I was away from home this weekend. I was invited to sing a paid gig in Great Barrington, MA, and it was too delicious to turn down -- Bach, Purcell, and only three rehearsals plus the dress rehearsal. There were only twelve of us singing -- three on each part -- plus a string quartet. Mostly very talented pros who wouldn't have taken the gig without a paycheck, so it was really fun to sing with such a great group -- e.g., no one had to threaten the basses with bodily harm for not learning the music. The music, J.S.'s Wachet Auf (Cantata 140) and the last movement of Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben ("Jesu Joy of Man's desiring"), meant that there was nothing arcane -- we'd all sung them before, so the learning curve wasn't steep.
The venue was beautiful. St. James Place used to be an Episcopal church, built in 1857. In 2008, the rear wall collapsed and the building was condemned, but the parishioners decided not to pursue rehabilitation. In 2010, Fred and Sally Harris, a local couple who were members of the congregation, set up a nonprofit to redevelop the site. Sally Harris calls it a "secular conversion." They decided it would make a great performance space. They wanted to retain as much as possible and improve the rest. A new stage was installed, but the original flooring and pews were kept but resurfaced, with the pews extended 2.5 inches to make them more comfortable. Seating was raised, with sight lines changed so even the last row could see the stage. The center aisle leading to the stage was taken out, refurbished, and replaced. It would take a blog longer than this to describe all the other renovations and improvements. All the beautiful stained glass windows were retained. The acoustics are magnificent. It only opened the beginning of 2017, so it's shiny new and gorgeous.
So, here I was, lucky to be singing this lovely music with a bunch of great musicians in a wonderful space, and what did I keep thinking about? Hint -- not the music. I kept missing my dog. I knew he was being well taken care of. Because Moki has "special needs" now, when I am going to be away, I bring him to his original dog-sitter, Lauren, who lives in West Nyack, Rockland County, about an hour north of the city. It's out of the way, but she was a vet tech, and she knows how to give him his meds, and he loves her (although the brat pretends not to when I drop him off), and when he's at her place (her house, not a kennel), he gets to play with her kids and her dog and whatever other dogs are boarding there, and to run around outside on her half-acre property. I missed him and thought about him anyway, the entire time, even though I always complain about what a handful he is.
Great Barrington holds a thousand memories for me. When I lived in Boston, we'd go there at least once or twice a year, strolling around the little downtown, eating the best Japanese food in Massachusetts at Bizen, enjoying the ambiance. But this time, the experience just wasn't great. I came to the conclusion that I am now, officially, a conceited, urban night creature. After the concert, at about 10:45, a few of us decided we really needed a cup of coffee. I know, I'm weird, it is what it is. Most of the town was closed up tighter than a drum. We found one little dive that had some nice live music, but when I asked the bouncer whether it was possible to get a cup of coffee in there, he stared at my purple hair, raised an eyebrow, looked me up and down, and then said, "Sorry, hon, we stop making coffee at 6:30. Anyway the kitchen closed at 9:30, so now we're just serving drinks." He was actually very nice, but I'm positive he thought the aliens had landed. He wished us well. "You girls have fun, now," he said, waving as we walked away. I think he was relieved.
This morning, when I drove off to come home via Lauren's house, I noticed there were still a few really nice things about the "deep country." The smell of new-mown grass has always grabbed me. I'm a smell freak, and I love that smell. Gas was about ten cents a gallon cheaper there. The mountains are pretty. Alas, I can't think of anything else. Not only was I missing my dog, but I was really missing the crazy, noisy, urban sprawl of NYC and its different people -- nationalities, colors, accents. Our concert wasn't sold out, but it was almost sold out, and looking out into the sea of people, what was most apparent was a sea of homogenous white faces. The soprano soloist, from New York, was an African American woman, but I'm pretty sure she was the only one in that entire place, except for her mom and a couple of folks in the chorus. The town was deadly quiet at 10:30. It was very dark, few lights. We finally found a place open, but the coffee had been sitting in the pot so long you could cut it with a knife, and "at that hour," they didn't want to make a new pot, so I didn't partake. I lived.
So I missed my dog, a lot, and I missed my city almost as much! Driving home this morning, until I got to the New York area, I could count the number of cars sharing the road with me on the fingers of one hand. I picked up Moki, who was fine, and we were both happy to see each other. I just wish I were better at compartmentalizing. I know this sounds sexist, but I do think most men are better at that than most women. I read an article from the LifeWay Press from Nashville, TN called, "Men are Like Waffles, Women are Like Spaghetti." I was feeling a little spaghetti-like the past couple of days. Sometimes I wish I could be more like a waffle!