In a quest to find inspiration by getting out of my practice room, I have made it my mission to play the flute at my local riverwalk park at least once a week. These are the stories from my informal, afternoon concerts.
The park where I have decided to stage my weekly sojourns out of the music building is actually an historic canal and waterworks facility. This week, I ended up setting up to play in an area near the old hydroelectric structures. There is a graduated set of stairs wrapping around the outside of the historic buildings which creates a sort of amphitheater with benches and even a small raised “stage” area.
The sun was sinking toward the river, the breeze was blowing gently, and the birds were singing. It was a picturesque concert setting. I actually like playing in places like this much better than in stuffy recital halls; it is much easier to be inspired outdoors. In recital halls, I usually end up staring at the trashcan in the back of the room to avoid eye contact. Here, I could look at the leaves or the butterflies flitting about, seemingly undisturbed by my music making. I even chanced a glance at the people riding bikes, running, and walking past me and I even met their gaze sometimes. Sometimes, I even saw someone smile.
By about my second movement of music, I acquired an audience member. He was middle-aged and wearing round sunglasses which completely blocked his eyes from view. He had on a straw hat and worn boots and carried a canvas satchel. Midway through my “performance” he began to sip a questionable red liquid from a clear teacup. I was understandably sketched out by this man but he seemed attentive and there were plenty of other people passing by for safety so I carried on with my playing.
The man later introduced himself as “Blue Sky”. That was his name. He said “I am Blue Sky, like…” and pointed up, “And you are?” I said only that my name is Philip but immediately regretted giving away even that small amount of information. I have decided that in the future, I shall go by the name I give to people while I’m backpacking: Peter.
But despite his – let’s say eccentric – nature, he seemed relatively knowledgeable about music. I was playing a solo flute piece by Bozza and he guessed that it was Debussy which is not so far off. He additionally complimented me when I played a very modern piece (Shirish Korde’s Tenderness of Cranes), saying that he enjoyed contemporary music. He was actually full of compliments (he called me a “Master” several times) which was very flattering. If nothing else, my ego was certainly inflated by the time I left that day.
He ended our conversation by saying that I should stage an actual concert in that space (an idea I am very seriously considering) and saying that at one point he gave lectures there.
“Oh, are you a professor?”, I asked.
“No,no”, he said, “I am an artist.”
“Ah” was my only reply. I should have known.
Despite my skepticism, I sincerely hope I meet more people like Blue Sky in this river playing experiment. I went to the park to play music in a search for inspiration and performance experience but I ended up meeting an interesting person (to say the least) who boosted my self-esteem. I am thinking this will not be the end of the surprising experiences I have playing in public and I say bring them on!