Dr Rieppel and LauraLee and a few others were already at First Lutheran when Olivia and I got there. We set up stands and chairs and whatnot and then waited around for other people to show up and the dress rehearsal to begin. The order of things was Anni’s Boccherini first, then the wind quintet, then the Dvorak Romance for violin with Bacco, then an intermission, then the Mozart symphony.
They’ve been practicing the last piece for about five weeks, and on Monday at rehearsal several people were not exactly hopeful that it would go well. The first movement will be part of the Children’s Concert, so on Monday LauraLee put a notice on the board to the effect that musicians were to leave Boccherini and Dvorak on their stands after the concert, but keep the Mozart. At the dress rehearsal the Mozart wasn’t going very well, and at one point Dr Rieppel said, “Sorry for barking orders at you all, but remember, you have Joel to blame for this,” and Joel, in the first row of the second violins, right in front of Dr Rieppel, grinned at him.
LauraLee had brought over the extra music for this concert from the school, just in case someone left a part at home or something. But when Melanie, a flautist, came and asked if I had the second oboe part for Mozart, and I searched the Mozart folder, it wasn’t in there. Dr Rieppel even came and asked, and LauraLee came and said it was in the folder with all the other second oboe parts, reserved in the music library for the second oboeist who never materialized, and would I drive over and get it?
Now, Olivia drove from school to the church earlier, and I had come to concerts at First Lutheran before (most notably the one after which we talked on the sidewalk in the dark, and the Mostly (Well, Entirely) Mozart one), but then only as a passenger and not needing to keep track of places to turn. But LauraLee needed to be rehearsing. So I got the car key from Olivia’s coat pocket, and the library key from my knitting bag, and went out.
I figured that since Holy Redeemer, with its tall steeple, is noticeable from several places in town, and as it shares a street with First Lutheran, if I did get lost I’d always be able to find my way back to Church Street. Fortunately I ended up not needing to do that, actually getting to FA and back again without getting lost, much to the surprise and delight of Olivia and LauraLee, who know my reputation.
During rehearsal of Boccherini, Anni pushed her chair a little farther back on the podium to make room for her cello, and the chair nearly fell off. Many people gasped and put out their hands to catch her.
“Joel,” ordered Dr Rieppel, since Joel was sitting right behind her, “if she falls off backward during the concert, it’s your job to catch her —” Joel nodded — “with your violin.” He gasped and hugged his it, shaking his head.
Eventually rehearsal finished and players dispersed, Dr Rieppel telling them to enjoy their thirty-five minute break. Beth came and set up the table for taking admission money at, and told me how we were only using the tickets for keeping track of the students who came in free. She was on her way to change when two little old ladies came up, so she told them “If you want to pay at the table, Olivia will help you — I mean Sophia. I can tell you apart, really I can.” It’s the same refrain we hear from everybody, so I only laughed.
(By the way, taking admission is kind of fun for people-watching — you can get a good idea of peoples’ characters by whether they have money ready ahead of time, or what their checks look like, or whether they notice the sign on the table with prices or have to ask how much adults are.)
While I sat there, the first few people coming in and paying or going through for free in the case of students and children, the musicians were making trips from the nursery to various bathrooms to change. I had a good view of the main hallway, as it was perpendicular to where I sat, and twice I saw David, who had put off changing until the last possible minute, go running in circles around the place looking for an empty room.
Cole arrived, and seeing him from a distance I tore off a ticket and put it in the bucket for him. He stopped in front of the table and I said, “Go on, you’re free, I know you’re a student.”
“There’s a car in the parking lot with its side door open,” he said. “Is there someone I should talk to to take care of it? Dr Rieppel, maybe?”
“Oh, no, not Dr Rieppel. Why not just close the door?”
“Are you sure there isn’t someone? Maybe somebody connected with the church?”
“I don’t know, I don’t go to church here.”
“I s’pose you don’t.” He went out again. When he came back my dad had just come in and was standing near the table, so he greeted him and then turned to me and said, “I did shut the door, and it was unlocked too, so I thought about locking it, but then I thought, no, there might be keys left in there, so I didn’t.”
