Age of Discovering

by Rick Beck

Chapter 20

Music, Music, Music

Having had a feast at around noon, I wasn't hungry after Leo dropped us off at the brunch. At first it was friendly and a bit noisy. Small groups of people gathered together to catch up on each others lives.

Slowly the chatter died away and people finished eating and the food was cleared before Preston explained that two buses were outside the restaurant. They would take the orchestra back to the university auditorium.

The instruments were still in place from a brief rehearsal earlier in the day. The orchestra would first do an instrument check. This way the musician knew his instrument was in place and in proper working order..

Then the musicians went to get dressed and relax until showtime. While the musicians dressed, the stage hands went through their final checks to be sure everything was in good working order.

The performance would start at eight-fifteen. On the program the starting time was listed as eight p.m. The tradition in show business was for the show to start fifteen minutes or so after the time listed. This allowed for the audience to be fashionably late and not miss a thing. This meant late arrivals wouldn't be allowed to be a distraction.

Once Preston took his place, there was a short piece to allow for the sound and lights to be double checked one last time. He used an arrangement that was for that purpose. The orchestra had a chance to warm up while the last of the audience settled into their seats.

At eight fifteen the doors were closed, the house lights and the lights on the stage were dimmed. For one minute there was silence. When the spotlight was switched on Preston and the show started.

After that all bets were off. Preston Hathaway gave each city special treatment. No two Preston Hathaway shows were the same. No one knew what Preston had up his sleeve this time but it was designed to dazzle Seattle.

I knew. The orchestra hadn't heard Glenn play. They'd rehearsed the music that accompanied Glenn's performance, but they weren't told what that music introduced.

Musicians liked to talk to other musicians. The two hours we spent at the restaurant, I'd listened to old pros describe to newer members what to expect. That's how I knew what to expect.

Glenn told me, "The orchestra plays an introduction to my music. The stage goes dark. The spotlight hits me. I play my music, take a bow, and the orchestra plays me off stage after the stage goes dark after my one bow. No encores. One and I'm done. I fade away as if I was never there."

The musicians knew better than to question Preston. It wasn't because they weren't curious. They knew Preston believed the only way to keep a secret is to keep it to yourself. Questioning him was futile.

We drove past a marquee that advertised: One Night Only! The Preston Hathaway Show! Featuring Glenn Denning!

The musicians looking out of the window of the bus might wonder who Glenn Denning was. Some might put two and two together, recognizing music that introduction Glenn's performance and another piece that came afterward.

We followed the buses and passed the marquee at the entrance to the university. I followed it with my eyes, looking at Glenn to see his reaction. He was far away from the backseat of Leo's limo. I didn't interrupt his thoughts.

Leo washed the car and cleaned the inside while we were at brunch. He drove us to the auditorium.

"When you are done here and are ready to leave, I'll be parked next to the back stairs you'll come down. I'll have the backdoor open for you, but I'll be behind the wheel, waiting to get you out of the reach of the nosy who might suspect something is up."

It was a fine plan in my mind.

I left Glenn's side to explore once he began primping in a mirror provided for the purpose. He was right there, getting ready, but he was a million miles away. Distracting him wasn't a good idea. I knew where he'd gone and I gave him his privacy to get ready on his own terms.

I went in search of the seats in the wings where I'd been told I'd be allowed to sit. I wanted to be in the best possible place to see Glenn's performance, and to watch the Preston Hathaway Show.

The auditorium was huge. The stage dominated the front of the room and the seats formed a semi-circle around the stage. I'd never been in a larger enclosed space.

There were ten seats in the wings on each side of the stage. They couldn't be seen by the audience. I checked all the seats in the wings to the left, the side Glenn's dressing room was on, picking the one that gave me the best view.

The seats in the wings kept visitors and friends out of the way and yet it gave them a birdseye view of what was going on backstage as well as onstage.

There were curtains separating the seats in the wings from the audience. The stage was wide open and exposed to the house seats. I didn't think they made curtains large enough to cover the front of that stage.

As I was putting my jacket on the seat I decided on, Preston passed behind me. He stopped to offer his opinion.

"You can see everything from here, Gordon. If you lean back and part the curtains behind you, you can see the audience. Glenn will appear in a single spotlight at center front stage. You'll have a good view of him here. Believe me when I say, you don't want to take your eyes off of him. I expect something extraordinary to happen tonight, and I'm never wrong about a thing like that."

Preston walked away, leaving his final words hanging there to be considered.

