The Locrian String Quartet
So Mr. Sugar asked Tar Heel Tavern contributors to write about a favorite t-shirt this week. I can't take a picture of mine because it's buried in the attic somewhere, but it's very plain - a ragged brown t-shirt that says
The summer after graduating from Yale, unable to decide what to do with my life, I played violin in the pit orchestra of the College Light Opera Company, a concern I'm delighted to see is still in operation all these many years later. Spend the summer on Cape Cod, play "The Merry Widow" and "Guys and Dolls" etc., go swimming, make friends ... learn how to cook gigantic vats of hippy food ... you get the idea.
I made a dear friend there: a willowy strawberry-blonde violinist named Claria. She had a life plan which included moving to Cambridge, Massachusetts after leaving Falmouth. I decided to do the same - the deal being clinched when four of us (the whole violin section) visited an outdoor festival and met up with Laduvane, a women's Balkan ensemble also based in Cambridge. OK, that would be my plan. I would go to Cambridge, sing Balkan music with Laduvane, and play violin with Claria.
Claria and I did very well busking in Harvard Square, playing Bartok (and other) violin duets. We sometimes made $40 an hour, which seemed pretty great to us. She got a Real Job, I became a temporary typist. My father wrote me a letter saying: "If I knew how you were going to squander your education, I would never have sent you to college."
Eventually we managed to find a violist and a cellist, and as the Locrian String Quartet we spent many, many happy afternoons and evenings playing Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and whatever else we could fish out of the music library. I was in hog heaven.
Our high point was a concert at Tufts University, doing the Brahms piano quintet with a pianist the violist's coach found for us. This picture was taken after the concert: violist, pianist, Claria, cellist, and me. We were so proud.
I had a lot of energy in those days. For instance, when I decided we needed t-shirts, I learned to silk-screen, built myself a wonderful silk-screening studio, and designed and cut the stencils and did the t-shirts myself. It seemed a pity to make so few after all that effort! I think there were only 6 or 7 altogether.
Times change. The cellist, a chemist, got a gig as professor in Oxford Mississippi and had to leave us. The violist likewise left town. The pianist, whom we had not known well and whom we hadn't seen again after our glorious performance at Tufts, died. Claria married my best old boyfriend and moved to New Jersey.
That was the end of classical music in my life. I couldn't play those quartets now without putting in way more time than I'd be willing to devote to the experiment. The t-shirt fell to rags and is buried upstairs.
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