My eye outlook, a tuba reminiscence, and enjoying some Mendelssohn and Wagner

by Rob Tiller

I saw Dr. Mruthyunjaya for an eye checkup last week,and the news was basically good. The eye test results were mixed — with my injured left eye I couldn’t see any letters on the chart, but I could tell how many fingers the PA held up.

By now I’m thoroughly acclimated to the check routine — getting pressure tested, dilated, photographed, and poked, prodded, and peered into. I used to think of the eye as sort of a delicate thing, but now not so much. Anyhow, after giving me a thorough going over, Dr. M. said those words I longed to hear: “I like what I’m seeing.” My retinal scarring had not gotten substantially worse. My cataract was larger, but he says that’s relatively easy to address. We’ll likely do the surgery in September. I’m optimistic that I’ll be seeing better.

Sally and I drove over to Greensboro on Friday for the opening concert of the Eastern Music Festival. We had dinner with friends beforehand at the Green Valley Grill, where we enjoyed their potato leek soup and cauliflower steak. I talked about being a student musician at EMF as a rising high school senior, when I played the tuba in the student orchestra.

Why the tuba? I remember Mr. Shelton, my first band teacher, asking if any of the trumpet players wanted to switch to tuba, because the band needed one. I liked the look of the big horn, and liked the idea of doing something others didn’t. Other ideas came later: the tuba as a unique voice, as bass French horn, as brass cello. But the start was mainly out of curiosity. It seemed like it might be fun. Which it was.

Getting back to the Guilford College campus brought back happy memories of friends and wonderful music. The concert was the first event of the EMF season by the faculty orchestra conducted by Gerard Schwarz. The first work of the evening was by Schwarz, and featured a choir of boy sopranos. They looked like normal goofy boys, and sounded completely gorgeous.

The highlight was Joshua Bell performing the Mendelssohn violin concerto. It’is a brilliant, gorgeous piece, and Bell was fantastic. Within the first few notes, it was clear that he was a master musician, and he’d considered many possibilities for every note. Along with the logic was a lot of passion and excitement. He played a solo encore that seemed to be variations on Yankee Doodle Dandy in the style of Paganini. The double stops and harmonics were amazing!

The last work of the evening was excerpts from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, including Siegfried’s Rhine Journey, Siegfried’s Funeral March, and Brunhilde’s Immolation. This is amazing music, elemental in its force. The soft parts were a bit tentative, but the loud parts were thrilling!