What could I see that I hadn't seen?

I'd heard him play and he was a gifted violinist.

I shrugged it off as Preston being Preston, sometimes aloof and sometimes illusive.

I was a musician. I knew what it was like to perform on a much smaller scale. I expected to be able to relate to Glenn's performance on one level or another.

I couldn't fathom that which I couldn't fathom, and that's when secrets are revealed.

People came and went from the stage after I'd claimed a seat. Lights were switched on and off to the satisfaction of the stagehands.

Preston returned to stand in the wings to watch each set of lights being tested. He stayed long enough to hear each bank of speakers switched on and then off.

At seven o'clock the lights on stage dimmed and the house lights came up. The audience began to trickle in.

I leaned back to part the curtains to look at what was mostly empty seats.

Orchestra members who had finished dressing came back on stage to be sure their instruments were ready and properly placed. I recognized performance jitters that took over while musicians waited. You could tamp down a good set of nerves by focusing on something.

I was excited being so close to the preparations for a major entertainment event. My limited experience with my band was nothing like the super charged atmosphere before a big time production.

It was easy to see why the Preston Hathaway Show was able to fill a huge auditorium and turn people away after the house was sold out. The attention to detail was obvious. Lights came on and went off as final checks were made.

No one noticed the auditorium was filling. It was nearly eight. There was still time to correct any malfunction.

With no curtain separating the audience from the stage, the changes and transitions were done with lighting. The changes were programmed into a computer system and they took place automatically.

There were lighting and sound technicians standing by the computerized boards. They would take over if something went wrong with the automatic changes. Nothing was left to chance.

I was super excited by the activity. Adding the music to it would make it even better. I'd literally be sitting on the edge of my seat, watching how it was done.

It was eight after eight when the first music played. It was quiet, soft, even hypnotic. Green, blue, and multicolored lights came on, went off, and a single spotlight came on to light Preston Hathaway's back. It went out.

Colored lights highlighted each section of the orchestra as one section at a time played alone. The strings were bathed in blue. Two white pianos, on opposite sides of the stage were barely visible in shades of deep purple.

When the single spotlight hit Preston again, he looked eight feet tall with incredibly long arms.

The kettle drums rolled as the brass section became bathed in gold as they trumpeted their presence. As instruments played and faded away, the lights brightened and dimmed accordingly.

Preston had incorporated a light show into his orchestra's performance. How cool was that?

The strings came in and faded out. One piano and then both played. A yellowish light bathed the brass in color as the sound echoed through the auditorium, capturing the audience's attention, heralding the beginning of the show.

The brass suddenly stopped.

The stage went dark.

The doors could be heard closing throughout the auditorium. The house lights were dimmed. The orchestra went silent a moment before the doors closed. It was highlighted in a rose color hue that was brighter, dimming, until the stage became almost invisible even to me.

The single spotlight hit the maestro. Preston's arms were raised. The orchestra awaited his command. There wasn't a sound.

In a flourish his arms went into motion. The orchestra came alive. Bright lights filled the stage.

It was eight fifteen.

A rousing musical composition followed. I could feel the music vibrate my insides, as the orchestra played.

Thunderous applause accompanied the music for a few long seconds before fading away.

The music flowed. There was a blending of sight and sound. It made me want to grab my guitar and join them.

Sitting that close to the action was a marvelous experience for an aspiring musician. This was the real deal. This was the big time.

Preston added light to his symphony orchestra. The lighting added a new dimension to an already exciting experience. It seemed like a perfect marriage of sight and sound, but few people did it as well as Preston.

I wondered if there was a way for me to use lighting to make my band more appealing.

Preston's choreography of sight and sound was a delicate balance that impressed me. It was the music that brought the audiences into the auditorium, but it was the light show that audiences couldn't stop talking about.

I searched for seams and found none. That's why it was such an inspiring event. Nothing as complicated as that could be carried out without a few flaws but I found none.

The audience barely moved once the orchestra got going. As a transition took place, usually coming in a few seconds of darkness, applause erupted and died away quickly. No one wanted to miss anything.

The first piece was from Beethoven and it Beethoven transitioned into Mozart. That became part of a Queen classic. There was a series of Beatles songs that began with Strawberry Fields and ended with Eleanor Rigby.

I remembered reading that George Martin, the producer of the Beatles records, let the boys do there thing while writing new songs. Then, previously being a producer of classical music, Martin added his arrangement to go with the boys' creations and Preston's orchestra played it with precision.

