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Adriaen van Ostade: The Concert (1644)

" … another storybook ending."

As unlikely as it seemed for much of the journey there, the long-touted HouseConcert actually happened. It even arrived a little ahead of the schedule requirement, which I'd imagined to be before I'd reached the end of the current seasonal quarter, before the upcoming Solstice. The right people showed up, too, precisely the proper cast which could not have been improved by the concerted efforts of even an army of over-experienced talent scouts. The light supper was very well received. It just seemed such a freedom to invite folks into The Villa, whatever the pretext. Delivering this SetList of songs seemed an embellishment atop what would have qualified as a very decent holiday gathering regardless.

I'd set the stage, such as it was, along the recently refurbished front window seat, directly in front of the massive front window, which The Muse had decorated with multicolored Christmas lights.
We utilized the dimming recessed spotlights to good purpose. My guitar stood on its stand across from a music stand which held my fakebook, opened to the first song in the set. I'd left a copy of the book Set Theory, which some unknown somebody had sent to me earlier on in this odyssey, on the seat because it seemed appropriate. We had assembled to experience the most mysterious part of my SetTheory. It seemed as though the universe had charted and managed to navigate an intricate course, which brought us together. The audience was the opposite of the usual collection of empty strangers, but well on their way to becoming life-long friends. A few of us had already gotten a decent head start on that effort. The rest were making more than respectable headway.

I began the performance by reading the story that started this quest, this series, one I'd labeled
SetTheory. Most curious. It seemed to me as the impromptu lector more than as the author, that this essay described what was about to happen. I was also the author, so I knew that I had no special perception capable of seeing into any future. I was merely cataloguing aspiration, yet here I was, there we were, manifesting what I had described. Goose flesh crept up the back of my neck.

My voice, choked and croaky earlier that morning, had come back happy. Whatever I'd done to overcome that throat clog had evidently worked. I later ascribed the recovery as the direct result of me serving my codfish cakes to my guests, my soon-to-be audience. The Power of the Spatula had returned but with beneficence rather than with a vengeance. I had broken that often difficult barrier between performer and audience merely by first performing the role of host. Disarming potential critics, potential witnesses to my humiliation, also couldn't have hurt. I took my little stage relaxed, as if not in performance but rather in conversation.

I finished reading that story and picked up my guitar. With little further introduction, I commenced to sing, "Talk about your side streets, go on and talk about your country roads; talk about the alleyways, Daddy, where you're not supposed to go alone." A very few, terribly short couple of minutes later, I heard myself ending the performance: "leaving a god-awful mess with which you'll be blessed at An Inconvenient Time." And so the holy grail was secured and I became a singer and a damned decent guitar player. I won't append an 'again' to that assessment, because I never even once before was ever whatever it was I was in front of that audience. I had not embarrassed myself, which had seemed a distinct possibility until the first few nascent audience members showed up early to offer me their special reassurances.

One audience member, exiting, thanked me for sharing The Muse and my story. She thought that it sure seemed like a storybook story sometimes, and I had to admit that it sure does seem that way sometimes. It's not an accident. We've worked hard crafting it, but no harder, I suspect, than we would have had to work to make a ham sandwich out of it. We're learning to make the most generous possible interpretations, even when we haven't. Amy's oncologist showed up for this performance and I confided to her that this has been a year we would have never wished upon ourselves and yet one that finds us grateful that it happened to us. The very notion of a HouseConcert was born out of a long-held terror, one I'd sidestepped when I left the music business more than a generation ago. That stage had never before ever once seemed as friendly as it did last night. Whatever fright I'd fled from did not return when I came back home. The Muse and I now inhabit the garden I'd just sung about, and we openly aspire to never see that city again. Our once impossible dream came true and then some.

You had to have been there. I did not, as I'd promised, conscript anyone to capture video of this remarkable performance, for that very act would have undermined the magic assembled in that room. As with many experiences, this one could not have been successfully captured, anyway. It would have been delusional to even attempt a capture. You just had to be there. As I'm demonstrating here, there's also never any way to describe what happened or why. I will in the next few days, before the end of this seasonal quarter, separately record and post the songs I performed in this HouseConcert. They will not be precisely the same songs I performed there but will have been altered, however slightly, by the HouseConcert experience. This could render them better or worse, as HouseConcerts tend to exert unpredictable consequences. This one carried another storybook ending along with it.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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