Monday, July 03, 2006

Summer Shostakovich (Part Two)

[Marci and I enjoyed a truly unique -- and truly bizarre -- evening in Amsterdam's Vondelpark last week. But... to do justice to the experience, I wanted to try painting with smaller strokes and a more varied pallette in my writing. But... realizing that the blogging format is not ideally suited for longer blocks of text, I wanted to try a different publishing strategy: a serial. But... the success of this strategy -- and your enjoyment of these posts -- depends on your willingness to follow along. See Summer Shostakovich (Part One) to catch up and join the adventure...]

* * * * *

...The articulate barritone host interrupted my observations with his return to the front of the stage. I sensed sarcasm in his voice as he waxed eloquent in his introduction of a group of three young men who had just graduated from the Amsterdam Conservatory two weeks previously: the so-called Orneüs Trio. Once again, he rattled off the list of titles which they would be performing -- once again proud of his accent-égu's and ümlauts -- and he elegantly though unconvincingly referenced the legend upon which their group's name was based (some kind of centaur from Greek mythology, whose name just happened to be comprised of syllables correlating to the names of each member of the trio). The announcer guy talked some more... and more... and more -- I tuned out -- but finally the audience was clapping as the three young men strode out on stage.

The musicians looked exceedingly young, I noticed. And tall. And thin. Crisp black suits undergirded by crisp white shirts, their wide starched cuffs flashing in the stage lights. The clarinetist and the violinist were evidently brothers -- likely even twins -- and the pianist was a nervous third wheel. But when they sat to play, they summoned a secret maturity and instantly impressed me with their skill.

As I listened, I leaned back in my chair and soaked in more of the ambience. The gay sailor and his girlfriend were chatting nonchalantly, though not loudly enough to disrupt my enjoyment of the performance. The gentleman in the brown suit had his arm on his wife's shoulder as she was esconced by the music. Just a meter to the right of where I was sitting, a border collie curled up like an ampersand at his owner's feet -- an astonishingly well-behaved dog, I thought. And above my head, in the deepening dusk of the Vondelpark, dozens of emerald parrots flocked through the treetops.

How odd, I mused, to see such an example of mankind's perversion of the natural world: these shrieking, swooping, long-tailed, tropical, green birds -- naturally befitting the Amazon basin, but somehow thriving in the gray North-Atlantic climate of Amsterdam's Vondelpark. Once domesticated, once contained, once carefully tended -- the parrots had taken wing and multiplied in "the wild" (if the Vondelpark can, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered wild). And what likely started as two starstruck love-birds flying the coop somehow became large flocks of slender green streaks in the dusky sky over our summer concert. A dozen in formation, off to the West. Six or seven high above the treetops, their shrill cries distant and faint... A solitary parrot darting about from tree to tree in the direct vicinity of the amphitheater, his call to the other parrots an irregular accompaniment to the trio.

After a relatively short set, the Orneüs trio scampered off-stage to a short round of applause. I asked my questions to Marci: "How did you enjoy that second number?" "Do you think those two were twins?" I pointed out the green parrots swooping overhead, which she had not previously noticed. Then suddenly, awkwardly, although certainly not summoned by the crowd's lukewarm applause which had ended some twenty seconds previously -- the Orneüs Trio was re-emerging for an unsolicited "encore" performance.

I felt vicariously embarrassed for them. They had probably been put up to it by their music teachers. Or by their mothers. Or by the aristocratic announcer-guy, filling the time before the next performers were ready. Whatever the case, the Orneüs Trio prepared to made the most of the situation...

[to be continued...]


At 6:40 PM, Blogger MJM said...

Great writing, Eric. I am hooked- can't wait for the next post.

At 6:13 AM, Blogger EP said...


C'mon, where's part three? I'm anxiously awaiting. :)


At 10:01 AM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

Cool. I'm glad you guys are enjoying the serial. I was worried that I was boring everyone to death!

I just posted Part Three, and I'm hoping for a Friday finale with Part Four...


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