Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Passing through

The last five days have redefined my whole idea of being "unterwegs", on a journey. I'm on one wild ride, unsure from moment to moment of time, day, temperature, century - of location in general. I'm either nailed to the spot or unmoored, and sometimes I experience both conditions simultaneously. It started on Friday when I got the news of my grandmother's passing. On Facebook. I hadn't heard any news in the morning, but there was my brother's status update casually glanced at the rehearsal break. I had half of my mother's number dialed when I realized it was the middle of the night in Minnesota. I called my bro, who had since gone back to bed, and so I returned to rehearsal. The next days were a frustrating mixture of poorly timed attempts to connect to my funeral-planning family (that seven hour gap is a nasty beeyotch when your heart is aching and everyone involved has a big to-do list) and extremely taxing rehearsals (it happens, art can be hard. Stop laughing.). It was exhausting, disheartening, and lonely.

But that's only part of the story. I was also filled with gratitude and joy because at home a few weeks ago, Grandma gave me the gift of two good days, great conversations, a special burst of energy. I could talk to my sisters and brother and mom and dad on my phone, on my computer, practically for free and for as long as we pleased (I'm old enough to remember precious, painfully rationed long-distance calls). And miraculously, I was there in the church briefly on Sunday when the funeral took place, thanks to Skype. I saw the beautiful faces of my family, their faces were in my home and my face was there at Vision of Glory Lutheran. I saw one nephew's nervous smile before he went to prepare for playing the piano during the service, and as he turned to go I thought, my every family event up till now, I've been sitting at the keyboard.

We'd had a pianist as our dinner guest that evening with his flautist wife and their brilliant daughter, new friends that lit up a heavyhearted weekend with laughter and conversation. We enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast, ate with abandon, and did the dishes together. Normally I'm the kind of person who refuses help with washing up in my kitchen (control freak, duh), but this night I didn't. Earlier in the day, my sister had called about her eulogy; she was taking ideas from everyone in the family. One story she mentioned was about how Grandma and Mom did the dishes together and sang, as Grandma had once done with her sister. So I let my new friends help me with my dishes (albeit no singing), and there was something deeply moving about that, although I'm glad I didn't have to try and explain it. After they went home and my static-y Skype call was over, I opened both sets of windows to the snowy Viennese night and took a long breath of cold winter air.

Clarity and collaboration, there may be something to this pairing. It will be a while before I can write about this week with any of the former. The orchestra is finally here in our Giovanni rehearsals, along with our music director, and finally the piece begins to take shape. I'm playing the recitatives with two stunning partners, cellists who are splitting the performances. So there are three of us collaborating on this project, and of course the work is faster and light years better with the addition of two sets of ears, minds, and hearts. I rehearsed with one of the two gentlemen this morning, and that was ninety minutes of grace. Not only am I challenged to a new level of elegance by his musicianship, I was given the gift of his total engagement with and enjoyment of our work, of his profession. I asked him how many times he had played Don Giovanni. He smiled and mentioned that next season would be his last before retirement, and as we talked he spoke of his grandfather, who joined the Vienna Philharmonic in 1892, who played under Mahler and Strauss and who collaborated with Brahms. 

A quick email check before rehearsal contained glowing reports of the eulogy and the piano solo. Outside my windows it was snowing hard, and I had to hurry downstairs. Behind me my boss gave the downbeat, and the orchestra thundered on all sides the music that will outlive us all. 



Anonymous said...

/hugs/ - you are wonderful.

Helen said...