Danny Wiseborough is Vanessa Torre’s boyfriend and a gifted violinist. Although his technique and talent are a quantum leap beyond those of everyone else, he tends to suffer from very serious stagefright. Unfortunately, Danny has not been able to overcome his performance anxiety by any conventional therapy. However, the “treatment” that has twice helped him to face it, has not been entirely to his liking.
Vanessa Torre sat back on the right end of the sofa, her favorite end, next to the telephone. She had a job to do for the Student Activities Planning Committee and opened up her agenda to the page for planning the Hallowe’en party.
She needed to get the musicians together for it, but to create her remarkable program would not be easy. First of all, arranging to have live music is always harder than hiring a disk jockey. There would be more people involved as well as logistics. Not only would she have a rock band on stage, but a chamber ensemble as well, most likely her own string quartet and a piano. That meant getting her classical players to rehearse with the rock musicians so they could learn to merge styles. Everyone would have only a few weeks to get it all together.
The greatest difficulty that Vanessa had to face, though, would be recruiting the soloist. She knew only one violinist who could pull it off.
Vanessa also knew that recruiting Danielle for the Hallowe’en party would not be easy.
It was time for Vanessa to call her boyfriend, Danny. So, she picked up the handset of her telephone and called up the SEARCH function. She pressed “947” on the keypad and “Wiseborough D” appeared in the display. Taking a deep breath and letting it out in a long sigh, she keyed the green button with the “call” icon. She heard the musical touch-tone sequence in the receiver and the ring signal on the other end.
“Hello! Wiseborough residence,” a quiet voice answered. “Danny speaking.”
“Good evening, my love!” Vanessa greeted him.
“How are you, ’Nessa?” he replied.
“I’m okay, Danny. And you?” she answered.
“Fine, sweetheart,” Danny answered. “I was just practicing.”
“No surprise there!” she conceded. “And that brings me to why I’m calling.”
“Mm-hmm! I’m responsible for putting music together for the Hallowe’en party. And I’d like for you to be our soloist.”
“Do you have something in mind?”
“Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre. I can arrange it for piano, string quartet, and—get ready for this—rock band! You’ve been looking for a venue to try out your new electric violin. This just might work out for that.”
Vanessa knew that Danny would love the chance to perform in a venue of greater popularity. He acquired his electric violin with a rock-and-roll collaboration in mind. This would be an opportunity to perform more for the fun of it than to compete for critical acclaim.
“Do you have a band yet?” Danny asked his sweetheart.
“No, not yet,” Vanessa replied. “We’re still looking for one. Erica knows a few and promised to help me out. I should ask if you’ve worked with any yet or know any that you’d like to hook up with?”
“Not really,” he answered, “but I’m open to working with anyone who knows what they’re doing. Who else is playing?”
“Erica has agreed to be our pianist and my own string quartet will back you up along with the rock band. I’d also like to get a few winds, but right now, that’s iffy at best.”
“Yeah,” Danny confirmed. “It’s on the thirty-first of October, right?”
“From six o’clock until midnight.”
“I don’t have a score. How soon can you get it to me?”
“So you’ll do it, then?” she asked him, looking for a commitment.
“Since I don’t know the piece,” he admitted, “I do need to look at it first. When can I see it?”
“I can bring a hard copy for you tomorrow,” Vanessa assured him. “And I can send you a PDF by email. It shouldn’t be as difficult as the Vaughan Williams you played for the Spring River Music Festival. Well, there are more double stops, but they’re easier ones.”
“Send it by email and I’ll look at it tonight,” he told her. “If I can look at it tonight, I’ll have an answer for you tomorrow.”
“All right then,” she affirmed. “I’ll email it right now and you can look at it tonight.”
“Okay, Vanessa,” Danny acknowledged. “I’ll look at it as soon as it comes.”
“There!” Vanessa announced. “I just sent it.”
“Thanks, sweetheart,” Danny responded. “I’ll go look at it now.”
“Love you, Danny!” Vanessa said to him.
“I love you, too!” Danny responded as he hung up the phone.
Vanessa was somewhat frustrated. She had hoped to talk her boyfriend into a commitment more easily. But after what had happened with his performance for the Spring River Music Festival, Danny would be much more reticent before he accepted any bookings.
Moreover, she felt guilt, too. Although Danny had built up more confidence over the summer, Vanessa did not quite believe that he’d be up to the Saint-Saëns’ opus. If he could just get over his self-doubt, he had the talent and the technique. His performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ A Lark Ascending at the Spring River Music Festival had won critical acclaim. Unfortunately, not too many knew that Danny had, in fact, played that performance.
Guilty and sad about what she had just done, a very fatigued Vanessa fell back onto her bed. A tear for Danny formed in the inside corner of her left eye. A flood of tears followed.
Danny continued to study the score. He had received the PDF of the score from Vanessa, downloaded it, and printed it out. He had played several passages of the work. Most of it was easy enough for him. But there were a few passages that he just couldn’t get a handle on. He would have but a few weeks to learn this and get it up to speed.
