Canberra, Corn, and Candide

Ah Monday, what delightful little surprises you bring.

This arrived from Australia in the mail today:

All I will say is that there is more than just a book in that envelope. It is Promise that's hidden away in there.


I've recovered from my little rant last Thursday, and I have taken the very first steps towards directing my anger in a positive direction. I hope to tell you more soon, right after the New Year, if all goes to plan...but a simple building block of that plan was put into place just tonight, in a meal of homemade polenta, baked kale with olive oil and sea salt, and some leftover butternut squash soup with black beans and chorizo (note, that is meat - I ain't going veggie...) that I made Friday:


As I cooked that dinner tonight and listened to the Aaron Copeland station on Pandora, Leonard Bernstein's Overture to Candide began to play, and out spilled the most vivid visions and breathless emotions from over 20 years ago, my freshman year of high school.

On the first day of class in fall 1987, I sat in the band hall amid applause and cheers from the other students, directed at me for the sole reason that I was the first tuba player they'd ever had, even the seniors. I still had no idea what I was doing with that giant hunk of brass, having just switched over at the very end of 7th grade from trumpet, riding the instrument's demand straight out of the reject 4th period band to the top tier concert band and now this. I still had no idea at the time that I was reading a different clef and couldn't play anything higher than a middle E flat, but here I was.

Less than two months later I was in the back row of the East High Symphonic Band, in the midst of a city-wide concert on a gymnasium floor - a "battle of the bands" if you will. While the other schools were pandering - with TV show medleys (Dallas and Dynasty), or watered down movie themes - we shocked the room (or at least the other band directors) by belting out the opening staccati to Bertstein's lively intro to his opera.

Our brand new director, James Bowers, was a lot of things, some not always positive as it came to be over the following years, but he was a challenging teacher, and he showed huge balls programming a piece like this for his debut performance.

Candide is fast and complicated, written in time-signatures I'd never seen before. I faked half of it but it didn't matter. The multilayered rhythms whisked me along regardless to a level of existence that I've only reached since during peak performance; music, bicycling... As the playful melodies bantered about between the winds and brass and percussion, interrupted by my quick bursts of bass - the little kid piping into the conversation - I was electrified, overcome with a pulsing energy that made it impossible to sit still. When the final melody came to a head in the horns, then bubbled out of the winds, suddenly ending in that last tutti chord, I sat there in a daze as the applause washed over us, breathing heavily and tingling as though I had climaxed.


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