“Thank you,” my dad and I both said, because we remember what happened with a certain young driver at another concert late at night (even though neither of us was personally involved).
A professor, one of the ones Olivia and I both know, came and paid for himself and when the musicians filed in asked “Which one is your sister?” I came and stood in the central doorway and spied her sitting down and said, “She’s behind Joel and Cindy —” and then realized he didn’t know who they were. “Um, no, that doesn’t work — she’s the blonde girl in the middle of the violins with her hair in a bun.”
I got to see Anni in her silver dress process inside; Dr Rieppel bowed to her by the door and said, “Oh, you go first,” and followed her, starting the applause himself.
A couple of people came in late, and as I was putting the cash in Beth’s bag I heard the Boccherini start. It went really well, though perhaps I was biased, because that piece was my favourite of the evening anyway. (The complete concerto doesn’t appear to be on YouTube, but she only played the first movement, and a good recording can be found here.)
When she finished Joel had to give her flowers, which he’d stowed under his chair before the concert, and he handed them to her very awkwardly, probably to the delight of David. (I was trying not to look at David, though I was in such a position, at the back pew right next to the center aisle, that it was hard not to see him. It was Cole and Kayla and me in that pew, three of the shortest people there and as far back as possible — we couldn’t see anything on the left side of the orchestra, only occasionally JP’s head.)
Dr Rieppel praised Anni’s talent and eleven years of playing with the SMO as well as other groups, and wound up by asking all the high-school students in the orchestra to stand. I couldn’t see Olivia, but she explained afterward that because JP had just been moving or about to move the podium from which Anni had been playing, he had given her his violin and bow to hold, and so when they stood up, she had two instruments and JP had none. Dr Rieppel lamented the fact that they were leaving soon, as he had done at the Christmas concert, and said, “As you can see the orchestra is also multi-generational, from the youngsters the Wagners, who’ve only been here the forty-nine years the orchestra has been in existence, to these high-school kids — sorry, students — and everyone else in between.”
The wind quintet played next, during which the other musicians dispersed into various pews. Joel sat by himself, with only his violin for company: it was upright in his lap, and he leaned his head against the scroll, with his left hand around the neck and his right hand cradling it by the chin rest.
The next piece was the Dvorak Romance for Violin, for which Bacco was the soloist. Dr Rieppel introduced him as the longest-reigning concertmaster of the SMO, and buttered him up to try to get him to stay, as usual.
During the intermission people went and mingled. For some reason I found myself out in the foyer, and Cole came up and said, “Is there a water fountain around here?”
“I don’t know, I don’t go to church here!”
“You’re so helpful, Sophia,” he said, but he found one himself. And then I remembered I hadn’t had anything to drink since lunch, and now that I knew there was a source of water closer than inside our locked van, I should probably do something about that. I hadn’t known there was a fountain around, so I hadn’t thought to look for it. (The only one at our church hasn’t worked in ages, and there isn’t even an “Out of Order” sign on it anymore.)
The professor who sat on purpose so he could see Olivia said to me, “Your sister’s really good!”
“She wasn’t even soloing.”
“Yes, the year she won the competition.”
“She is really good. Where’s she going to college?”
As we’re used to doing now when that topic comes up, I looked around to see whether Dr Rieppel was in the room. He wasn’t, but so many people here knew him, present company included. . . “She doesn’t know yet, but wherever she goes, she’ll definitely go for music.” This was all quite true.
“What’s the last song?” he asked.
“Mozart’s fortieth symphony.”
“Is it good?”
I remembered how tired everyone was, and Joel worrying during the dress rehearsal about not being able to play the fourth movement fast enough, and I said, “The piece itself is. How well it’ll be played. . .” and I shrugged.
Musicians began filing past us from the nursery, and I turned and waved to Olivia in the middle of the line.
“That guy,” the professor said, pointing to Bacco, “is really good. I mean, hearing him you wonder how there are people better than him. Like, why isn’t he the principal violinist of the Minnesota Orchestra or something?”
“He’s a substitute for it,” I said.
“I know, but that’s not the same.”
