Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pancakes and Purple Martins

The day began with a mutual admiration society brunch.

At Lunch, which for a while, played out a bit like "who's on first?" for one of our trio.

Once she was clear that we were meeting at Lunch but not for lunch, things could move forward.

The only requirement of our third was that mimosas be available and they were.

We only had to wait fifteen minutes for a table and we used that time outside to cover some preliminary bases.

Who did what on Record Store Day and whose hair looked like a punk rocker's.

If this sounds like it was going to be a major debriefing, it was, only because the three of us had not been out together since election day.

And that day, one of us had been so nervous about the outcome that she could hardly even dish for looking at the results on the TV screen.

You wouldn't think three women who like each so much would wait so long in between dates, but life always seems to intervene.

Mimosas and Bloodies in hand, we looked around on the menu to see what suited whom.

I'd gone in knowing I'd be having syrup-drenched pancakes and sausage patties, but the other two were unsure.

Not surprisingly, the one who'd had a chocolate bar for breakfast was looking for something savory like a quesadilla.

It was her first time with eggs in a tortilla, confirming that we need to get her out more.

The one with the mimosa requirement was trying to decide about Texas toast french toast, muttering, "I know it's wrong, but I want whipped cream with my French toast."

Nothing is wrong at brunch, if you ask me.

We'd come right at the end of the rush, so our food was out in no time and we put chatting on hold for chowing down.

Once everybody cleaned their plate, we moved on to the business at hand and were still lingering and nodding in agreement as the other tables emptied out.

We were also in a bit of a food coma as we headed out into the afternoon.

My next stop, after picking up two accomplices, was to head to the Greek theater at UR.

Judging by the hordes of people walking toward the theater, it was obvious we weren't the only ones intrigued with the idea of a 99-piece group performing a 75-minute composition in the woods.

John Luther Adams' "Inuksuit" was written to be performed outside so that the noises of nature co-mingle with what the musicians are playing.

Set up in random places in and around the theater were drums, cymbals, gongs, glockenspiels and the like.

When we got there, we found the Greek theater filling up, with many people having brought snacks, blankets and even chairs.

And while all that sounds like a good idea, we were soon told otherwise.

A man came out on stage, ostensibly to tell us to move our cars if they were parked illegally (mine wasn't) and to tell us we shouldn't be in our seats for long.

"You might think you have a good seat, but you'll find out that's not true," he said. "You're going to want to move around, even if you think you're comfortable now."

Soon dozens of musicians with hand-held instruments began placing themselves onstage.

They stood motionless for a while ("It would be great if they're tuning up," a companion noted) and all I could hear was the sound of tennis balls bouncing on the court nearby.

Just as I was admiring the abundance of flowering dogwood trees, someone began blowing a conch shell.

One by one, others joined in playing the oddest assortment of things.

Plastic tubes twirled overhead emitted a high-pitched sound.

Animal horns sounded deep, like the sound of the animal who'd lost the horn.

A guy rubbed a rock and a brick fragment together.

We sat for maybe ten minutes before getting up to wander the acre or so of woods surrounding the theater.

Everywhere I looked, in bushes, behind hedges, by the lake, up a hill, there was an expressionless musician playing something.

Or sometimes, not playing something, just waiting for his or her turn in the score.

Because there was a score and many musicians had music stands set up in front of them in the dirt with the score on them.

One of my favorite finds was a music stand with a score labeled "Purple martin" with the directive, "light and airy" on it.

Composer Adams always visits the site where his piece will be performed so he can adapt certain parts of the score to the local birds.

I guess the purple martins had contributed to the Richmond version.

After walking around for a bit, the drummers started joining in, adding an impressive depth to the sound.

I happened to be standing near one of them just before he started playing and the initial boom of his drum reverberated through my insides.

Down closer to the lake, the drum sounds rolled out across the water, growing as they did so.

I came upon a cymbal stack in a bush and lingered to hear her play them.

In the same way that the drums had come in partway through the composition, soon I began seeing musicians with triangles tucked away on hills, behind trees and down footpaths.

It seemed like every time I made another loop around the theater and back through the woods  or down by the lake, a new set of instruments was in place, like siren-sounding devices being turned.

There were two unanticipated bonuses to the concert.

First, I found friends everywhere.

One was arriving on his bike as I walked in, unrecognizable with his helmet on.

The poet and her entourage arrived with smiles and blankets.

Coming back up the hill, I saw a favorite sax/clarinet/flute player who wasn't the least surprised to see me and told me he had heard there'd be piccolos.

I'd expected to see drum master Brian Jones, but I ran into him on a trail, not playing and he said he hadn't been able to because he hadn't had time for rehearsals.

The other unexpected delight was how much walking the afternoon involved.

From ten minutes into the performance until it ended, I was walking non-stop.

Given the beautiful afternoon, I couldn't fathom a better way to experience music than while making my way up and down hills, through wooded paths and along the lake.

That's not to say that plenty of people didn't stay planted in the theater, but the loss was theirs.

Moving around as I did, I was constantly changing direction because something new caught my ear and I turned around to find its source.

After about an hour, I began seeing piccolo players (Jason had been right) all over the place, mimicking the sound of birds.

Gradually the drums stopped, the cymbals faded and there was only piccolos and birds.

From what I could tell, one was imitating the other.

When even the piccolos stopped and it was only the birds, the crowd began applauding.

As for the purple martins, they sang on.

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