Looking forward because I really enjoy playing POPS music. Over the years my orchestra, the Arlington Philharmonic, has performed patriotic songs, medleys from “Titanic,” Wicked,” “West Side Story,” and “Chicago,” music of Disney movies, Leroy Anderson, Henry Mancini, and John Philip Sousa (some videos are online here). This music always has its unexpected challenges, and sometimes it has a solo for me. (I particularly remember the year I had a solo I affectionately called “Intonation is a Wish the Heart Makes.”) When the weather cooperates (about 2/3 of the time) it really is a nice event. The strawberry and ice cream festival out in the garden near the Town Hall is fun for the whole family.
The concert concludes with a cascade of red, white, and blue balloons coming down from the balcony onto the Town Hall floor as the orchestra plays the Stars and Stripes forever.
Dread comes from anticipating the amount of work that it takes for an all-volunteer organization like the Philharmonic society of Arlington to put on a POPS concert and strawberry festival event. Tables, flowers, strawberries, hall rental, baked goods. Online publicity. A clown. This concert is a good–but not great–fundraiser for the rest of the season. I think that over the years the fundraising aspect has ceased to be the main point. The main point is tradition, and celebration.
Between our last concert and this one, however, circumstances changed to make this my last POPS—my last concert of any sort–with this group. This summer, my family is moving to California.
We weren’t sure about anything until close to the day of the concert. My husband was in Mountain View CA, talking to the people who would be on his new team at Google Headquarters. He had also been looking at houses and we had been quietly reeling from the sticker shock in what may be the one housing market in the USA that makes the Boston area look reasonable.
Back in 2008 I showed up to the first rehearsal, rushing and late because I couldn’t find parking, with my violin/viola double case. The first person I met, a violinist named Noel, asked me if the large black case was a coffin. I showed up to this POPS concert at the last minute too, after first talking to my husband over the phone and then signing, snapping pictures of, and emailing documents for a loan approval to make an offer on a house. The parking gods smiled on me this time and I was able to get a spot after someone else pulled away. As I walked in to the Town Hall, carrying the flowers for our soloist that I’d been asked to procure, I was again met by Noel. “You’re here!” he said. “You missed the picture.” He’d been taking one for the Facebook page with our new conductor.
Drop off the kids, give them money for tickets, drop off the baked goods, plan how to deliver the flowers. Set up my folding stand. Note that even though we didn’t plan it, my stand partner and I (as well as two other first violinists, both named Rebecca) are wearing matching green tops. And then it’s time to tune. One Karen (me) signals to another Karen (the oboist) for the A.
During the first third of the concert, Brahms’ Hungarian Dance #5, West Side Story, and Zigeunerweisen with the YAC winner, Caitlin Kelley, I was grateful for auto-pilot and muscle memory. The violin I orchestral part to Zigeunerweisen is a 19th-century Lumosity brain-training game: switching between pizzicato, arco, on-beats, and off-beats in a seemingly random pattern; keeping track of which sections are repeated and which are not and and which repeat you are on; staying with the soloist as she performs incredible feats of virtuosity and acrobatics inches from your music stand.
Near the end of the concert, we celebrated Snowpocalypse-Boston with a “Frozen” medley. I had a solo, “For the First Time in Forever.” I had sticky fingers to go with it. That too went by fast, and unlike my previous Disney solo, my bow didn’t shake. Early on I had changed a few of the printed bowings to something that made me feel more comfortable. I experimented with shifts vs. string crossings and decided that a little portamento was a benefit, not a liability, to keeping it all on the E-string. The solo comes on the heels of a particularly hair-raising part in “Let it Go,” so I didn’t have time to get too nervous. It was more of a relief than anything else. And the hot weather meant my vibrato didn’t freeze up.
I didn’t really have time to think, and I was grateful for that. If I stopped to think too much, I might cry.
A couple of days ago I announced the move on Facebook and here in my personal blog. There I framed it as a new, exciting adventure, which it is, of course. Although I won’t have time for any music groups this summer, I’ve already made inquiries into auditions for other orchestras next fall. And if anyone in the SF Bay area or Silicon Valley (Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara, San Jose) has suggestions (or would be interested in getting together for duets/chamber music), please let me know!
But I also need time and space to say goodbye and to grieve for what I’m going to lose. As my daughter’s school principal says, don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. I’ll get there. Eventually.