I wanted to say, “Have you heard of Hilary Hahn?” because Bacco can’t hold a candle to her, but he probably hadn’t, and the wind section was tuning up, so we went back in.
Everyone was seated and ready, and Dr Rieppel was supposed to walk down the center aisle beside us, but he didn’t come. We waited a little in case he was planning to make a grand entrance, but at last Bacco got up, frowning, and went up with his violin under his arm to check the foyer. With Dr Rieppel, you never know what might have happened.
While he was out of sight, we noticed a stir at the front, and Dr Rieppel appeared up by the altar, behind the wind section. “So much for my grand entrance,” he said, “but that’s where the wine is!”
Bacco came back, rather annoyed, and Dr Rieppel introduced Mozart. “My first impression of Mozart, when I was a kid of about nine in Appleton — I grew up in Appleton, just an hour from here — was on the cover of a book of his music my piano teacher gave me, and it’s a very famous portrait of him; he’s in court dress, with a brocaded vest, and rouge on his cheeks, and on his lips, and powdered hair, and I though ‘Ugh! What a sissy — his music can’t be any good, who wants to play stuff by that guy!’ and that was it for a long time. Then when I was older, maybe nineteen or twenty, I heard some of his symphonies, and was like, eh, this guy is pretty good, and then I sort of dropped him until I heard his famous opera Don Giovanni. And in Act Three of it, Don Giovanni, who’s done everything wrong you can imagine, he’s lied, he’s killed, he’s cheated, he’s taken money that wasn’t his, and in the last act the Commendatore, the guy he killed in the first act, comes to him as a statue, and says,” and Dr Rieppel suddenly sang what I can only assume is the actual music, “Don Giovanni!” Now he’d given us the backstory in rehearsal on Monday, but he hadn’t sung anything (he had finished with “Thus endeth the sermon. Where were we?” and given a rehearsal letter to start from again). Tonight several people in the audience sat up straighter or murmured something or generally seemed impressed.
“The statue tells him ‘Tonight you’re going to die — but there is hope. Repent, and all your sins will be forgiven. Take my hand.’ He takes it and says ‘It’s too cold.’ The statue tells him three times to repent, but at the end of it Don Giovanni says ‘No. My sins are mine, I own them, and I will take them with me to the fires.’ And he’s dragged down to hell. (Children, this is not a good way to live, I don’t approve of it.) [At this juncture David, who’d been making faces throughout this speech, rolled his eyes dramatically.] And I am not made of that kind of stuff. If someone came to me and said ‘Rieppel, you’ve been a pretty crummy guy, but say you’re sorry and it’s straight off to Heaven you go’ I’d take it. I said — that prissy guy wasn’t as prissy as he looked, if he can write stuff like that — the passion of it, the raw emotion. It’s blood on the walls and fire and what it means to be human. Mozart is the closest thing we have in music to Shakespeare.” He came back to the present, collected himself, and stepped up onto his podium. “The Fortieth Symphony.”
This was a tense moment. For the last several weeks, and including the dress rehearsal two hours before, Dr Rieppel always had to tell them at the beginning “less, less, less,” because they start too loud. He couldn’t this time, of course, so if they were loud there’d be nothing to do about it. But they weren’t!
Between the first and second movements was a really long pause. Olivia and I, very far away from each other and unable to make eye contact even, both had the same thought, as we discovered later: If anyone claps I am going to kill you. But no one did. Joel looked up and smiled at Dr Rieppel, and Dr Rieppel turned the next page in his score, and they went on.
When they started playing the finale I thought, “I’ve never heard them do it this fast.” They seemed startled themselves at their speed, probably wondering “How long can we keep this up before we crash and die?” but the crash never came.
After the ending, and the standing ovation they got, of course, and people beginning to leave, I remembered something LauraLee told me during the intermission: we needed to get stands cleared out as soon as possible after the concert, because the man in whose pickup the stands were brought over wouldn’t want to hang around late waiting for us. Olivia was being a social butterfly, stopping to talk first to the church-folk contingent, and then our parents (where she was an unusually long time, considering that of all the people there, she was most likely to see them later), and finally making her way to the back. I asked her to spread the word about the stands, which I take it she did, as the young orchestra folk (plus Isaiah) started heading toward the front shortly after.
