We all flew back on Sunday morning and my parents were treated to concert pianist class for the first time. On the way they told me that they wanted to join us when the band played in Florida on our next leg, which started in the following week.
So, we left Jordan in charge. Well, he couldn’t very well leave with his commitment to the vet, and there was a big crowd of us that flew to Jacksonville, our first date. The tour included Orlando, Miami, Tampa, and Tallahassee before coming home in time to go to New York for our concert there with the orchestra.
That couple of weeks exposed Ali to the raw emotion that is a pop concert, and she was hooked. She saw her mom and her aunts on stage in front of thousands and it was a whole lot different from watching us in the studio. She could hardly stop telling us how wonderful we all were, and how much she loved us.
Mom and Dad took time out on our off days to have a look around and declared, once we had got home, that they thought that they would retire to Florida. They asked me if I wanted to buy the farm and business.
I talked it over with Jordan. He was incredibly supportive because he could work from home when he graduated. Dad got a proper valuation, and we agreed on the figure so, by the end of the year, Jordan and I would own the farm.
The New York show was an absolute hoot. It was a three-night set of concerts, all fully booked. When we got there for the rehearsals it went like clockwork.
Saturday night was recorded. The orchestra was doing it in casual but smart outfits and, right from the start, everyone wanted the audience to leave smiling. The conductor was young and animated, and the three shows went so well, we were asked back the next year, if we could find time.
We played and went to parties. I have to say that no-one does parties like New Yorkers, and we met a lot of lovely people.
The shows got rave reviews, especially once it was known that we had supplied all the music. There was a lot of talk about just what we may pull out of the hat next. At a couple of the parties, we let a few of the music scribes know that they might see something different if they came to Cleveland.
We had a couple of weeks where we did shows on the northwest coast, Seattle, and Portland, and then across to Salt Lake City, and Kansas City. After that it was the jazz event in Cleveland.
All four grandparents wanted to see this. Jordan was also coming to look after Ali. The old vet would cover the clinic and our workers needed no supervision on the farm. Allan and Helen would also be there so it would be quite a crowd of us.
Luckily, the club was a big place. When we arrived and settled into our hotel, we had a look. The stage was not the largest we had performed on but big enough for us all, along with a baby grand. Courier had shipped our instruments, so we just needed to unpack the crates and set up.
Our line-up was close to the party in Boston. Me on the piano, Pet on violin, Abigail singing, Joyce on guitar, Emily on keyboard, and Janet with a very minimal drum kit which she would be using brushes on for about half the time. The event had started as a Saturday night only but the interest from jazz fanatics and the media had extended it to a show on both Thursday and Friday with the Saturday event being filmed.
We did a sound check that Tuesday afternoon once we had set up. Wednesday, we did a rehearsal of the full show in the afternoon with the video and audio guys getting the camera and microphone placements marked.
We were in our outfits we would be wearing for the show. Three guys with shoulder cameras filmed close-ups of us as we played. These would be added to the final output whenever, or if ever, it was released on DVD.
I suppose that I had better say that our outfits fitted the era being recreated. Pet, Abigail, and Joyce were in Romani style dresses while the rest of us were more “Paris Bohemian”.
Our whole crowd sat through the Wednesday rehearsal, and little Ali was literally jumping up and down. In the setting that had been decorated to be a Paris nightclub of the thirties, the music sounded right.
It’s difficult to explain that sometimes music can fit a time or a setting like a glove, and this was one of those times. At night with candlelight and wreaths of faux smoke in the air it would be almost perfect.
The Thursday and Friday shows were great. The crowds on both evenings were there for the event, and the anniversary, as well as for the music. The fact that it was us playing was no great deal. Anyone who looked and sounded right was good with them. That was, of course, not the case with those scribes and magazine photographers who came along.
The Saturday night was something else again. The fixed camera positions were discrete, and the extra microphones were not a bother. The audience had a different vibe. Our own followers were there; our family and our friends from Boston were there, including Algernon and his family, and members of the “Vets Concerts” office and the Institute. There were also genuine fans of the duo we were depicting, and it had to be good to please them.
When we went on stage, we had good applause as we settled. I then started off with some piano that was followed by Pet and Joyce. Janet came in with the brushes and Emily added some very subtle organ. It was a long intro and when Abigail walked out in a full gypsy gown with lots of beads and started singing, the crowd became enraptured.
