There is a certain order in the chaos of an orchestra tuning. With only a few strokes of his bow the Concert Master aligns the entirety of the orchestra. The orchestra members follow suit, harking to his call, falling into line. It fills me with pride each and every time I hear it. I know it’s slightly unprofessional, but I love to listen to recordings where they include the tune.
Some orchestras now do it off stage in the name of professionalism. I’ll admit, it does look pretty smart when an entire orchestra filters onto stage together, sits down, and starts playing almost immediately. I was impressed the first time I saw it. It was the London Phil on one of their tours.
But my heart still beats to the stilted tempo of the tune, and by the time the Concert Master gives me the nod I am totally prepared for the task ahead of me. I glance sidelong at the stage manager to confirm that all is well before I step out from the darkness and into the downpour of lights flooding the stage.
Tentative but enthusiastic applause echoes around the concert hall, reverberating off the timber panels of the walls. Every aspect of this room was created for the transmission of sound. Even the chairs were designed so that an empty seat would have the same properties as a full one. That kind of attention to detail is usually only found in the most expensive of churches. And now everyone in this room is focused on me.
Musicians and audience members alike gape up at me, not yet convinced of my skill. But the weeks of rehearsals have flown by and left me in good spirits. I know that I can pull this off. I raise my baton with as much flair as I can muster and musicians raise their instruments to answer my call. I take one last deep breath and let the baton fall.
The entire concert was like listening to a CD. I felt as if I were floating through the music, only occasionally glancing down upon the score. Before I could even blink consciously it was over, and I was buoyed up by a thunderous applause.
This time the audience knew what to think, and there was no hesitation, nor polite courtesy in their accolades. They wanted me to feel good, and that I did. I thanked the Concert Master, passed my gaze across the orchestra, and dismounted my podium a hero. I was ten feet tall and bulletproof.
The thumping of the audience did not stop even after returning to stage twice.
“They sound like they can keep going all night. Do you want to go out again?” the stage manager, nearly ten years my senior, had probably seen this many times before.
“I don’t think so, unless you think I should.”
“There’s probably no harm in doing so, but three curtain calls on your first time out is a little boastful. You may as well get back to your girl. She’s waiting, you know.”
That’s right, my girl. She must have left the auditorium after the first bow. I hope she didn’t have any problems with security.
I make my way to the dressing room, and there she sits. Her campaign dress shimmers in the low lighting. It clings precariously to her bust, hugs her hips and then flows down to the floor. In each hand she holds a glass of red wine; one of which considerably fuller than the lipstick-stained other.
“You took your time.”
“I know; they wouldn’t let me go. What did you think?”
“I told you so.”
“You don’t remember? I told you this would happen eventually.”
“I don’t get what you’re…”
Light floods into my eyes and splits my head in two. Never before have I experienced such a headache. Even the worst hangover pales in comparison to the searing pain that I feel in my head.
Groggy, I try to stand, but I go weak at the knees and fall again.
“Are- are you alright?” I hear a familiar, yet distant voice cooing. As my vision starts to readjust to the change in the lighting I can see a figure approaching me. The gloom of dusk is only partially peeled back by the street lamp I must have collided with.
I reach around to the back of my head and find a warm wetness. I inspect my bloodied fingers with curiosity; it takes me a few seconds to realise that the blood is mine. However, the pain seems to subside, and I can feel my legs again. I must have been knocked silly by the fall.
My mind tries to meld the two realities together, and I start to discard the dream from the waking world.
“I think I’m fine. I just need to walk it off a little…” I say as I raise myself up. Elissa has reached me by now and helps me up. As I come face to face with her, a splinter of my dream returns to me.
“You know, I just had this crazy dream. You were in it…”