One of the fringe benefits of tidying up a piano room filled with unsorted piles of music and the rest, is finding a gold mine of goodies that have been missing for months, if not years.
Have you ever experienced lost this, found that–found that, lost this?
It’s embarrassing, but as we age, more of the latter occurs. (found/lost, found/lost, ad nauseum)
At least one happy hunting ground experience, however, produced a recovered memento of a Tanglewood concert. The embracing story surrounded the late Isaac Stern who stole my heart playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the Boston Symphony. It was during a music camp summer spent in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Tracking my 6 or so years as a violinist, I found myself in the throes of two music camp experiences. The one at Merrywood acquired a memory bank of richly woven anecdotes.
Its unique proximity to the Tanglewood Festival afforded weekly trips to Sunday morning BSO rehearsals, and interspersed jaunts to chamber music and orchestra concerts. These were the bread and butter of our musical lives.
The singular concert carved into my memory, besides one where Lukas Foss played the Bach d minor concerto, was Isaac Stern’s appearance under Charles Munch. (During the summer, 1961 there were a host of guest conductors ascending the podium.) A uniquely compact maestro, Pierre Monteux, climbed up a solid oak stool, looking like an elf, though he conducted like a giant.
After Stern’s riveting performance under the stars with a shell embracing soloist and orchestra, I should have had consideration for my fellow campers who were squeezed into carbon-emission fuming buses awaiting a missing teen. Who could that have been? (Was I a runaway- in-progress or just a love-sick adolescent hounding an autograph?)
I was off and running from the brood of Merrywooders who were bound for Ruth Hurwitz’s quaint camp-site bordering the property of French Hornist, James Stagliano. A well-known imbiber, it was a well-circulated legend that BSO Jim took a swig from his horn right smack in his orchestra seat. Was it NOT saliva he was shaking from his mouthpiece?
Stagliano’s early-morning horn calls started our day following a blaring Bach “Brandenburg” 5, piped into the second floor where we campers slept in tightly-squeezed cots.
Our daily schedule included practice periods, ensemble rehearsals, private and group music lessons, choir singing by the fireplace, and campfires. But these activities were no match for our tour de force trips to the Berkshire Festival concerts.
The night of one sweltering July, Isaac Stern outplayed himself igniting my immediate impulse to race after him for a morsel of human contact plus a time-honored autograph.
I found him standing regally in the Green room wearing his signature silk scarf. An adoring mom was beside him. He looked worn by fatigue, but signed my program in a gesture of kindness. I will always remember his generosity.
Tears had flowed down his cheeks during his performance making it even more emotionally poignant. Or might those droplets have been beads of sweat contoured by sizzling hot lights? It’s fascinating how the memory creates its own staging. A tender pouring would have added a nice effect.
Following my autograph-seeking coup with Stern, I was hunted down by camp authorities and grounded for a week. Punishment was meted out: no s’mores at the Saturday campfire. (chocolate-covered marshmallows) and a suspension of attendance at chamber music concerts in the shed. (not a venue for paddling)
That’s not all that happened at Merrywood.
An August camp concert provided a breath-taking finale!