Thursday, May 13, 2010

Debut with the Boston Pops (Ch.2 Pt.4)

At  Bessie Buker Elementary, where I attended public school, the principal interrupted the lunchroom for an impromptu meeting with all the school children. Something out of the ordinary had happened.
"I have a special announcement to make," said the Principal, Mr. Stone. "Children, please give me your full attention. Eyes up front." He clapped his hands into the microphone. I was about to bite into the egg salad on challah my mother had packed. It looked delicious with chunks of celery and pickles, although the kids at my table plugged their noses when I lifted the sandwich from my "Peanuts" lunch box.
"We seem to have a concert violinist in our midst. Marjorie Kransberg has been selected to appear as soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra. She will be performing the Mozart Concerto." And he pronounced Mozart as a New Englander, with the "r" missing. I could feel the blood rush to my cheeks.
"Mozaht was a famous composer, and Mahjorie will play his music on her violin in front of thousands of people this summer at the Hatch Memorial Shell in front of the Charles Rivah."
Chomping, laughing and whispers could be heard throughout the lunchroom. One boy ejected a spit ball from his straw. It narrowly missed my face but landed smack in my lunch box. 
Mr. Stone put the mic down and walked straight towards me. I sipped from the straw of the milk carton, and pretended not to notice.  All the kids stared.
"Mahjorie, your mother is on her way. She has requested that you be dismissed early today, in preparation for your debut with the Boston Pops. She says you haven't practiced the Mozaht in a while, that it's rusty. I'll have you know, young lady, that we're all very proud of you here, at Bessie Buker."
I took a small bite out of the egg sandwich and chewed slowly.
"I told your mother that you'll put Wenham, Massachusetts on the musical map. She agreed."

♪ ♩ ♪

It was a brilliant Saturday morning, with thin wispy clouds in the sky; the perfect day for a concert in the park at the Hatch Memorial Shell. As I sat alone backstage in my puffy white dress, waiting for Mr. Dickson's cue to walk onstage, I wished I could have been any other kid in the world. Anyone who wouldn't have to play from memory in front of thousands of people. I peeked at the orchestra through a crack from the backstage door. Harry Ellis Dickson stood on the podium, waving his arms in agitated, circular gestures. He had assured me that I'd get a signal from him when time for my entrance. 
Weber's Freischutz Overture concluded to wild applause.

Harry Ellis Dickson motioned for me. "Come on, come on," I saw his lips move.
A smiling faced concertmaster grabbed my hand, as I made my way to center stage. "You'll be great," the concertmaster said, and winked. I recognized him from the Boston Symphony concert with Lynn Chang. It was Rolland Tapley.

After a quick A from the oboe to check my strings, the introduction began with the orchestra tutti. I scanned the audience. There were so many people on the lawn of the Hatch Memorial Shell that they blended into a wash of color. I felt better. Not seeing actual faces meant that I could try to pretend there wasn't any audience at all. I closed my eyes. A gentle breeze brushed against me and whispered words spoken by Mrs. Scriven: "Tell a story with your violin, darling. Remember, Mozart's music is operatic."

The orchestra began the spirited introduction with a burst of G Major, and the story began. Our hero, Wolfgang the violinist, wanted nothing more than to play outdoors with friends, and asked his father politely. Leopold, the hero's father, replied: "No, you must practice, practice, practice." Leopold's voice grew darker, more agitato. He counted on his fingers the courts of Kings and Queens awaiting young Wolfgang's appearances, and the gold coins and trinkets to be earned. "Please", begged Wolfgang, as he accelerated and grew into a crescendo. Low tones of cellos and basses leaped to the rescue. Horns blasted in response: "Let him play, let him play. It's a beautiful day." Wolfgang modulated to the key of E Minor: "Papa, if you let me go outdoors now, I'll practice later." Leopold responded in firm staccato: "No, no, no. You have work to do." The strings responded with an ascending chromatic scale: "Why, why, why are you such a stubborn old fart?" Wolfgang pleaded with a flurry of sixteenth notes. Oboes whined. Horns bellowed. Cellos and basses laughed in octaves: "Ha! ha! ha! What silly characters in a ridiculous story. But isn't this fun? Let Wolfgang and Leopold resolve their differences in a cadenza."

Mr. Dickson's eyes grew wide beneath his horn-rimmed glasses. Perspiration dotted his fore-head. I heard the swish of the baton after the cadential trill.
The concerto finished and the audience cheered.
"Bravo! Bravo!" yelled orchestra members, tapping their bows wildly on the music stands. Rolland Tapley laughed as his music fell to the floor.
Mr. Dickson grabbed my hand, as he had with Lynn Chang, and raised it in the air.  He kissed my cheek, turned around to the audience, and reached for the microphone. It hissed and buzzed.
"Let's have an extra round of applause for the parents of ten-year-old Marjorie Kransberg. And Marjorie's teacher, also—the incomparable Sarah Scriven."
A Magic Moment for me with Harry Ellis Dickson