Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A meeting with a medium

This is turning into Cello Week for my book. It is so exciting! I got an email from the son of the great cellist Joseph Schuster. Leonard Pennario made a beautiful Rachmaninoff album for Capitol Records with Joseph Schuster, and Schuster's son says he has very happy memories of Pennario, on stage and off.

Joseph Schuster was for years the principal cellist for the New York Philharmonic, so you know he had chops. Only the greatest musicians recorded with Leonard Pennario.

Back to Cello Week. The other night I was honored to speak with Lynn Harrell, one of the world's great cellists. Remember, he was the one I was hoping was calling me about a month ago, but then I picked up the phone and it was that schuft from HSBC instead. I invite you to revisit that situation with me. It still makes me mad. Since then I have taken the money out of that account and put it somewhere else instead. I am not kidding.

Harrell's answering machine has his name Hahr-RELL. But Pennario always said it in flat Buffalo style, HAIR-ell. When I talked to him the night before last, I alternated between one pronunciation and the other, and also called him Lynn a few times because that was how he had kindly signed his email, and also it was 10 p.m. and at that hour formalities tend to fall by the wayside.

Wow! Here is a video I found of Lynn Harrell talking and playing in what appears to be his 1970s-era rec room. As you can see, he is a brilliant man and beautifully spoken. But unlike in that video, when I talked with him he had his hands full with a 2-year-old. "Hannah, no," he kept saying. "Hannah, I'm on the phone." I loved that.

Lynn Harrell performed with Pennario on a number of memorable occasions. They met for the first time in Aspen at the home of Robert Wagner and Jill St. John. Do I choose the right musicians to write about or what? I ask you.

Imagine if I were writing about Gary Graffman. I would not be having this much fun.

Thinking about my book's progress brings me to today's tale of the supernatural. This involves my trip to Lily Dale about three years ago.

I would never go to Lily Dale now. Well, maybe just to look around. It is so weird there! Kind of musty, shabby, extremely odd. There is only one store there, to my memory, and that store sells crystals and candles and that is about it. They might sell pop too. I can't quite recall.

We will return to the subject of Lily Dale several times during the course of this month, because every day we are discussing different spooky stories and Lily Dale figures in a number of them. But what I am recalling now is this time I went there three years ago with my reporter friends Michelle and Jane, from work. We were doing a Halloween story. The plan was that each of us would visit two mediums (media?) and report on how they did.

This was a bad plan, for a variety of reasons that will emerge during the course of this month. There is a reason the Catholic Church tells you to stay away from this kind of thing. I can see that now.

But at the time we just blithely went ahead, la la la la la. And one of the mediums I visited said something about "L.P." I am 90 percent sure of that, anyway. She said that I was going to undertake a project with a very elegant person and it was going to be extremely successful. And she gave me those initials, I am pretty sure. Maybe not in direct connection with that project she mentioned, but she did mention those initials during the course of our meeting, I am pretty sure. Listen to me. I cannot believe I am referring to "our meeting." I sound like someone out of Washington Irving, meeting with a medium.

Periodically I think back and I wonder if she really did say "L.P." There is a long complicated series of reasons why I think I remember those initials were the ones she uttered. The funny thing is, I could make sure. I have a tape of our, uh, meeting kicking around somewhere. I think I know where it is.

But I won't let myself listen to it. I would rather just go my merry way without assistance from the dark side. The book will succeed no matter what. I do not have to worry about that.

Tomorrow I will tell why the stricture was handed down in our family that we should never go to mediums.

It is a true story!


Howard Goldman said...

It's a rare medium that gets the job well done.

Sarah Bear said...

When you find a medium that tells the truth another layer of life begins to unfold. The exciting part is the adventure you have when you recall so and so told me. . . .

Anonymous said...

Irony re Joseph Schuster: Schuster is a very bad German word to apply to a musician. It means cobbler, but culturally it's a gross insult towards the player's abilities. But you may know this. Shades of Schuft.

Anonymous said...

I realize the main point is the medium, but did you know that I have my Daddy's cello from when he played in the Chicago symphany in the late 1920 -1930s?
I do so love reading your writing.