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Friday, August 9, 2013

A summer night: #Skagen 1980's by John von Daler

                The sun has only just gone down here at 12 midnight. I am playing my violin at my evening job at the Skagen Fish Restaurant.
                Skagen is the nail on the fingertip that Denmark points permanently at Sweden. The little fishing village has for at least one hundred years drawn tourists and artists up from Jutland and Funen and Zealand. Waters from Skagerak and Kattegat meet here, as does the light from the east, west and south. The place is colored in blue from the sky and water and gold from the sun and the small, yellow-walled, tile-roofed houses. Artist and tourist alike benefit from these potent mixtures.  
                Every summer for one whole week I play a concert with a famous Danish singer on the second floor of this fine little restaurant. We fill the already full yacht people with poetry and music from 11:00 to 1:30 a.m. Tonight is our third concert.
                My partner has just left the stage to take a small break while I play an improvised solo that lasts five or ten minutes. I never know what I am going to play before he gets up and leaves. 
                I put my violin under my chin and for some reason, maybe because Skagen is surrounded by water and my homestate is not, I think Oklahoma. So I start, Oh What a Beautiful Morning, first with birds chirping and then with the melody creeping out from underneath the sounds of prairy nature. Then I ride the violin through a transition to the east coast, all jazzy, like when I saw New York slowly rising from the horizon like the Emerald City as we drove towards it for the first time on the New Jersey Turnpike when I was thirteen. So I do Over the Rainbow. As I get to the song's bridge, so full of thirds that it is almost German, I slow down just to test if the audience is with me. A lady at one of the first tables is crying, and I think, no, no, this is New York, New York, lady, and with my left foot turn on a pedal that metamorphoses my violin into Jimi's axe. Everybody jumps a foot or two in the air while I'm thinking, Gottcha! Then I take a musical boat to Denmark, an old lively folksong, and while I am whipping my bow around and my feet are stomping I look out the window of the restaurant and see that the shrimp guys are unloading crates with giant tractors under neon lights, so I finish off with Shrimp Boats are a'Comin' in a really slow version - let the lady cry again if she wants to - and finish off with a soft, soft tone that just echoes and echoes.
                Now this is where the nice thing happens. This is why I'm telling the story. Nobody claps. In that long, long silence the audience is still waiting to hear what became of the last echo. They sit absolutely still in their wooden chairs, their tables strewn with dessert plates and cognac glasses and coffee cups, and wait to hear one more sound that never will come.
                As I lower my violin from my chin to my lap, I think, This is why I live.  

My book, Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude (WiDo Publishing) is now available. Order through, the publisher or your local bookstore. Click to buy Pieces at the top of the blog. Please feel free to write a short review of the book in your own language at or GoodReads. Thanks for your support!

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