The audience appreciated these diversions from the long ago classical sound with the newer classic sounds. This music from the renaissance of music in the 60s had joined classical music in their own right.

60S rock and roll fought to become relevant and now it was classic music. No one questioned its right to be considered music every bit as poetic and melodic as any music ever made.

A catchy refrain brought me back to the hear and now as the trumpets played the trumpet piece for Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire.

The audience applauded their approval as familiar music they once tapped their toe to came and went.

It was an interesting blend. I was surprised I recognized so many of Preston's selections. He was maybe fifty, give or take a couple of years, and he played music from every bit of those fifty years.

He would have been growing up in the 60s. My guess was his parents played the music his symphony Orchestra now immortalized. It was difficult not to theorize about Preston's show. The music kept bringing me back to the present.

It was amazing to me that he could blend so many different genre of music effortlessly. The maestro made it a masterful tapestry of light and sound. It was a unique experience for his audience and for me.

When it was just the two pianos, one played and then the other played. It gave a haunting quality to the music. The strings came in and went out and the pianos played together and then separately. I recognized the piano concerto from Beethoven. We'd played it in my music class at school.

The sound came from every direction. He accomplished this effect by letting one piano play and then the other. All the instruments on one side of the orchestra played and they were answered by the instruments on the other side of the stage. This carried the music in a distinctive way.

Preston disappeared from time to time as the lights lit other parts of the stage. Then, the entire orchestra would play and you could clearly see Preston was in charge of the show.

Going from a rousing crescendo of sound, the music suddenly went silent. The first part of the program ended. Every light went out for a split second, leaving us in complete darkness.

Slowly the rose colored lights bathed the orchestra in a soft soothing light. The strings played with the pianos. They played very softly at first. I had to strain to hear it.

It was a Strauss waltz. I looked at my program as the lights brightened on stage. When I looked up, couples waltzed across the stage and disappeared.

A new softer light lit Preston's back. He stood out as the conductor but his lighting was softer now and he appeared to be closer to the orchestra than before. I didn't think he'd moved. It was some kind of effect created with lighting.

This part of the show was dedicated the classics. I recognized some of the music but not all of it. It was a pleasing sound.

It distracted me from worrying about Glenn's performance. I'd become so involved with the music that I forgot to worry. I didn't look at my watch to see how long it would be before Glenn played.

The applause vibrated me one more time. The audience loved the totally unique production. It didn't hurt that it was brought to them by a handsome and talented middle-aged entrepreneur.

I was learning that Preston wasn't just a pretty face.

At times the music was so soft I could barely hear it and at other times it vibrated my innards and had me wanting to jump out of my seat to cheer.

All strings played, fell silent, and the brass blared, drums rolled before the two pianos came in at the same time. The main part of the orchestra was lit with a soft green glow as the heart of the arrangement erupted in an incredible blending of sounds.

When the pianos began to play, the light accenting them went from deep purple to a royal blue. The brass died away, their demise hidden by the flourish of the pianists and the sound of the strings soft even entry blended in with the sound the pianos made. The tempo lightened as the deep blue lighting merged into a powder blue. A violet glow bathed the row of violinists, as they took the lead.

The lights changed again with it appearing as though the string section and the two pianos were the only musicians left on the stage, until another rousing burst tied all the sections together.

The music turned back on itself as the brass took over and the strings mellowed to a barely audible sound. The pianos came in to bang out their cords to compete with the blast from the brass.

I sat mesmerized by new colors that made it seem like I was listening to a Mariachi band dancing in place as red, orange, and yellow lights lit only the sombrero wearing trumpeters.

The arrangement was distinctive and the changes in light made it possible for musicians to slip into or out of some appropriate costume adjustment that offered an authenticity that sold the many changes in tempo.

During the Strauss waltz, I almost missed couples in elaborate costumes from the era when I dared to look at my program. You had to pay attention if you wanted to see everything that was going on. The main spot was back on Preston's back as he moved purposefully on center stage, conducting the sound he'd arranged for the Seattle audience. Once the spot was on him, the orchestra was bathed in the soft green light and the music included the entire symphony with few exceptions.

I was not a big classical music fan but the blend of music was exciting. The orchestration was classic if not classical. Pieces I recognized from my own music blended in with other pieces I recognized as classical. An entirely unique sound joined those two things together, creating its own sound, as the audience looked on.

There was no break in the constant sound. It kept the audience from applauding one particular part of a segment. For over a half an hour the music played, blending jazz, into the blues, and then on to some rock and roll heaven.

