!
From David Sanderson
Posted on September 26, 2012 at 2:23 PM
A graceful description - perhaps helps to understand a bit why Alaska captures and holds people.
From Paul Deck
Posted on September 26, 2012 at 3:24 PM
"I think about starting a conversation again today, but I'm not so good at that and have a phobia of being creepy."

I simply cannot imagine a situation in which a woman would be considered "creepy" for starting a conversation with a man. A couple of chance encounters does not make you Glenn Close to his Michael Douglas. I realize that man-starting-conversation-with-woman is very different, but trust me, the Golden Rule does not apply here.

If your pictures were taken at 10 AM on a Thursday morning my impression of the low general level of activity (total of two vehicles and one person are visible in what might otherwise be a bustling downtown area) becomes one of weird emptiness.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on September 26, 2012 at 6:52 PM
I think those were more mid-afternoon. Anchorage is pretty quiet, for the most part. The streets are more crowded and noisy at night when the pirate festivities begin.

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