Journal entries by composer and pianist Laurie Conrad
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Tuesday, May 27
Another rehearsal of Images tonight. The violist was sick; we rehearsed without her. I had made some final changes to the score; to save time, wrote the changes in the individual parts while they rehearsed Elegie. With one player missing I had the opportunity to hear the others more clearly, & they could hear themselves more clearly; made new suggestions about phrasing and articulation & they made their own adjustments. They are fine players, both technically and musically. M. said it was like entering a heaven realm when she came home tonight, my music in the living room.
E-mailed Al about recording Images the week following the concert.
Elegie was originally an Image - and the Image version for flute, harp, viola and violin is the best instrumentation, in my opinion. Brownies Dancing in the Setting Sun and Dance should both be performed with two harps - but Myra insists she could not find a capable harpist for the second harp for either the concert or recording. So she is performing them alone, to the detriment of the music. And to her arms and fingers. Feathers, Elegie and Interlude are positively exquisite. We plan to begin with The Fairy Banquet - I still haven’t settled on a definite order to the pieces. The violinst, Bill Hurley, is playing the percussion harp effects in Dance because Myra only has two hands ... Had to make some changes in the viola double stops because Suzanne has small hands. Bill’s solo cadenza in Brownies Dancing in the Setting Sun is coming along nicely; Suzanne’s viola cadenzas and double stops are taking a bit longer, but she is getting there. My intention, especially in Dance, was to give the violist some challenges - virtuoso and musical opportunities viola players do not often have. Tonight, with the viola missing, we all heard how important the viola part is, in all the pieces ... And so hopefully I achieved my aim.
Although the harp is the glue that holds the cycle together; the cycle of Images was written for Myra Kovary - i.e. for the harp. And, as in Visions, I have tried to expand both the harp literature and the harp technique in this cycle.
We have four rehearsals next week and then the concert. Then the recording. And if I can keep my health together - then we will record the string Quintet; which means I need to find an additional violinist. And perhaps the Piano Quintet, which I have never heard.
Robert Spear asked if he could come and record the concert, & the players have agreed.
Friday, June 20
This is the first day I have been able to sit at the computer since Thursday, May 29, the night Dave the physicist arrived from Detroit. M. was away for the week, at a conference in California. JB & Dave arrived around 8 p.m. and they immediately took me to the hospital; I had emergency abdominal surgery soon after dawn; had complications and another, more serious surgery a week later. Came home this past Wednesday & am doing my best to recover from both surgeries. The recording of Images has been put off until this coming Thursday. I spend most of my time in bed, & half unconscious from the painkillers I must take every few hours. The gardens are beautiful, heavenly really - but also running away from neglect. I can do nothing, & it will still take many weeks for me to recover ...
After weeks spent in a small, colorless hospital room and corridors - the woods and flowers and gardens are almost startling in their intensity & depth & range of shades & hues .... Not just their vibrancy, but also the extent of focus, the sharpness of focus - a degree of focus that adds yet another dimension ...
I am too tired to go on today, will try to return tomorrow.
Sunday, June 22
Trying to get off the narcotic painkillers; as a result am dizzy and feeling quite strange. Walked briefly in the gardens tonight, with M. M. did a bit of weeding, the gardens are fairly overrun. R.N. came by this afternoon and also weeded. Marguerita will stop by tomorrow night & help me plant a few lily bulbs; she will plant them, I will show her where. There are still climbing roses to be planted - here & at Windgarth - for now stuck in a bucket of water in the back garden. Difficult to be flat on one’s back with all one’s innocent & helpless plants (& consequent responsibilities) strewn about the house & gardens ... JF comes by almost each day, to help & keep me company. Serge & Pam water the gardens & indoor plants.
M. will be in Germany for nine days, starting this Friday.
Today a checkup at the hospital, at 12:30.
Migdahlia stopped by - she will water all the gardens except the back gardens, for the rest of the summer. Hopefully Pam & Serge can continue in the back gardens until I am back on my feet.
Wrote Larry & asked if he could pick me up a slice of homemade strawberry/rhubarb pie at the diner at Happy Landing.
I have many thank you notes to write, for the flowers and cards people sent, their frequent & lengthy hospital visits; many friends stayed for hours, some stayed with me overnight. But instead of writing, I keep falling asleep instead ... Until I get off all these pain medications I think it will continue to be difficult to stay awake. Friends come to care for me each day; JF has drawn up a schedule, so I have company & help as I need it. I am very fortunate. As always, I have learned much through all this - & my compassion has deepened, for all those suffering & in pain. When I am more healed perhaps I will be able to verbalize what I have learned. Meanwhile: I am lost in Gratitude. Many of my old thoughts & opinions have changed or been left behind; & the exercise “I am a being of Radiant Light” has seen me through a very rough, difficult period ...