It was the kind of show you got lost in almost from the get go. By the time you realize you were being surrounded in sound, it had merged, blended, soared, and floated on the evening air, carrying you with it. I listened for transitions, bridges into other pieces I recognized.

A single piano played alone with no other instruments playing. The piano on the opposite side of the stage picked up after several minutes, advancing the score without me realizing the first piano had fallen silent. The sound now came from the other side of the stage and it was lovely.

Violins began to play after the cellos created a deep moaning sound that competed with the pianos for a minute or two before dying away. The violins added texture. The cellos offered depth to the languid sound the pianos made.

The piano music began to soften and fade for the strings to lead the way, adding to the range and richness of the music.

The lights went from featuring the row of violins and three cellos back to lighting only the two pianos, and then that light grew dimmer and dimmer. One piano stopped playing, leaving the lone piano to carry the show, until the sound of that piano disappeared and the last light went out.

For a second there was blackness and silence.

It was followed by applause. I had been told to be quiet as a mouse, but I stood and applauded anyway. It was important for me to do that.

It was then a single violin played ever so softly. The applause stopped. The audience listened to determine where the sound was coming from. It was soft, delicate, and it was close, very close.

The single spotlight, until now being reserved for Preston Hathaway's back. It cast a rosy glow onto a single violinist who played on center stage.

My heart leaped in my chest.

It was Glenn.

The audience went silent.

You had to listen closely to hear the first soft strands of delicate music. That was one way to quiet the packed house.

Glenn's face was turned down toward the violin and a short strand of hair hung down toward the instrument. Once more it took me time to reconcile this Glenn with the Glenn I loved. The sound flowed and he worked his right arm frantically sawing the strings to give it a flair as the music dashed along.

I turned enough to allow me to part the curtain the way Preston showed me. This allowed me to see the audience. I gazed out. Mostly I could see eyeglasses reflecting the cascading light from the one spotlight. Every head was tilted upward. Ever eye was on center stage. No one moved. Glenn picked up the pace and he began to move within the confines of the single spotlight. It was the only light on in the auditorium. Glenn had everyone's attention.

He began to soar, taking off with a flourish of upbeat music. I didn't recognize it but it was obviously jazzed up to make his violin dance. It was all Glenn and his violin now. He looked angelic as his face came up far enough for the audience to see the youthfulness of the musician making such a wonderful sound. This created a short lived buzz that ceased as fast as it began.

'He's young," I heard a nearby man tell his wife.

His smile was wide enough to show his teeth. He'd now included the audience in his performance. It was like he'd just noticed there were people watching him.

He played to them now. His smile revealed an uncharacteristic warmth and he radiated a boyish charm.

The jazzy music gave way to a soft smoother sound that took him into the heart of the arrangement.

With the overflow from the spotlight I caught a glimpse of Preston watching his prodigy steal the show.

Glenn owned that auditorium and Preston was delighted. It was going far better than he could have expected. Glenn was under control and playing his heart out.

Glenn played delicately, effortlessly. He seemed to merge with his violin as the tempo picked up and he was flying high. I was delighted that the Glenn I knew could make such a beautiful sound.

He soared and the audience soared with him.

There was no other sound. It was all Glenn. I knew this piece ended and a relatively short interlude came before intermission. I didn't know what Preston asked Glenn to do in terms of time.

I didn't want him to stop playing.

Not a stage hand moved. No other instrument distracted from the incredible energy Glenn generated by himself on a stage full of musicians. This was the highlight of nearly an hour of marvelous performances.

Glenn bent. He swayed. He made the violin cry. He made it laugh, and he made it dance, as he waltzed with it. Moving in tight little circle, it was just him and his violin. As he danced faster and faster, he twirled majestically, never once stepping out of the spotlights range. I'd never seen anything like it. He was magic.

Like the rest of the show, Glenn was spellbinding. I wanted it to go on and on. Every eye was on center stage. Every ear tuned into this violinist and his music.

Glenn stopped abruptly. He stood in the center of the spotlight. He gave one last smile to the audience.

With one quick bow the lights went out.

When they came back up a few seconds later, Glenn was gone. .

All the lights had come on. There was no color now. The regular lights lit the stage. The orchestra came alive again. Preston conducted with a flourish of motion in a dash for intermission.

The audience was confused. Where'd the young violinist go?

Preston's genius was visible for all to see, but his violin prodigy wasn't.

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