But before anyone could load the stands onto the rack, the music people were supposed to leave on them had to be cleared off, and that of course was my job. I tried to keep Dvorak and Boccherini separate, to make it easier to put them in their respective folders, but the next day when I put them in score order again I found “Konzert fur Violoncell” in with “Romanze” and vice versa. One of the pieces was a much darker paper than the others, and when I picked it up off its stand I saw it was the symphony. “How’s the cleaning up going?” Cole asked behind me just then. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Someone left Mozart!” I said, shaking the music indignantly.
“Yes. . . ?” he said.
“Oh, right, you weren’t there yesterday. Well, they were supposed to keep Mozart and leave the other music here. And somebody wasn’t listening.”
When the stands were all loaded, we found ourselves gathering in the middle where the podium had been. “My knee hurts so much,” Joel groaned, rubbing his left leg. “I whacked it on something when I got down to put Anni’s flowers under my chair, and now it’s swollen, and this knee is smooth, but this one I can feel a bony bump in the middle.”
Several people said at once, “That does not sound good. You should see a doctor about that.”
“No,” several people again said, “You really should. That sounds like it’s serious.” When he pulled up his pant leg and we saw the angry red spot with a darker red middle, we said, “That looks serious.”
“If it still hurts in the morning I’ll go in,” he said, and we had to be content with that. (Olivia texted him in the morning and he replied that it was only a little sore and rather bruised.)
“So I played all of Mozart with JP’s bow,” Olivia said. “They got switched up when I took his when we stood up, and I didn’t notice until we were playing again that my violin didn’t sound right, but I wasn’t sure why.”
“Ah!” said JP, turning to Joel. “See,” he told us, “I thought my bow didn’t feel right, and I told Joel, and he said, Oh, it’s nothing, you’re just nervous, of course it’s your bow. Stop worrying. But it was yours the whole time.” It happened when JP moved the podium after Boccherini, so in fact it wasn’t only the Mozart that they were switched for, it was the Dvorak.
David said to Joel, “Oh! I caught Sophia in a really big logical fallacy earlier!” and proceeded to tell him all about it with great glee, though Joel had no idea what the technical terms he was using meant.
JP stopped him in the aisle and said, “You can talk now, or come home and have cherry pie, and three hours of homework after.” David, of course, chose the food. Isaiah and Cameron had already left.
Cole and Olivia and I undertook to move the stand rack out into the parking lot, where we found that they were to be moved home the next morning, so we had to navigate them back inside again. Cole went home then, but even though the motley crew dispersed so quickly and did not stand about talking on the sidewalk after the church was locked up, something still did happen.
It seems to be an unwritten law of the universe that after a concert at First Lutheran, someone must get into a conversation about not being politically correct. Last year it was the atrocity committed against Christmas songs; Tuesday Olivia and I came into the foyer to hear Dr Rieppel saying, “And the school sent us a memo saying someone was offended but when asked how they didn’t know and when asked by whom they still couldn’t tell us. So I was like ‘Hey, that doesn’t help, if you’re going to send us a memo at all it might as well be helpful, this isn’t the kind of thing we can take seriously, and anyway this isn’t a place to coddle you, this is a place for education, and part of that is you will hear things that challenge your religious views, that challenge your own personal piety, otherwise it won’t make you think. If in all your four years here you never hear anything that offends you, we’re doing something wrong’.”
Olivia and I exchanged glances, asking, “And Joel says he’s a liberal?” The conversation moved on to censorship in music and Shostakovitch after that, while LauraLee and Olivia and I stood around, slowly wilting, and waited for a break in the conversation so we could finish things up. Eventually Dr Rieppel said, “These shoes are killing me, I’ve got to get out of them,” and bent down as if to take them off then and there. We watched eagerly to see his socks. But he straightened up again and went off on a tangent to the subject, and when at last he did walk away to change, we didn’t see them. We drove home, leaving the stands to be picked up in the morning, and taking the music with us, for me to return to FA the next day when I got to school.