March 16, 2017

The Curse of Daylight Saving Time: The Musical

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I’m in a better frame of mind about this year’s time change primarily because I am not cursing the Republicans for elongating daylight saving time, which they did during the Bush administration.  It’s been, what ten years, and I still haven’t gotten over it.  These days there are so many things to curse the Republicans for that I need to triage.  Elongated daylight saving time doesn’t even get in the ER door.

Even with my new frame of mind and a pretty decent night’s sleep on Saturday, by the end of Sunday evening I felt as if I had been hard at work for 48 hours.  I hosted a musicale that afternoon in my home.  It wasn’t the usual Terrified Adults and Spotlight Whore’s Sunday Afternoon Musicale because this time my piano students were also participating and I don’t guess anyone wanted to answer questions about whores to a collection of children under ten.

My front room/studio reasonably seats about a dozen people but there were twice that many on Sunday. I set out rows of chairs until it looked like a home wedding. My adult students often bring one audience member, a spouse or friend, but children tend to come with an entourage. The room was packed.

The show started. I made my usual speech about bowing: it’s the way a performer says thank you to the audience. I forgot to remind my piano students that they get five points if they remember to bow. Everyone forgot to bow, including me.

We did a group warm-up: scales and whines and honks to the amusement of everyone who had never taken a voice lesson.  Then we all, audience and performers, sang “Down to the River.”

I announced we would perform in order of birthdays starting with January but if at any time someone wanted to “get it over with,” as it were, to just say so.  One of my singing students immediately jumped up and said she wanted to sing first. Cindy sang—poignantly– Sam Cooke’s “Change is Gonna Come.”

After that it was a jumble of performances in and out of birthday order.  Forest played “Juggler’s Dance” and sang along with himself, something I am used to (and adore about him) but which can be a surprise to people who think they know what a kid’s piano recital is like.  Both Addie and Alex played “Duke of York Strut.”  Both played it well and neither cared that they played the same song.  Phoebe played an original composition, which she seemed pleased to call “Untitled.”

Emma made her debut. Emma is a tiny child, six years old, who comes to her lesson both physically and verbally.  She chatters her way in the door.  But she was quite shy at the idea of performing.

“I have stage fright,” she whispered to me at her lesson. She rehearsed her performance three times at her lesson.  “I have stage fright,” Emma said again.

“Would you like me to sit with you when you play?” I asked.

“Yes,” she whispered.  The relief on her face was gratifying.  If only it was always that easy.

Her parents told me later that after that lesson, she woke up every morning asking, “Is this the day I play?”

When it was her turn to play, I whispered to her, “Do you want me to sit with you?”

She waved her hand. “Whatever,” she said breezily.

She played her pieces alone at the piano—still on only the black keys and not yet reading from the staff—perfectly.

I don’t want to slight anyone who I suspect will see this post so let me enumerate the people I haven’t already mentioned.  Nina and I sang “Dimming of the Day” as a duet.  I got to sing the melody and Nina harmonized.  The blend we get together is transportive.

Louise improvised on “Cold, Cold Heart.”  Members of the audience had note cards with words on them like thrilled, sexy, disappointed, angry.  At the end of every line, Louise took requests while I vamped the accompaniment.  She sang each line with a different emotion and energy.

Leah sang “The Ladies Who Lunch” and I never enjoyed a Sondheim song so much.  I had practiced the unusual rhythm and chord progressions a lot.  Leah does such a good job with it that I didn’t want to degrade it by slopping the accompaniment.  Sheena sang “Small World” from Gypsy, a song I learned from her and came to love so much that when she leaves from her lesson, I play and sing it for myself.  Amber and her boyfriend Kevin sang “With or Without You,” a song she brought in three days prior so I was glad she had Kevin to play for her.

Johnine put on her Sunday clothes and sang “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” from Hello Dolly and the theme from Mame.  In the theme from Mame mention is made of cake walks and mint juleps.  Johnine, one of the most generous people I have ever known, brought cupcakes and bourbon so we could have a cake walk and mint juleps when the show was over.

I sang the first of the two Queen of the Night arias from The Magic Flute.  I am performing both arias in a concert version of The Magic Flute in April and wanted the performance practice.  It’s been 25 years since I’ve sung anything that difficult in front of an audience.  The show is at 3 pm, Sunday, April 30, 2017 at the Gift of Grace Lutheran Church in Wallingford, 2102 N 40th St, Seattle.

We had an unexpected audience member when a tiny snail traveled into the house on someone’s shoes and waited expectantly in the middle of the kitchen floor.  Levi, younger brother of Phoebe, the composer and who is as tiny as Emma, took it outside.  It’s not that it wasn’t welcome but Levi was concerned about its safety.  In my memory now is the image of a small boy standing outside my sunroom door on a wet afternoon, reverently freeing the little creature and saying goodbye.

After the recital as we were milling with cupcakes and mint juleps, there was the snail again and in the same place on the kitchen floor.

“Levi!” I called.  “Look, it’s back.”

It was like The Thing That Returned. Levi and I stared at each other. Then we smiled.

“Will you take care of it again?” I asked. He obliged me and then ran off to play with Emma. Apparently the two are now an item.

As people were leaving, one of the parents said to me “This was like Little House on the Prairie.”

 “How so?” I asked.

“People all getting together to sing and play.”

I thought that was sweet. In my world there’s nothing unusual about people getting together to sing and play. It’s really quite a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

When the last child and parent and friend and student left, I looked at the front room and kitchen.  Cake crumbs everywhere.  Everywhere.  Frosting smears in the oddest places.  Music forgotten.  Furniture askew.  A trail of props from Johnine’s performance. Feathers from the boa.  That damn snail back in the kitchen.  I ran the vacuum to pick up the most superficial layer of crumbs, went to bed early and slept like the dead.  Not a bad start to a week I usually curse.

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