Dispatches from New York

We were circling around an evolving Charleston dinner buffet, clinking glasses and sharing not very deep thoughts when a phone rang. Flutist T ran to the porch for the mysterious phone call, and when she returned she had Big News from the Big City. It was 8:53 PM, more or less.

Her friend, let us call him X, was swept up in a typical freelancer’s night of stress, a slightly too close arrangement of concerts on either side of the Park. A 7:30 work by Tanya Leon on the East Side was to be followed by an 8 pm performance at Symphony Space (just a stone’s throw from my humble home on 91st Street on the West Side). He is caught in a bit of traffic on the way to the West Side, and barely makes it on stage in time; he plays (somehow this part of the story is not so important); and then when the work is over, while he is bowing, perhaps in the rush of having succeeded to make both gigs (I am embroidering here), he gesticulates out to the audience for the composer to come forward. Ignoring some contrary input from his colleagues, and seeing no composer in evidence, he brings his hand to his foreheard to stare out into the audience searchingly. He gestures again; no composer!

He is somehow herded offstage, and only there (but, alas, too late) does he learn that in fact what he has been playing is a memorial concert celebrating her centennial birthday. The composer, being dead, had (how shall we put it?) little desire, or opportunity, or incentive, to come forward.

Gesticulating to a dead composer in the audience at a memorial concert is one of those gaffes you cannot recover from. For me the only option at this point would be to flee the hall, ignominiously, head bowed, disguised if possible. I imagine X slinking out a back door, and down 95th street to West End Ave (Broadway being too dangerous and public, you might come across an enraged relative at the entrance etc.) and grabbing a cab to some dark and dingy bar to escape the view of all humanity, and there spending some days and weeks before coming out again … But that is just my solution. Feel free to suggest your own.

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  1. Erin
    Posted June 9, 2006 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Oh, that poor man.

    I’m sure the passage of years will make the story as funny to him as it is to everyone else (deceased composer’s family not included).

  2. hari
    Posted June 9, 2006 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    what a riot; that’s hysterical! if i were the composer’s relative, i’d have come forward for her.

  3. Claire
    Posted June 9, 2006 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    how about hanging himself on the ropes used for lowering backdrops, etc., backstage? 😛

    the poor man i send him huggles

  4. Carol
    Posted June 9, 2006 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    If we all died from doing or saying stupid things – there wouldn’t be many people left on earth! He can only take comfort from making a lot of people KILL THEMSELVES laughing today. (and when I really laugh = my bird joins in – so he made two species giggle today!). Thanks for the narrative Jeremy!

  5. Andrew
    Posted June 10, 2006 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    My “dead composer” moment was a lot less public, thank heavens: it was only shared by one other person. A few years ago I went to visit a client I hadn’t seen for some time, and discovered from her receptionist that she had changed her name. As soon as the client stepped out of the lift to meet me, I rushed up and gushed: Many Congratulations! She recoiled a little in surprise and then said drily: “well, I suppose a divorce is cause for celebration”. Never before had I felt in such desperate need of a large yucca plant to hide behind.

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