Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fern Forest Music Fest

Sunday afternoon a long black Lincoln Town Car, sleek and shiny, pulled into Fern Forest. From the passenger seat popped a bubbly blonde wearing tights and a tank top, face scrubbed, white teeth glistening behind a wide smile. The driver was slow to exit the car, slow to approach the house. He was all in black—pants, shirt, belt, shoes, long hair pulled back under black hat.

“There’s a man with a chainsaw,” he said warily, nodding toward slope in front of the house.

“That’s H,” I said. “He’s cutting down trees so you’ll get a better view from the treehouse.”

“Treehouse?” he said.

“Surprise!” the woman said. “And happy birthday.”

Riannan had planned the trip to delight Andy. She’d arranged for the car and mapped the route from New York City. She asked H to get a dozen roses and have them in the treehouse for their arrival. Andy was turning 37, and she was in love.

She’s a singer songwriter playing small clubs in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Andy is a bass player, an accomplished one schooled in New York, L.A., and Vienna. He composes his own jazz pieces and accompanies musicians all over the world, and he’s working on his first album. The Village Voice says he has "impressive style and technique combined with a great stage presence."

But let me back up. These are musicians, used to late hours, and they’d slept only a few the night before. After hellos, H and I offered to make them a dinner reservation at Mary’s Restaurant. They wanted the latest slot possible, which was 8:00. They’d hope to eat at nine or ten or even later, but this is Vermont and we accord our biological clocks by the setting and rising of the sun. Eight o’clock would have to do.

They settled into the treehouse for a nap and rose at 7:00 for some nibbles and a couple glasses of wine. Riannan put on makeup, tied back her long hair, changed into a black tank top and buckled on silver stilettos. She looked like Sheryl Crow, ready to take the stage.

“You’ll make a great entrance at Mary’s,” I said. Andy was still in black, still donned the hat, and I wondered if he’d napped in it. A couple days later when I was at Mary's, the owner told me she thought Johnny Depp had come have dinner, and she gave them a complimentary salad with Mary's own homegrown mesclun. H and I were in bed when they returned from dinner, and vaguely I heard them turn on the hot tub’s jets under a sky full of stars.

Andy had asked if we had an alarm clock so they could be sure to be ready for breakfast at 10:00 a.m. We offered the wind-up travel clock H won in a hockey tournament. They were true to the breakfast deadline, and I made cheese omelets for them. Riannan, who weighs barely a hundred pounds, nibbled hers. Andy ate every bite and chased the omelet with granola, yogurt and fruit. They drank two pots of coffee. We discovered that Riannan hails from Phoenix and recently finished a job as personal assistant to Harry Belefonte, whom she called “Mr. Belefonte.” It seemed everyone wanted him as a speaker, and he kept her busy booking engagements. Andy had taken off the hat and I saw that he was handsome in a Mikhail Baryshnikov way. He wanted to know about the house, about H’s woodwork, about H’s week-long stay at Fallingwater. He doesn’t like to talk about himself.

After breakfast Andy retreated to the treehouse to practice the bass, and Riannan sat on the deck and crooned her tunes to the birds. H and I fiddled around the house, enchanted by the concert.

Monday night Andy, Riannan, and her high-heeled boots went to the Bobcat for dinner. On Tuesday morning, Andy showed me his website, He has played all over the world—Canada, Turkey, Greece Italy, Canary Islands, his home country of Germany, as well as at the best clubs in New York. His music is smooth and rich—he’s a Miles Davis fan—and I felt uplifted listening to the melodies on his website. He’s not at all shy—he loves to perform and says once he nearly broke into tears onstage when he saw a young boy in the audience waving hands over his head to the music. He’s modest and lets the music speak for him, and the music has an eloquent voice.

They were eager to get the Town Car back to the rental agency—neither of them owns a car nor needs one in New York—but we were sorry to see them go. I’d gotten an appetizer of their music, which made me hungry for more. They packed the trunk with instruments and Riannan’s silver stilettos and high-heeled boots, and we took these shots of them before they headed down the mountain and across the lake back into New York. Is it my imagination, or did the birds sing a little sweeter this morning?

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