Clock Tower- High Drama, Bad News, Happy Ending

Finally, opening night at the Clocktower Chamber Music Festival.

 It seems that lately, everywhere I go, there is a drama unfolding. At least here, I am just a musician, and not the worrier in charge, but, nevertheless, it would be nice to see things go smoothly for once…

So- part of the grant proposal for this festival was the idea of doing free, outdoor chamber concerts that people could bring their families to and enjoy a nice picnic on campus. We had a very promising and exciting dress rehearsal this morning, but as the day went on and we watched the weather, we all started to worry about the weather.

After rehearsal, I had the pleasure of a concert-day trip to the local mall to replace my concert shoes and belt which the good folks at UNITED AIRLINES had lost. I like to have a quiet day any time I’m performing, and even a little errand like this can make you feel a bit manic. Sure enough, by the time I’d refreshed my wardrobe and had lunch it was time to head to the campus to help the piano movers.

 Tonight’s concert was to take place in the Fort Lewis College Amphitheatre at the foot of the clocktower, the most memorable icon on campus. When I arrived at 4 PM (for a 6:30 concert) the sky was dark and threatening. The very capable piano movers carefully packed up the piano from Lisa’s studio to take to the amphitheatre, but, even as they worked, the sky darkened. By the time the piano was ready to move, it was pouring with rain.

 It’s hard to describe Lisa’s mood. Not only was the funding contigent on having an outdoor concert, it was not clear to anyone that people would still come if they thought there was any chance of rain. By 5 PM the piano is on the truck (with minimal help from me, I must admit), but the rain is still falling. Paul, the piano tech, is happy to wait it out as long as possible so Mark (Lisa’s husband) and I head back to their place to change. By the time we get back, in concert gear, it’s stopped raining, but the sky is black as midnight and the wind is roaring.

Sure enough, as we approach the music building, Mark and I both see signs announcing that the concert has been moved into the recital hall where we’ve been rehearsing all week. Musically, this is a good thing- no worries about wind or bugs, but what does it mean for this festival? Lisa and Mikaylah are both deeply concerned that nobody will come of the weather is bad, and the festival has been poorly served by the local paper, which published the wrong phone numbers for day-of-concert information. Imagine what happens with an audience member calls the “information” number to find out if the concert is still happening, only to get the Dean’s office voice mail. Not good. They’ve both put so much of themselves into this, but if nobody shows up, it will certainly be a one-year project.

We all adjourn to warm up and pray. I come out of my practice room at 6:15 and it looks really, really grim. There are maybe 5 audience members wandering around, but two of them are related to the page-turner….

At 6:25 I give up and head to the hall to listen to the first half. By the time I get there, it’s looking up. On arrival I meet the cello student I’ve been working with all week and her parents. They’ve been calling everyone they know in Durango, telling them to come to the concert. I look around and see parents of Lisa and Mikaylah’s students, their colleagues and neighbors. By 6:30, the place is packed and we’re all running to the rehearsal room to get chairs. By the time the concert starts at 6:40 the venue is packed and even the stage is full of people.  Finally Lisa welcomes the audience to the first annual Clocktower Chamber Music Festival. Now that has a good ring.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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