Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Friday, November 17, 2006

A Road to Cello - Chapter 1

What's an, ummm, unorthodox, not-terribly disciplined, not terribly classical-minded man like me doing sitting behind a cello. Cellos are conservative, orthodox, highly disciplined, and highly classical instruments. Perhaps no other common musical instrument presents such a classical, and nearly only classical, image in today's world. Say cello and people think of serious music and performers like Casals and Piatigorsky. Ok, maybe oboe and bassoon are even more square, perhaps to some measure because Yo-Yo Ma, the household name in cello, has branched out from the strictly classsical repertoire.

I'm going to start my story of how I took up this consuming habit in the summer of 2000, over 2 years before I ever touched a cello (Hey, it's my story. I can start it where I want!). I was at a contradance. I had been going once in a while for a couple of years by then. I liked the concept of attending a dance with a live band, and found it worth supporting. I found the sounds and the atmosphere growing on me. It was very different from the kinds of music I grew up with, but that was fine with me. It was gentle, unsophisticated, earthy, and real. Not an electronic wall of sound; and not so complex that one had to sit and listen carefully to get it. It was all about the audience and their enjoyment of the dance, not about the performers. And the people were my kind of people. While I'm no tee-totaler, there's no alcohol at contradances. I could bring my daughter; she was 6 years old the first time I brought her. The people are friendly; very happy to see you come back. And the dancing is easy. Much easier than Country-Western or Swing. Mistakes are freely forgiven.

The folks in nearby Riverside County have made a video that gives an accurate picture of what a contradance is like. I have a link to their site over on the side. I recommend it if you want to understand some of what PFS has been writing about contradances.

Anyway, at that dance back in 2000 I met a delightful lady whom I'll call M. She seemed to be about my age, she participated in Sierra Club events like I did, and we seemed to have a lot in common, but she was clearly in emotional pain. Sadly, her husband had passed away about three months before, from heart failure. She was still grieving but had to get out of the house and be around some people. She had enjoyed folk music for years but her husband had required considerable care in his last years, even though he was not very old at all.

M & I had an interesting and memorable conversation. I left the dance that night hoping to see her next month. It was not to be. She didn't show up at the next one, either. Or the next. Oh well, I thought, maybe she's found somebody new and she's doing well again (to be continued).


Anonymous said...

No fair posting a cliff-hanger like that! I'm guessing M is your wife now, but I still can't figure out how cello-playing came from contra dancing.

Guanaco said...

Another blog serial!