Monday, April 19, 2010

Close Encounters

With the weather turning delicious, I've been enjoying the outdoors. About a month ago, we had unseasonably warm temperatures for Seattle. My daughter Sarah and I decided to head for Green Lake. She needed to ease back into running, after a mild knee injury, and I felt determined to strap on my roller blades. It'd been years since I last rolled around the lake. I had to start slow—really slow, but after about 15 minutes, off I went.

You never know who you might bump into at Green Lake, in both the figurative and literal sense. It's a popular outdoor destination: family and pet friendly, and gorgeous. I remember once visiting the lake resort of Trakai in Lithuania, about 20 km outside of Vilnius, and thinking that Seattle's Green Lake is comparable in terms of scenic beauty. Although lacking the medieval stone castle of Trakai, which dates back to the 14th century, a historic relic from the local pit walked opposite my direction. Our eyes met; I kept my balance on the skates and kept on going. (Darn, a missed opportunity).

Allow me a magic moment of digression. To fulfill the obligation of playing first chair and as soloist for a dance company in the pit is unrewarding, to say the least. There is the paycheck, true, but little else. For those who have had close encounters with an audition, take my word for it, the pit band is a road that leads to nowhere; a musical dead end. If you're a violinist who adores music, and has strong artistic inclinations, just try to imagine performing Ernest Chausson's "Poeme" to a click track or Metro Gnome with thumping feet. The concept is probably alien to most thoughtful musicians, but this is a realistic comparison.

One finds soon enough, that dancers and most choreographers are painfully oblivious to interpretive style, and nuance. All that they desire is either a faster or slower beat, a quicker or later entrance, a longer pause. Therefore, it is perhaps sufficient, and even wise, to hire a conductor devoid of musical sensitivity on the podium, or better yet, no conductor and canned music. In all my years in the local pit, whether the repertoire demanded extensive or incidental solos, the offerings were lost to all thumpers, great and small.

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