Danny thought for a moment about what it would take for this. As much as he appreciated Vanessa asking, he doubted that he would have it ready in time. Eventually he could play it, but not by Hallowe’en. He hated to disappoint her, but if he told her now, she could still find another soloist for the party.
Maybe, though, he should discuss this with Dr. Beecham before making a decision. Mrs. Jacques would certainly help him learn the piece. And he so did not want to turn down Vanessa for anything. Already they had both risked so much for each other. Danny couldn’t imagine turning down her request. But how could he learn such a work in so brief a time?
Tomorrow would be another day. Danny felt sleepy, so he began undressing and getting ready for bed. He donned the special set of navy blue silk pyjamas that Vanessa had given him as a gift to celebrate winning the Spring River Music Festival.
Before turning in he turned to the back of The Book of Common Prayer, where he kept a photograph of Vanessa and him together, and offered prayers for her and himself and their families.
Erica heard her younger sister sobbing in her room. She knocked on the door.
“Go away!” came Vanessa’s voice.
Erica clutched the doorknob and turned it. She pushed the door open and spied her sister lying in a fetal position, her beautiful long, black hair tousled behind her, mascara running and her red lips quivering.
“I said, ’Go away!’“ she reiterated.
Erica advanced and pulled the stool from Vanessa’s vanity over to the bed and sat down. When she really wanted privacy, Vanessa would always lock her door.
“Hey, Li’l Sis! What’s wrong?” Erica asked, her voice so tranquil.
Vanessa wanted to continue crying, but her elder sister’s soft voice always had such a powerfully calming and comforting effect on her. She ceased her tears and rolled over into a sitting posture on her bed with a brief sniffle. She held up her left hand, palm outward toward Erica, indicating that her sister should wait for her to collect her thoughts. Erica held out her hands, palms upward, and Vanessa placed her hands in them.
“Sis,” Vanessa began,”I’m such a bitch! I set Danny up. I deceived him. I took advantage of him. I’m an awful girlfriend.”
“Now there, ’Nessa!” Erica said, still in her quiet voice, gently squeezing her sister’s hands between her own. “Tell me, then, what did you do that’s so bad?”
Vanessa pushed herself off the bed and walked over to her desk and picked up a folio of music and handed it to her sister.
“I asked Danny to do the solo for Hallowe’en,” confessed Vanessa. “But I also know he’s not ready for it.”
Erica saw that it was the solo violin’s part for Danse Macabre.
“Are you sure he can’t handle it?” Erica asked her to clarify. “After his performance at the music festival I would think he could play almost anything.”
“But that wasn’t Danny’s performance. Not really,” Vanessa objected. “That was Danielle playing. It was her! Not him! You know how we pulled it off. He’ll be too worried to play it himself. Danielle will have to step in and take over. I’ve set Danny up to fail.”
“’Nessa, give the guy some credit,” Erica said, not fully in agreement with her sister. “He’s a fine violinist and you know it, too. I don’t think you’re giving him a fair chance. You offered him the part but now you don’t have any confidence in him?”
“I was hoping,” the younger sister answered, “but I knew better.”
“Tell me now, Li’l Sis,” prefaced Erica. “On the level, who are you in love with? Danny or Danielle?”
Vanessa sat down again on her bed and just stared at the carpet. Fluffy pastel blue shag.
“In truth,” she began to answer, “I don’t know. Honestly, Sis. I don’t really know. I love Danny. I do! But he’s so afraid. Then Danielle seems to do what’s just beyond Danny’s reach. I wish he could see that it’s all inside himself. But when he can’t handle something, he has to get Danielle to do it.
“Yes,” Erica acknowledged her sister’s assessment. “But did you consider that if you decide to stand with him and not call on Danielle so quickly, he might be able to rise to the occasion? He is a guy, and a good one, but he still seeks your approval. You need to let him be a guy—even though he was so absolutely stunning in that midnight blue evening gown!”
They both giggled. Erica saw her little sister smile for the first time since she entered the room.
“Please, ’Nessa,” Erica began pleading, “tell me you’re not dressing him up again?”
“Well, it is Hallowe’en!” Vanessa reminded her sister. “Besides, he’s just so cute as a girl!”
“That’s just what I’m talking about, Li’l Sis,” she warned Vanessa. “Get real! He needs for you to support his being a guy for a while.”
“Yeah,” conceded Vanessa. “I guess you’re right. And I was so looking forward to getting him into a cute costume.”
“No, ’Nessa,” Erica cautioned her. “He needs you to keep him manly. Just leave the girly business to me this time; I’m thinking of him maybe as a naughty Gothic princess!”
A wicked grin formed on Erica’s lips and its contagion spread quickly to Vanessa’s face as they shared giggles.
Sly grins they were.
by Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns
Clara Cerat, violin
Thierry Huillet, piano
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