Day 2: August 18, 2014
Today was the first heavy-duty day of rehearsal. It started at 3 PM, spanned tea-time (organic English Breakfast from the Country Store but no actual break), and continued all the way to 8:15 PM. I was in my piano chair the entire time. The session went longer than I’d planned and I was banking on my partner Jim’s good will (he’s a saint in many ways, but he does need to eat dinner). I canceled a cocktail hour meeting with a friend: music trumps white wine. Alas.
Jane Smith is a dear friend of mine here in Orient, and she is co-producing this concert in tandem with NYFOS. She had told me she wanted to stop by, hear some of the rehearsal, and meet the cast. When she arrived we were just about to work on the very tricky quartet by Manuel Oltra, “Eco,” which opens Act II. But we all had the same idea at the same time—to sing “Come Live With Me and Be My Love” for her instead. It’s so rousing and cheerful, and fills the hall—and the street outside—with joy. The cast plunged in and the endorphins flowed as freely as the bay outside our windows.
When we got done, Jane was clearly moved, just as I had been the day before when they first did the piece. “That was amazing. I’m kind of broken up…” I started to say something to ease the moment, but Jane stopped me. “No, let me explain. That was…very meaningful. You see, today is the birthday of my late partner Cynthia, whom I adored. She died ten years ago.” A pause. “And before she died, we built a gazebo in our backyard. And on the gazebo she inscribed the words ‘Come live with me and be my love.’” Another pause. “She would have loved this concert. She adored young people, she loved music.” She looked at me with her blue eyes shining. “She loved blue eyes.”
The rest of the day was filled with plenty of hard work. But gentle, kind, smart Jane Smith reminded us of the irreplaceable gifts we held in that little concert hall: the sweet company of our colleagues, the magic of music, the uniquely evocative power of poetry. Is it too much to add: the enduring power of love?
I’ve not mentioned the singers’ names, and they are a superb quartet of artists. Our soprano is Chelsea Morris; mezzo-soprano Lauren Eberwein, whom I’d never met till Saturday night, holds up the middle of the ensemble in tandem with tenor William Goforth; Theo Hoffman is our baritone. I’ll have stories about all of them in the coming days, never fear.