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Friday, November 02, 2012

Hey, it matters to me

A number of years ago, we visited my grandparents. I don’t recall the precise details of the trip, but it may have been a Thanksgiving visit. The scene: a restored log cabin built in the 1880’s sitting on the shoulders of Tennessee hill country a mile and a half from the nearest neighbor. I was about high-school age, late junior-high. I recall it was nighttime when a visitor came. I paid so much attention to the visitor, I honestly can’t say if the person was a young man or a young woman. What I do remember is the visitor was cellist, and may have been with the Nashville Symphony.

This is significant because I played the cello then. Matter of fact, I played until our third child, our first son was born. I stopped playing after he was born because I sold the instrument because we needed the money. I may return to this later.

The visit that night was pre-arranged. This person was invited to come for a private performance (as I remember it) that centered mainly around Bach’s Cello Suites. I recall the person playing, but could not say which of the six Suites particularly. I am going to guess at least the first suite.

I relate this because I feel horrible that I did not pay attention. Truth is, I could not pay attention to the performance. Part of the reason is because for most of my life, I’ve always felt Bach’s Cello Suites were for the kings and queens of the instrument. I’ve always loved Jacqueline Du Pre because she was most down-to-earth to me. Then there was Pablo Casals--I could never cast my eyes his way--too great.

Bach intimidated me, scared me. My teachers tried to get me to play at least the first Prelude, but the bar was just too high. That poor cellist that night gave an outstanding performance, but when Bach filled the air, I just felt so unworthy that I disconnected.

Lately I’ve revisited that night, time and time again. If I could, I would go back to that night. If only I could at least sit on the top of the hills behind the house where the sounds of heaven drift from a cabin up through the night and into the woods. Just to be at the border of earshot where the song of bowing string just kiss the ear.

What does one play after a twenty-year hiatus?

I’ve been listening and researching, reading and practicing. Something is happening that I never dreamed would happen. I am getting to know Bach and the Suites in ways I never thought possible. Did you know that within the Cello Suites lies a window into heaven? I really can’t explain what’s happened, but the music is coming together. My teachers are still alive:

I’m listening, Pau. I’m getting the character now, not just the notes. They don’t scare me anymore. I just need more character development, that’s all. Keep talking, I’m getting it.

Dear Jacqueline--oh, my dear Jacqueline--show us the dance again, the joy.

Starker, I feel it--in my chest, but it’s not enough.

Dearest Rostopovich and Queyras, may we please slow down? I hear the dynamics, and hear the “touch,” but may we please take the time to feel? I need to breathe.

Mrs. L: thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you for opening the door to this heaven. Now, may I show you the way to Heaven, introduce you to the God of Bach?

Leslie, Holly, Al: what I am supposed to do with myself now?

Visiting cellist (whoever you are). “I’m sorry I did not understand.” Thanks for being there.

Martha and Otis: I can’t words. You know.

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