We need to talk about Evan*

After a dubiously serendipitous glance at the local paper revealed a young boy would be performing a solo piano recital, I made plans to drag accompany my boy-children to said performance.

They were not as delighted by my decision as one might have thought. Or maybe they were exactly as delighted as one might have thought. It depends on the person  doing the thinking, I guess. Whatever the perspective, they were not thrilled at the thought of joining me for a spell of sitting and listening to someone play the piano. Even if that someone was a prodigy who matched them in gender and age.

My oldest pseudo-prodigy is prone to being dramatic and liberally exercises his right to free speech, garnished with whatever vocabulary he’s recently acquired in social studies class at school. Dictatorship is a current favorite. You’d be surprised how often one can use the word ‘dictatorship’ in the course of a weekend, should one so choose.

‘When you took me to that piano competition, I fell asleep from boredom,’ the Gort accused. In between Kim Jong Il references. Yes, I had made the similarly deluded decision, a couple of months prior, to drag accompany my older wunderkinder to a piano competition. I’d imagined their little faces, lit up by the glorious sounds of Mozart and Beethoven; a seminal moment, likely to become the foundation of their love of classical music.

Instead they’d eaten the bribe-candy I’d hidden in my purse and lain sideways in their seats with eyes closed, popping up occasionally to ask me ‘how much longer,’ and to confirm that I would be making good on my promise to take them to Clive Burger afterwards.

To his credit, the Hen still remembers the name of the finalist we heard first – the one who ultimately won the competition. Though he’s more inclined to recall the pre-concert moment when we were all standing outside the men’s bathroom, and one of its patrons unleashed a torrent of flatulence.

Sorry, Luca Buratto, your rendition of Mozart was not quite as impactful as the series of farts deployed in the men’s bathroom.

After a lightning-fast lunch of Costco butternut squash ravioli – which was an even greater cause of unhappiness than the concert – the boys and I piled into the car and sped towards the church where the recital would be held. My two younger geniuses, who’d failed to eat any of their lunch, complained bitterly about the tupperwares of ravioli I’d thrust at them inside the van.

‘I will just eat mine inside the concert,’ Percy tried to defer his encounter with the squash-stuffed pasta. (Which, for the record, was highly un-delicious.)

‘No,’ I shook my head vigorously. ‘We do not eat during concerts.’ (Except for paperless candy hidden in a purse.) ‘Why not,’ they demanded to know. ‘Because it’s rude. There are some places where we just don’t eat.’

I parked the car and, with four minutes to spare before the purported start-time, raced into the church with my sidekicks. An elderly woman was seated at a folding table, a paper sign bearing the word ‘TICKETS’ hanging from the table’s edge. The newspaper had not informed me about the crucial detail of whether admission would be free, or ticketed. I’d mistakenly assumed a concert performed by a ten year old would be approximately 30 minutes long. And free.

I stole a quick glance at another sign, hanging above the woman’s head, and learned that not only was the concert ticketed, but tickets cost $25 a person. (Or $20 for seniors/students.)

I looked around for the sign that promised free admission to children 11 and under. That particular sign was conspicuous in its absence, so I quickly did the math: $100 for the 4 of us, or possibly $85 if the boys were considered ‘students’. I was on board to take my boys to a recital when I thought it was free, or close to it. But I was loathe to drop a hundred bucks on an experience they were unlikely to treasure.

Luckily the woman at the table, gazing at my trio standing before her, must have sensed my hesitation for she offered me two complimentary tickets. I forked over some cash and we walked inside the sanctuary to an empty wooden pew.

I gazed at the photocopied program and learned it would be a full recital, including an intermission. Just like that, my estimated thirty minute commitment turned into an hour. Plus. Curious to learn a bit about the artist, I glanced at the voluminous biography. It was ten paragraphs long; a paragraph for every year the young man had been alive?

A short while later, a small boy wearing a black suit emerged from the side entrance and walked towards the piano. He bowed and played a Mozart Sonata I’d also played, back in the day. Though I was a lot closer to 20 than 10. Evan finished the piece and left the room; a short break to prepare for the next piece. His teacher got up and delivered a lengthy commentary about how fortunate we were to have Evan there as he’d been very ill with a virus in the preceding two weeks. She explained that the next piece on the program was one required for a competition in Montreal, one so difficult the jurors had allowed the participants to use their sheet music, rather than play from memory. But, geniuses being geniuses, Evan had decided to play it from memory. Anyway.

He returned to the stage and began playing the ‘very difficult’ contemporary piece. Percy, my green-fleece-hoodie wearing pseudo-genius, had lost interest and was scribbling a face on a blank piece of paper. I only guessed it was a face because the shape had been granted two ‘eyes’ in its upper third. The woman sitting in front of us, likely the only other patron under the age of 50, retrieved a plastic tupperware container from her purse. Drizzled some dressing over its contents. And began eating a salad.

I sensed the boys were about to gasp and point fingers. I prayed she would not drop her fork and disturb young Evan. Sometime during one of his Chopin etudes, she placed the lid back on the bowl, licked the side where a bit of dressing or food had oozed out and placed it back in her bag. Finished. Just in time for intermission.

The boys begged me to leave, but having invested actual money into the event, I felt compelled to stay. ‘We can go sit upstairs in the balcony,’ I offered a compromise. Hoping the change in vantage point would serve as sufficient distraction. Evan’s teacher returned to the podium to alert the audience that Evan had decided to add an additional piece to the Debussy portion of the program: ‘Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut she offered the French title, along with its English translation for ‘les rest of us’.

‘And, in light of recent events, he would like to dedicate this to the people of France,’ she added solemnly.

I’m probably a small, pathetic person, but it reminded me a lot of that scene in Bridesmaids where Kristen Wiig and Rose Byrne have a speech-off in Thai and Spanglish.

Which is probably the best possible segue into what happened next. It wasn’t so much extreme food poisoning in haute couture, but sometime during one of Evan’s four (not three) Debussy pieces, the Hen decided he would read a church pamphlet beckoning him from inside a clear plastic brochure holder affixed to the balcony wall in front of him.

He carefully pulled out a single brochure from the thin stack. Just as the plastic receptacle, likely disgruntled with the screws holding it in place all these years, parted ways with its companions and fell to the concrete floor. Not the first time, I’m sure.

Hard plastic. Concrete floor. Acoustics. Ten year old prodigy playing piano.

Did I mention the three videographers?

If looks could kill.

As soon as Evan played the last note of his three compositions (that means he wrote the pieces himself) the boys and I jumped up and headed straight for the door. ‘What about the snacks,’ Percy and the Gort complained, having heard the invitation for concertgoers ‘to enjoy light refreshments and meet Evan.’

‘I liked his pieces!’ the Hen piped up enthusiastically, without being asked. Undoubtedly trying to detract my attention from the noise heard around the room.


* Not his real name

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