The first half was the album we had recorded some time ago. Then we had a break before we went back and did the Sisters’ songs with the jazz slant.
That way we pleased the purists and our own fans with a unique experience. There was applause at every song, and I could see camera operators in the audience filming the reactions to our playing and pictures of couples dancing. Some of the jazz fans had come in period costume. I knew it would look good on the DVD, if produced right.
For something that started with a CD on my shelf and developed into a musical joke, it became a point in our careers that I think we could all look back on with pride. In the space of a month, we had been on stage in New York in front of a full orchestra, played pop concerts across the country, and now played jazz in a night club in Cleveland.
When we mingled during the break and afterward there were a lot of congratulations and questions about just what we would be doing next. I had to say that no-one knew what the future held as tonight had come out of nowhere.
I carried Ali around with me as I mingled and, whenever someone asked her what she thought of it, she would tell them that it was “groovy” or “fab”. One time there was a guy with a distinct French accent who was incredibly happy he had been here for the show. She told him that it was “Tres Bon” when he asked.
I really do not know how my child picks up things. At one point I sat on the piano seat with her standing in my lap and we did something that we had been playing around with in the studio. It was a simple Erik Satie piece with no chords, and she played the keys she could reach while I played the ones further away.
It was just for my family, but someone filmed it on his camera and put it on the social media as “Edie Grosse, famous pop star and concert pianist, with her daughter Alicia, soon to be more famous than her mother”.
Jordan and the family went home on Sunday morning, but I had a meeting to attend that afternoon. It was a serious meeting of the “Vets” board where I, and the rest of the Sisters’, were given a list of dates and places that had been pencilled in for next year, along with lists of acts that had put their hands up to appear, usually for just board and lodging.
On top of that there was a long list of possible sponsors, mainly well-known brands, who would want our time as we got into it. At the end of that meeting, Algernon brought up another matter - the Swan Effect.
He told us that he wanted us to have some control over the way it was used. We couldn’t stop people watching it, but we could stop it being used for nefarious purposes. He had applied for copyright of the terms Swan Sonics and Harmonic Healing as well as a bit of a list of similar names that all relied on the Swan as a means of making money. The three of us who played it, and the orchestra. were shown as the originators of the Swan Effect. He was serious in wanting to stop healing shops popping up where they offered to help you lose your fears for a large fee. We signed on the paperwork he had, to give our consent to being principals.
After that there was a general discussion about future shows. Kelly was busy creating a future season in her mind.
“What do you think about me putting on a special show at the end of the year, say November. You could play the Rodrigo. Algernon said he would sponsor it, and it would create interest.”
We told her to send us the dates when she had something fixed as we were certain to be able to perform it by then. I told her that I could send her a CD when we had it right.
She said that she was looking forward to the double violin concert at the end of August and would see us in the week before.
On the flight home Abigail sat next to me and confided that she had been asked about being a solo singer and was worried that it would upset the rest of us.
I told her that if I could be her pianist, she could do some of the bigger night clubs very easily. Making her solo album would be a breeze with the studio we now had. I told her that Pet would be extremely happy to provide some original songs and the score for a small band, if needed. It could even be an Abigail album with the Sisters’ just playing in the background. For the rest of the way we discussed the year so far and what was to come before we got to Christmas again.
At the end of the week, we would be starting another leg of our tour, this time it was the last quarter of the country we had not visited this year. We started in Sacramento and went on to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and then to Dallas, before coming home so that Pet and I could be ready for Boston again.
After Boston we would do the final leg of the tour; Columbus, Charlotte, New Orleans, Houston, Memphis, and, last of all, Nashville, before going back into the studio to work on another album and another Christmas show here at home.
I thought that we might have to ask Allan for some more time off next year. On top of that, who knew what concert performances we may be offered.
After a short break at home, we were off again on the next leg of our tour. This time Brad and Alicia who wanted to come along as they wanted to see California for themselves. It was easy to decide that little Ali would join us for the trip as well.
Jordan and I had passed that first rush of lovemaking because I’d been spending more time away from home than ever. We were solid, however, and he was always very caring on my first night home. I wondered if we were better because of the many “first nights” that we had.
The show in Sacramento received great reviews. The fans loved us, and we sold plenty of merchandise. We did well in San Francisco, and then we went to Los Angeles for three shows, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
I think that, besides our hometown, Los Angeles held our biggest fan base, with all three shows sold out. We arrived on Tuesday afternoon and enjoyed the pool before dinner.
