She came. She saw. She conquered. Well, we knew it wasn’t going to be Petula Clark singing “Downtown”, as one picture of her suggests before a closer look, dressed in silken black, high heels dangled over arm of leather opulence in total decay, thickly padded chair supporting a post-modern diva in splendid youth. This was the picture.
And I knew I didn’t know her. She was at home, preeminently at home. She, like her domain, came before us and will be here after. An old friend she’d known since college days, from perhaps a decade or more, Vlad Iftinka from Romania originally, was a marvel: the figure of a Swiss clockmaker keeping pristine, crystalline time, formally addressing the keyboard of a piano that played itself to ethereal sounds and utterances, and messages strangely understandable.
It’s your turn, now… you were there. You saw. You came. You understood… something. When, for example, did you first, or maybe the twentieth time, detect your picture in the dramatic swirl that was Saturday night, January 9 at the Tryon Fine Arts Center. Not that I could, and I don’t want to steal your thunder, but sometimes it’s hard to begin. So I’ll launch my boat first, knowing yours will follow, in some form at least…perhaps not written, but just thought through. I always fear making a clumsy start, but I’ve learned that any is monumental.
For me, the concert was a collision of time, a colliding of worlds. The program was that. That’s not what I’m getting at. But, going back, now, I knew no more about the woman in the chair than I would a Plantagenet or a rock star. Imagine the Argentinian mother, musical, with artistic temperament, too, and a PhD in physics, a supportive father steeped in visual arts, living in cosmopolitan, upscale Manhattan, but leaving them behind from cancer when Isabel was a teenager. Imagine all the opportunities, the drive to avail them, the years of dance, of drawing, of theater, of singing for just the fun of it. Imagine the grief. Then imagine the five year old son around whom her private world revolves, whether he is travelling beside her or not…and I really didn’t know anything about that.
So I asked my friends, “Will you help me with this picture?” And they did. Where was the talent taking this woman; who was she; why so many places, so many roles, so many personas, so many languages? Who is she, playing Ada next month or two in Philadelphia in “Cold Mountain”, about terrain we in Tryon could walk to and remember the Confederate past? How could the woman in the chair do this? There is a soul here. She is very, very gifted in showing us to ourselves. She is a friend… to us all. How was she a friend to you? What thrill or encouragement or inspiration or observation did you take away from the evening? Tell us all, if you feel like it. We’ll mull it over and discuss it, perhaps in private, perhaps not. We’ll clap for each other, wondering whether it’s appropriate, like Saturday night, when it didn’t matter at all.
The titans had come as family.