Classical music, weather and Honey Crisp apples

Classical music, weather and Honey Crisp apples
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Special Feature of Blowing Rock News. November 15, 2017. BLOWING ROCK, NC — I have a friend living in Southern California. She once described the weather as “boringly beautiful,” 75 degrees and sunny year-’round.

I’m not sure I could live in the same climate year-’round. Seasons help us appreciate the good — perhaps moreso because of the bad. Of course, the opposite is true, too. Having lived through sweltering summers in Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina, I revel in the cooler summers found in the mountains of Southern Appalachia. It’s worth every single snowflake in the bitter, winter cold.

Mother Nature ushers in each season distinctively here in the North Carolina mountains, but none quite like the fall. With each passing day in September, pumpkins multiply on the grounds of J and M Produce, a popular stand that I pass on the 10-minute ride to my Boone office.

I am excited to read of the seasonal bounty displayed on the marquee. This month, “HONEY CRISP APPLES” screams to me every time I pass. The Honey Crisp variety is the sweetest and most delicious of apples. They are only available here in the fall, as if Mother Nature wants us to appreciate them just that much more at this time of year.

…not an easy task in 4-inch heels.

Because my mood dictates my choice of radio stations when I’m driving, “classical” was the choice with today’s heavy rain and fog. Ironically, one of my favorites was playing this morning, “Spring” from Four Seasons, a group of four different violin concertos by composer Antonio Vivaldi. Each concerto is distinctively different.

I turned up the volume and recalled the time in my life when I truly gained an appreciation for classical music. In 2003, I moved from Charleston to Raleigh for a job opportunity.  I wanted to get involved in the community and through my connected stepmother and girlfriends I was able to do just that.

One friend worked for the North Carolina Symphony. She asked if I would volunteer to be the greeter at a donors’ reception prior to a large concert in downtown Raleigh.

The evening of the concert, I was running late. I entered the venue through the back doors as my friend suggested. I darted up the longest, steepest escalator I had ever seen — not an easy task in four-inch heels.

I pulled myself together as the escalator rolled me onto the foyer of the first floor. The scene was grand. Massive crystal chandeliers hung high in the grey, marbled ceilings. Thirty-foot ponytail palm trees with large white blossoms were decoratively scattered about the floor and everyone was dressed in their finest.

…my shame of mistaken identity.

As I stepped off the escalator I caught the eyes of a distinguished elderly man in a wheelchair.  He was surrounded by an entourage of men in coats. The man looked at me with a certain familiarity and beckoned as he reached out his hand. I met his hand with mine as I walked toward him, it registering exactly who he was as I approached.

I said with confidence, “Good evening, Senator Thurmond,” his two-handed grip making the greeting that much more sincere.  We exchanged pleasantries and I soon realized that he was a little hard of hearing.

I turned and dashed up the winding, marble staircase that led to the reception on the second floor.  Halfway up I stopped dead in my tracks, realizing that Senator Thurmond had recently passed away in South Carolina.  The gentleman in the wheelchair was, in fact, former North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms.

Condemningly shaking my head, I made my way into the donors’ reception. The perfume of stargazer lilies and the clinking of crystal glasses welcomed me. I spotted my girlfriend and immediately shared with her my shame of mistaken identity.

I then saw Mr. Helms being rolled into the reception and I approached the man pushing the wheelchair. I apologized, explaining that I lived in South Carolina for 15 years, but had recently moved back home, to Raleigh — blah, blah, blah.  Relieving my discomfort, the man said, “Believe it or not it happens more often than you might think.  But don’t worry, I don’t think he heard you.”

One of the perks of volunteering was that I was able to sit in a vacant seat to watch the evening’s performance. After working my way through the reception with smiles and small talk, I headed into the concert hall and sat in an empty seat halfway up from the lower level of the stage.

World renowned violin virtuoso Iztahk Perlman took the stage that night. Vigorously, yet gracefully, he commanded his bow back and forth across his violin as the symphony echoed in perfect rhythm.  Those magical notes of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons “Spring” consumed me. I closed my eyes and played different scenes in my mind from memories of visits to Ascona, Switzerland, a quaint European village with a maze of cobblestone streets dotted with red geraniums.

The relationship lasted longer than it should have.

I came back to reality, opening my eyes with the last notes being played. I glanced around the enormous hall filled with people, imagining the hundreds of different thoughts rising into the air.

Music resurrects something different and unique to everyone. For example, the theme from the 70s TV series M*A*S*H always makes me feel a certain, ominous way. A sultry jazz number like Stan Getz’ “O Grande Amour” transports me to a dimly lit corner of Black Cat, a sexy little jazz club in San Francisco. And Prince’s “1999” takes me straight to a dance party in Atlanta with my college roommates.

That evening at the post-concert donors’ reception, I met the newly-appointed Assistant Conductor of the North Carolina Symphony. My girlfriend overheard him asking for my phone number and later joked that I was the most expert greeter, ever.

He and I started dating, a relationship we continued for a significant amount of time.

That chance meeting definitely had its perks. I was able to take my niece backstage to meet one of my favorite bands, Pink Martini. Perhaps the greatest gift of all was that I learned to appreciate the gift of music. Ultimately, he and I were not meant to be, but I will never forget his pure passion for music.  It was so compelling that the relationship survived longer than it should have lasted.

Driving home today in the cold, misty mountain rain, appreciating every note as I listened to my favorite classical radio station, I felt a certain nostalgia. Today was not a great day, it being rainy, foggy, lonely and of course it also being Monday.

I thought for sure that a Honey Crisp apple would lift my spirits. I turned into J and M Produce, only to find that they had closed early due to the inclement weather.

In search of something, not knowing what, I drove to Thunder Hill, an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I parked my car and recalled the days when I was part of the symphony scene in Raleigh. I breathed in the panoramic landscape with its waves of mountains below and pockets of white clouds perfectly placed.

Little pops of red, orange, and gold found their way through the sheer fog, like brushstrokes of color in an incredible Impressionistic painting worthy of Renoir and Monet. Mother Nature was ushering in the Fall season.

The music fed my soul and Mother Nature served as the conductor of God’s orchestra.  I turned up Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of Flowers” that was playing on the radio. I turned the volume higher and higher.

With the music instantly lifting my mood, I closed my eyes and skipped my way through a sunny European village.

Edited by David Rogers and Taylor Welsh.

 

 

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