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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lingering on. By John von Daler

                      Tonight the Danish summer, like some naughty teenager, had decided to behave itself just this once. Through the green trees and shrubbery, its light blue hues shining playfully, the twilight brought out the yellows, reds, purples, and pinks of thousands of tulips. Their buds, mirrored in the many lighted pools, gleamed back at the evening sky in spectacular innocence. Guests in Tivoli strolled through the lushness occasionally uttering soft words, but mostly walking in silence, their arms around each other, their real lives suspended, their minds at ease.

                On the bandstand by the bust of Pjerrot across from the Pantomime Theater, the little orchestra had started to play.
                The concertmaster had just begun the solo from H.C. Lumbye's "Vauxhall Polka". This music was not difficult, but it took an accomplished violinist to make it shine. He had played for years in restaurants and at receptions and parties. Nerves had never been a problem for him...until now. Here in Tivoli, the conductor hovered beside and in front of him, his violin cocked into the air like a crossbow searching for a target. As if that were not pressure enough, beside him sat a young violinist, technically his superior, good-looking, passionate in his playing: a man on the way up.
                Playing the little solo today had become a complicated problem: how do you express beautiful, small, melodic nothings with your heart pounding and your hand fluttering while two colleagues calmly watch you disintegrate? The first violinist could not solve the problem, so he tried to disguise it. Mustering a huge, shaky vibrato he slid his left hand up and down the violin. If the violin had been a cliff, then his hand would have been a timid little climber hanging on for dear life. The hand shook even as it reached out for safety. The melody itself sounded like a cry for help.
                We could pursue the story of these three men. Undoubtedly the young man eventually takes over the concertmaster's position and the old man glides into a few years of comfortable, relaxed playing. The orchestra leader, because he cannot find chinks in the young man's protective covering, probably starts to drink again. Perhaps they all three drink together some late night and tell each other their true feelings. But when you think about it, everything they do and everything they will do is not for them, but for the music - right?

                So, for the sake of the music, instead of following the three musicians, let our story meander back through the old gardens with restaurants, rides, and shows. A young couple is strolling past the orchestra just as the old man starts his wobbly solo. The woman hears the palpitating music and immediately is struck by the emotion, the fear and trembling, of the melody. Her companion does not hear it at all. 
                  That, then, is the first of many such instances in which she feels at one with her surroundings while her husband glides irreconcilably into numbness. Years later he will strike her - and then her heart, vibrating like the music, will fly into the air, her love vanishing into the night on fluttering wings. And something inside of her will remember: Tivoli, ten years ago, a summer night, a song. Through her tears, she will not be able to recall precisely the shaky little melody that lingers on somewhere inside of her, unheard but alive.

Perhaps you liked this little story. If so, 
you might also like my book,
"Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude"
Click the picture to buy it:

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