Little Ali leapt around in the paddling pool, having a wonderful time. We then went in to dress a bit better for dinner, and I got Ali ready. Alicia and Brad looked after her while I got ready.
I’d showered and dressed and had done my make-up when the room phone rang.
“Miss Grosse, this is Evelyn at reception. I have a lady here who wants to talk to you. She says her name is Josephine Prentice - nee Sanders.”
I sat on the bed and thought for a second or two.
“Can you please ask her to go into the bar and find an alcove. I’ll join her there in a few minutes.” I finished my face, made sure I looked presentable, picked up my bag then left the room.
I knocked on Alicia’s door.
“Ma, Josie is downstairs. I told them to send her to the bar. I am going down now to speak to her. If things are bad, I’ll tell you later. If you text me in about twenty minutes or so, I’ll answer Y or N. If it is Y, you can all come down and wander in. Just let the band know.”
She said that she understood and that she hoped that she could see her daughter.
I looked in the mirror in the elevator on the way down and made sure that my Sisters’ pendant was showing. When I got to the bar, I saw Josie sitting in an alcove with a worried look on her face.
She saw me as I walked toward her. She stood up and promptly broke into tears, so I held her as she sobbed her heart out. Between sobs she whispered. “Oh, Edie, I was such a bitch to you and I’m so sorry.” I got her settled down and we sat while a server brought us drinks.
“One of the guys in the music scene here is a classics nut like you and he gave me a DVD early in the year. It was you and Pet on stage with an orchestra. I was so envious. I thought that it was not right that you should do so well without me. Then I watched it right through to the end and it was an hour before I stopped crying. When I did, I felt as if someone had taken a hose to my bitchiness and selfishness and washed them away. I saw things in a whole new way, and it changed my life. For the past three months, it is like I’m walking in a different world.”
“Josie, sweetheart, you’ve been cleansed by the Swan Effect, there are learned people looking into how that piece of music can affect anyone with fears and hang-ups. You’re certainly not the only one who’s been affected. Your mother: your brother, both my parents, Allan, Helen and even Janet have been through it. I am so glad for you and I’m sure the others will tell you the same.”
“Surely everyone hates me for walking away like that.”
“They didn’t like it, but everyone understood why you went. There are feelings you can’t keep at bay.”
My phone buzzed and I replied, Y.
Josie smiled. “You never used to have a phone on. It was a pain trying to get in touch sometimes.”
I told her that my world demanded that I change some of my habits.
She looked at my jewelery.
“You have a new pendant. It is so beautiful.”
I told her that Emily had bought one for each of us when we got Janet back, as thanks for the Swan Effect, and that my old one was in the drawer at home. I then put my hand on her arm.
“Josie, this is serious. In a few minutes, your mother will be joining us. She has really missed you and she isn’t angry, just a little disappointed like everyone else. She will have Ali with her. Ali thinks I am her mother and Jordan is her father. Do not, under any circumstances, tell her different, until we get a chance to let her know, when she is old enough to understand.”
She nodded and then her face lit up as she saw her mother, father, and her baby come in. I don’t think she expected Ali to be walking alongside her grandmother and looking so much older than the almost two-year-old she was. When Alicia saw her daughter, she rushed forward and held her close. The two stood there and cried while both told each other that they were sorry.
“Mom, what have you got to be sorry for, it was me that did all the bad things?”
“I will tell you later, darling. Now go and say hello to your dad.”
Josie hugged her father, and he kissed her forehead and told her she was safe now.
Little Ali piped up. “Who is this lady, Mommy?”
“This is your Auntie Josephine, your Daddy’s sister. She came here not long after you were born.”
“Auntie Josie, are you a pop star too, like my other Aunties? I saw them all with Mommy on stage, and they were so groovy.”
Josie crouched down.
“Ali, I used to play in the band with your Mommy before I came here. I’ve been in a couple of bands here but I’m not in one now. I’m too busy with my husband to play.”
Just then all the other girls arrived, and they all squealed and came over to hug Josie and welcome her back, introducing her to Abigail, who she had never met.
I took the opportunity to let Alicia know that her daughter had watched the DVD and was very affected by it.
She nodded her understanding.
“Josie, you mentioned a husband, where is he?” I inquired.
She told me that he was waiting in a café across the street to see if she came out alive. I laughed and told her to fetch him in and, while she sent the text on her phone, I got the server to set two extra places on our dinner table.
