It’s odd to look back and realize I was almost a “baby” when I started playing the Festival. At the time, I was the youngest member at 21. How different the 70s were from the 2010s. And I wonder if we have become more, or less, tolerant? Or have we just learned what we truly love?
I learned how to “prepare” a piano with nuts and bolts, paper, and various objects between and on top of the strings. We played outdoor concerts that were like “happenings,” and we were “streaked” during one of our more formal indoor concerts. I watched audiences listen to music by John Cage composed through chance–a random order of notes played by four different orchestras simultaneously–and I was impressed at how willing our listeners were to open their minds to something so life-changing. It certainly changed my life. I saw then the potential to affect our lives through music, whether in building a tolerance for the unusual and unexpected, or in building communities.
The music became bigger and more passionate over the years. One of my most unforgettable moments was being so moved by the troubling yet inspiring story of Joan of Arc portrayed in Carl Dreyer’s silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc. It was set to music for live orchestra by Richard Einhorn, and Marin was required to synchronize precisely with the timing of the film. About 40 minutes into the performance I suddenly noticed one of the violinists lean over and call my name, “Emily, Marin is trying to get your attention!” I looked up to see Marin desperately waving at me to play the very important tolling bells, and my crucial moment was quickly passing! These were the actual bells from Joan of Arc’s town which had been recorded to be played by a keyboard. Thankfully, despite a distracted bell toller, Marin was able to skillfully keep us on track with the film. Since then I have been able to redeem myself with pieces like the virtuosic Concerto for Orchestra by Aaron Jay Kernis, by having actually played all of the notes (even the ones the composer didn’t anticipate the pianist could play!).
So what is it that has drawn me back year after year? There is a sense of discovery–knowing that in the hands of someone like Marin, and before that Dennis Russell Davies, the Festival will be an adventure, sometimes thrilling, perhaps moving, or really off-the-wall. But always new and something worth talking about.
I must add that it’s an ingenious side benefit (albeit born out of necessity) to have local residents host musicians. It brings us together both inside and outside of the concert hall, where we can discuss all of the new offerings of music. Did we like a piece, love it, hate it? It is through those conversations and shared experiences that I, among many others, have built lifelong friendships, for which I am eternally grateful.