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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. It shone playfully in light blue hues through the green trees and shrubbery, highlighting the yellows, reds, purples and pinks of the thousands of tulips whose colors, 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 they walked 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 first violinist had departed on the solo melody of H.C. Lumbye's "Vauxhall Polka". This music was not difficult, but you had to be an accomplished violinist to make it shine. The concertmaster had played for years in restaurants and at receptions and parties. Nerves had never been a problem for him, until now. Here in Tivoli his conductor, who hovered beside and in front of him, his violin cocked into the air like a crossbow searching for a target, watched him intently, looking for holes in his armor. 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.
                So 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 from the sidelines? 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 lonely little climber hanging on for dear life. It shook even as it reached out for safety.
                We could pursue the story of these three men. Undoubtedly the young man eventually takes over the concertmaster's position and that old man glides into a few years of comfortable, relaxed playing. The orchestra leader probably starts to drink again, because he cannot find chinks in the young man's protective covering. Perhaps they all three drink together some late night and tell each other their true feelings. But when you think about it, everything they are doing and everything they will do is not for them, but for the music - right?

                So, instead of following the three musicians, let us meander back to the old gardens with their 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 and he 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 hidden away and then spirited into the night on the fluttering, flying, wings of the little melody. And something inside of her will say, Tivoli, ten years ago, a summer night, a song, but through her tears she will not be able to remember, much less recognize the music.

Perhaps you liked this little story. If so, 
you might also like my book,
"Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude"
You can buy it at:
or your usual bookseller.

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