The Missing Instrument

The Classical Four set up for their two-hour practice session in the Park and put out the sign that read “Practice Session”. They took their seats on the pillows that cushioned them from the hard seats of the folding chairs.

Gabby lifted her violin out of the case and rested it on her shoulder. George settled his flute against his lips. Grace checked her clarinet. Haley did a couple of strums on her guitar. They were ready for the park.

“It’s time to boogey,” Gabby said to her cohorts of the Classical Four.

Gabby ripped her bow across the strings. And they were off. It was Sunday. For ten years, the four went to the park and played all morning. Two hours of practice, then an hour long concert. Then they were off to lunch.

They only saw each other on Sundays. Rain or shine the Sunday, they played together. If it was too cold or raining, they went to a restaurant or a mall. And they didn’t take time off for illness either. If one was out sick, the other three went on without them. One winter they were down to one. Gabby played even though she had the flu.

And they didn’t talk news either. They wanted to keep the group pure from all distractions. Gabby was a liberal. George a conservative. Grace a libertarian. Haley an atheist. For each of them, it was the music that matter.

At the end of each session, they decided what to play the following Sunday. Each had their favorites. Gabby loved Mozart. George not so much. He leaned toward Beethoven. Grace was a Bach freak. Haley was into Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Shostakovich. Yet, they didn’t limit their playing to those composers. From time to time they took on Sibelius, Philip Glass and John Adams.

When they went to lunch, what did the four talk about? They talked music. Gabby would contribute an insight into Mozart. George could wow them over his love of Beethoven’s Ninth and what he learned the previous week. Grace kept quite about Bach. To talk about Bach was sacrilegious. It would take away her joy. Haley, all bubbly, shared her inspiration for composition. She was a composer.

Over the years, they had their regulars. Gabby met her husband in the park. George was hired for the symphony because he showed up and played.Gabby had her portrait painted there. Haley fell in love with the spirituality from the music she played in the park.

Music was their wind. And they were like trees who bent to that wind.

Then one week, at the lunch, a new subject was broached. Haley broached it. “I’ve been engaged to compose a sonata.”

“That is wonderful,” George said, squeezing his friend’s arm.

“Well, it is. And it isn’t,” Haley said.

Grace asked, “What do you mean?”

“I have to go to L.A. I will be gone possibly for months. You see, it’s for a film.”

“Can’t you do it here?” There was a sadness in Gabby’s voice. She spoke for the others.

“I have to spend time with the actors and the director. To get to know them and their movements and their voices and their language. I want to do it but I don’t want to leave you guys.”

“Can’t you fly back and forth?” George asked.

“I don’t know. I will be on call seven days a week. That’s what the director wants. Me and the screenwriter to work together.”

George was encouraging. “It’s a wonderful opportunity. I say you should do it.”

The others agreed. They would miss her.

The next three Sundays Gabby, George and Grace were in the park. Instead of the joy they brought to their music, there was a sadness. And each week the sadness grew. The first Sunday they played Arvo Pärt’s “Spiegel im Spiegel”. The second week it was the music for the Saint-Saens aria, “My heart opens itself to your voice”. The third week it was Bach’s “Come Sweet Death”. George had taken the pieces and arranged them for the three instruments.

On the fourth Sunday, Haley was there. They skipped practice and went into their concert. They started out with Vivaldi’s “Spring”, then went on to Handel’s “Water Music” and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis”. Finally they finished with Smetana’s “Moldau”. When they were through, there were over a hundred people in their audience there on the lawn of the Park. None of that audience had a dry eye.

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