I realize I just had a blog dedicated to my mom, but it’s my dad’s birthday, and he needs one as well. I don’t know anyone more supportive of this particular blog venture as he, even mentioning it by name during his vast, wonderful, magnanimous speech during my wedding. It was probably the only speech that was free of snarky comments about my supposed Lotharian tendencies, temper tantrums and persecution complex, so I have my dad to thank for that as well.
Sean has already written an excellent paean to my dad that pre-empts most of what I might say, but then I remembered a little piece I wrote about him eight or so years ago. It is the experience of watching him conduct the orchestra through “The Pines of Rome” by Respighi, filtered through the mind of a ten-year-old.
It’s called Pines of the Appian Way:
He stands there like a tuxedoed tree, waving his boughs in a storm, coaxing the entire Roman army to burst through the percussion. Heavy bow against low string, each foot of an ancient soldier drawing closer, a bass drum meaning a legion has put down a foot in gigantic tandem. He leans over the strings, egging them on, daring them to get dangerous; cellos too. Basses follow the heavy thud, their job is easy. They were the first to know.
Soon trombones crash as trumpets swell, a chord change, and I could see them! Shiny apparatus on their leggings and breastplates make me squint as the stage light hits them, and all he does is dare them further. Come on, god damnit. We want teeth and yolky eye whites and scabs peeled raw.
Almost deafening now, army upon us, couldn’t escape if you started now. So many glorious chords, I can hardly fit it all in. Peripheral vision escapes me, as the violas and flutes, random faces of soldiers as they march closer. He screams, sweat flying off the right brow, just when it seems that there is nothing left, he twirls, then points!
Towards me, up in my box seat, trumpets soar and scales jangle! And then he turns completely around and points again, behind and up, across the theater, now in the rafters, and more brass crow chords of gorgeous intensity. Points to me again, a sorcerer commanding! Spittle everywhere and almost exhausted!
Army stays, final victorious harmony rings out across the vast, charged hall, and applause. His white hair flops down for a second, a long bow, and I can’t stop myself from smiling, because I sleep feet from God.