But now I am thinking of JB running her fingers through my hair - & Dave the physicist falling asleep in his chair, next to my hospital bed, a bit before dawn, as I waited in the ER for the first surgery ...
Tuesday, June 24
A message from Larry: the diner at Happy Landing no longer exists. Half the town is undoubtedly wondering about their future meals. The diner fed just about everyone in the area, especially the old, those that lived alone ... the sick ...
In any case: no slice of homemade strawberry/rhubarb pie from Happy Landing.
Last night Margherita came by & planted some lily bulbs; a huge thunderstorm began just as we finished up outside. JF called later to say they lost their lights for some hours. I overdid a bit & had to rest until this morning. Louise’s sister Jude e-mailed that she & Bob are coming to stay with me while M. is in Germany. Only a few days uncovered at each end (M. leaves Friday morning & returns the 6th of July) - which should be easy to arrange.
We are recording Images Thursday night; I hope that I can comfortably sit up by then. Need to find two more page turners, not a complicated problem, but essential to the recording.
Wednesday, June 25
Still can only spend a few minutes each day sitting up - the rest of the time I am more or less flat on my back. Still have almost around the clock care, friends/aides. Last night M. & I went into the gardens for some minutes, as we have each night; they are so lush, the colours so vibrant at dusk. All the roses are in bloom, just magnificent. M. did a bit of weeding. Met Christina, neighbors; painful to walk, & very tiring - even to the corner & back. Still, now that I am eating I gather some strength each day. It is so difficult to lie about & do nothing hour after hour, day after day. I dream of so many things now, simple things: an ice cream cone, an hour in the gardens.
Yesterday new people came to stay with me during the day; today Peg McKee bought a painting, the field of gaillardia. Debra Martins read me letters of Virginia Woolf, as my friends did each day in the hospital; Katherine Mansfield was mentioned in one letter today, her story Bliss; Debra said it was her favorite short story & that she would bring it next time. In my stay at the hospital & since, people have read aloud almost the entire Volume II of VW’s Letters. I am the only person who has heard them all, & often I was drifting in & out of consciousness - so my numerous friends have only their own small corner of the letters. And yet all enjoyed reading them, found them interesting, even fascinating. Mostly the ordinary details of life; although VW of course also knew many of the leading writers & artists of the day.
Thursday, June 26
Rain today, cooler, darker. Restful. A friend is coming soon, to take care of me for some hours; a cellist - one of the players for the String Quintet. Al came by yesterday & set up his equipment for the recording of Images tonight. Well, it is all strewn about downstairs, in the kitchen & livingroom; cables, microphones, all sorts of machines piled up on each other, waiting. I hope I am well enough to go downstairs. I would have preferred more time to heal before the recording, but the musicians will be out of town, each soon in their own distant & foreign orb.
I will do my best.
Am off most of the pain medication, at least the narcotics. Last night another short walk in the gardens; M. weeded a bit & JF joined us. A couple walked by us & I heard the fellow say the gardens were just inspired & beautiful; his friend agreed. Which, of course, made me very happy. Not easy to have others work in the gardens while I stand helplessly by. I need to find someone to clip the topiary. Maybe when Jude & Bob arrive they can help. Things still need to be planted, both here & at Windgarth - bulbs & plants. Weeding. Watering. The usual. I will not be able to do very much in the gardens, if anything, until mid-August or September.
I think recording the String Quintet will be the next musical project. Since I cannot play piano again until the fall, all else must wait.
My world gets smaller & smaller physically; all this physical restriction and inactivity is so difficult. And yet the inner life deepens & continues to expand infinitely. I am grateful to have at least a few minutes at the computer each day, to put down a few thoughts.
Lenny came by & brought me chicken for an early dinner. He said there was a beautiful mist hanging over the town around 11 a.m. today.
Meanwhile, I wonder if the strands of my life will continue as before, be reconnected - or take a different direction. Is this period of inactivity a crossroads, a chance to redefine - or merely an opportunity to deepen & expand the existing strands. Lying in bed hour after hour & day after day, I stand before God as a being of radiant Light & ask the Divine to fill & surround me - & answer my questions, Guide my Life. Knowing that the answers will come, will be made clear over time. The key, I think, is not to hold personal wishes or opinions; but to empty the mind and being of the personal, so that the Divine can reveal Itself in us.
Soon the musicians will come to record, & I face a painful & difficult journey down the stairs. Nothing is simple at this point, all is painful & complicated ...