The blue and purple glow of the Chan Centre’s stage evoked more emotions than I had originally expected. Scanning the online program via a projected QR code, I realized that this is the first live concert I have been to since February 2020. This being the first Wednesday Noon Hours event of the year, featuring the Ad Mare Wind Quintet, a premier chamber music group containing flautist Chris James, oboist Marea Chernoff, clarinetist Anne-Katherine Coope, French horn player Valerie Whitney and bassoonist Sophie Dansereau, with a special appearance by Julia Nolan on saxophone.
I began to notice the little details as the musicians walked on and began tuning. I could feel the little moments of shuffling anticipation bubbling in the air. The first piece felt like a dream, though I was intensely reminded of how much I missed live music. The music manifested itself in the musician’s bodies; their physicality captured the whole room. Multiple musicians had a few quick switches between instruments (such as the flute and piccolo, clarinet and bass clarinet) and I had to stifle my laughter at their nimble movements.
I almost clapped after the end of the first movement (big faux pas, I know) but by following the cues of long-time concert goers and other music students, I withheld.
The next piece was based on Rosie the Riveter, a second-wave feminist symbol. A hesitant start to the piece seemed to connote the uncertainty of the war, and the rapid changes in gender roles. The pace picked up during the second movement, likely alluding to the notion of “if you can move a mixer, you can move a drill.” The final bit went ham – and you can interpret that how you will – with lots of quirky notes, funky bassoon bass-lines, massive clarinet smears (somehow the beautifully dainty instruments were making rustling and bubbling sounds) and a cowbell appearance to tie it all together!
The next piece had some beautifully-ornate French name about a king and his fireplace, and it took us through a whole journey in seven movements. We started off with the king’s grandiose processions, full and bright, only to switch into the scene of a staccato, agile court juggler. There was then a chase of games (the animal type) with the blasts of horns; medieval jousting games (the human type) flitted to the surface of the mind. Finally, a lulling song as gentle as a caress puts all to bed. Evidently, it worked literally: I’m unsure what actually happened, but when I came to, the audience was clapping, and the warm timbre of Julia Nolan’s voice was introducing the next saxophone feature.
The final piece was by Milhaud, and it was so much fun. Through the music, I saw myself in a fun fair of the 80’s and then dancing in alpine meadows like in The Sound of Music. The piano-like warmth absolved me from all the little stresses of life.
Perhaps that’s what I missed the most about live music. For a short hour, it took me away. I left behind my to-do list and anxiety-inducing social dynamics and family concerns and utilized the music as both an escape and a reminder to stay in the present. Some philosophers argue that live music’s transient quality truly makes it transcend time and place. I know, it sounds kind of like something you would make up for your literature analysis essay. However, I cannot deny the ease I felt leaving the Chan Centre. Coupled with lunch under the beautiful sun in the Rose Garden, I am simply grateful to the moments of peace this performance brought me.
In search of some solace within the bureaucratic university system, pressure to succeed and the amalgamation of anxiety of your own unique selection? Check out the next Wednesday Noon Hours performance at the Chan Centre.