What does the world cost? Oh well, then we'll just take a small coke.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Violin Recital

Reginald plays violin. When most people say that, they mean the subject of their sentence saws away at the strings of their instrument with sophomoric gusto, creating a sound that is reminiscent of the squeak of nails on blackboard. They are being nice and calling the violin's abuse and subsequent screams "playing." Reginald is, if you will indulge me a moment of pleasantness, really quite good. He left the chalkboard stage some years ago and is now very proficient at his instrument. In fact, he's on a trajectory to land somewhere between Haendel and Bell.

It's an acknowledged risk that if you play violin, you may be asked to perform in front of others. This is less of a risk with the accordion, banjo and harmonica; most players of those instruments perform in private or not at all. Reginald chose the violin fully aware of the fact that he would have to perform at recitals and other musical functions and inadvertently committed his relatives and friends to accompany him. I was one of the committed.

The recital was set in a darkened, dank and unheated church building in the bowels of town. Tucked away between S-Mart and Best Buy, the church's traditional stained glass and stone steeple seemed out of place. The church's bulletin tried to preemept questions about its location with a trumped up tale of ancient placement. If the faux fading on the program were credible, the church was put in order by an old priest who's only claim to religious relevance was a relic consisting of a piece of wood from the boat that wrecked with Paul off the island of Malta.

I think the pews were crafted from that wood. I sat carefully down in one of the rows, cautious not to disrupt the kneeling prayer board at my feet. I motioned for Frankeda, my date, to take a seat next to me. She giggled at the prayer board and moved it into its active position, pinning my feet to the ground. I think she meant to apply the board as a prank, but was unwilling to replace it, despite my hushed remonstrations. Another couple sat down at the other end of the pew and rested their feet on the cushioned board. There would be no relief. Frankeda mouthed "I'm sorry" and I tried not to think about the 2,000 year old splinters being shoved into my foot. I checked the program, estimated the time remaining and resigned myself to an impromptu, post-recital surgery on my podal tendons.

A little girl from the front row was the first musician up. She was as cute as a button and knew it. She was dolled up in the sort of poofy dress that would get negative reviews from the editorial board of People after the Academy Awards. Her mother, a gangly woman with the body of a vegetarian, moved purposefully to the aisle where she began snapping pictures with a disposable film camera. CLICK! tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk CLICK! tsk tsk tsk tsk tsk CLICK! She frantically advanced the 35mm film after every picture as if worried that her daughter would sprint from the stage and leave the scene without proper documentation.

Poofy Cutie started playing. Her soft scratching noises were interrupted by the loud CLICKing and tsking of her mother's journalistic efforts. I rather think the performance was improved because of that.

When the last tired notes of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star With Slow Stops (or "Twinkle" as it's known in the business) emitted from the stage, the audience erupted in an applause that was much too raucus for the song to which we had subjected ourselves. I don't know how Vegetarian Mom was able to keep taking pictures as she applauded.

Reginald was last, so Frankeda and I waited through several more performances. The musicians slowly improved and became less cute as time went on. A pimply youth with over-gelled and undercombed hair did a piece from "Fiddler On The Roof." He was too fat to do the dancing, but he tried anyway. I whispered something about Tutte Lemkow to Frankeda. She nodded appreciatively. I'm pretty sure she got it.

When Reginald took the stage the audience hushed. Someone coughed and the pause became awkward. I thought about getting up to go to the bathroom, but remembered by foot situation and the spliters from Malta and crossed my arms instead.

Reginald's song was really long and he played it without notes. A man in the third row moved his head appreciatively to the music in the Classical music headbang. An elderly woman behind Headbanger smiled with a faraway look as if remembering the world premier of Gone With the Wind. I thought about whispering something about Vivian Leigh to Frankeda, but thought better of it. A six year old slept in her father's arms in the back of the room. Of anyone in the room, she was probably the most appreciative of Reginald's talents.

Then the song ended. The audience clapped -- less vigorously than for Poofy Cutie -- and people got up to attend to the American tradition of calorie laden post-event refreshments. Frankeda lifted the prayer bar and blood rushed back into my hooves.

Reginald smiled appreciatively when I complimented his playing. "I always enjoy Vivaldi," I said guessing at the composer. I was wrong, but Reginald didn't correct me. Vegetarian Mom gave me an awkward look, though.

And that was that. It took an hour, three disposable film cameras, eight young performers and impromptu surgery on my podal tendons, but Reginald recited and I performed my duties as a faithful audience member.

1 comment:

Jesse said...

First of all that picture is not of violin music...nor was there any singing involved in the violin (or the piano playing) at this recital.

You really exaggerate things!


She didn't play Twinkles (Twinkle is the singular). And that lady isn't gangly.

No one played a fiddler on the roof piece...and Reginald's piece had notes! (Do you guys mean he played w/o sheet music?)