When her husband came in, he was introduced and was overwhelmed to be with the entire Stable Sisters. It turned out, as Josie revealed her last year or so over dinner, that Tony Prentice, her husband, was a mixing desk operator at big shows and a producer in one of the smaller studios here in Los Angeles. They had met when Josie had been in the studio with her second band.
Pet asked about the Ramrods and Josie snorted, saying that they could not get out of the rut they were in. She had made such a fuss that they kicked her out.
“I was a bit wild then,” she admitted. “They now play parties and surfing clubs up and down the coast and make enough money but will never be any better.”
Pet laughed. “The first time we heard them play at the Halloween show we knew that they didn’t know the meaning of hard work.”
Josie went on. “I joined a small band of girls who were happy to have an ex-Pixie in their line-up. It only took one album for them to get drunk with the fame and most of them ended up pregnant about the same time. I met Tony while we were recording that album, moved in with him, and we have married since I saw your DVD. It made me realize just what love can do for you. I am pregnant with our first, and due next March.”
We all congratulated the happy couple, and Alicia said that having two grandchildren to spoil would be almost too much.
“You wouldn’t know the old studio now,” I said. “We’ve extended it twice and the old one is now the control room. The new studio is big enough to have a concert grand in it that allows me to rehearse the classical concerts.”
Tony asked me what we had to record on. I told him our set-up.
He whistled. “That’s one beautiful set-up, especially in a private studio.”
I chuckled. “My dad took a course with the supplier, and he produced a couple of demo discs we used for the classics, but he hasn’t done a proper album yet. We had a temporary producer in to do the last thing we recorded.”
He asked what that was.
“Why, our jazz album,” Joyce said. “We did a show a couple of weeks ago for the anniversary of Django Reinhardt playing Cleveland. It was supposed to be a joke but may well be a sleeper that will give us income for years when it’s released, especially if the DVD goes well.”
“I read about that, but the article said the group was called Instability.” Tony argued.
Josie laughed. “Tony, darling, these girls are the Stable Sisters, the name would have been part of the joke.”
“Yes,” I added. “And we had no idea that there was a night club in Cleveland called the Hot Club. We sent Allan the discs under the name Instability at the Hot Tub of Cleveland. We did think about a cover shot with us all in bubbling water and I am really wondering what they’ll come up with when we do the shoot for the album. We were all dressed like Romani people for the shows.”
Josie grinned. “So that is where that video I saw of you and Ali playing piano was taken? It was real, not faked?”
I told her that the note on the video was close to the truth when it said that Ali will be more famous than her mother. “The only thing holding her back is a piano that she can play with her little fingers; we’re limited to single note tunes for the moment.”
“What are the plans for the Sisters’ now?” Tony asked. “You seem to have done everything possible already?”
Joyce told him that she and I were going to present the Rodrigo as a double guitar piece later in the year in Boston.
Pet told him that she and I would be doing a double violin concert at the end of August, also in Boston.
Abigail said that she intended to cut an album of herself as the named singer with the rest of us as a backing group.
Emily said something that was a surprise to me when she declared that she wanted us to do a double piano concert. She had a couple of concertos in mind.
Janet said she wanted us to do another jazz album because the way we played was so smooth.
I laughed. “It looks as if I will be playing quite a bit with the others next year, even if we don’t tour. There is the Grove Institute and the vet concerts to put together, and I expect that there may be a few orchestras who want me to do either a piano or a violin solo. If not a guitar solo once Joyce and I have wowed them in Boston.”
After that Pet and I had to explain the why and what of the Grove Institute and our involvement in the vet shows. We said that a Boston billionaire was involved with these, and Emily giggled.
“Algernon is such a big teddy bear and his wife, Fiona, is a real doll. We played songs at a party at their place a while back, and we had their daughters on stage singing with us. It was a hoot. They are such a lovely family.”
I could see Josie taking this all in and could see the sorrow that she felt in not being involved.
“Are the two of you going to our shows, here?”
Tony said that the tickets had gone so quickly they couldn’t get a seat.
Pet, being Pet, already had the box office number on her phone and called them to see how many band seats were left. “Reserve two under the name of Prentice.” Putting her phone away. “There are two seats for you for all three nights to pick up at the box office. If you don’t want to see all three shows you could always pass them on to friends.”
Marianne Gregory © 2023
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