We were perplexed by the strawberries. I nodded over at Hansel, we had quite a task ahead of us: to eat all of the strawberries in the second act pronto. One of my eyes was concentrated on the conductor and the other wondered just how Hansel was going to eat all the plump juicy real life strawberries layering the bottom of the basket in about six measures. I was chewing on one slowly in between singing “Kuck Kuck” or “Guck Guck” or “Schluck Schluck” and Hansel, as far as I could tell, wasn’t tackling more than one strawberry either during her breaks. We couldn’t get rid of the strawberries on time. It was slightly worrisome: We were sitting stage front with our legs in the orchestra and we had too many strawberries and not enough measures. Was Hansel going to dump the strawberries in the orchestra?
“I got real strawberries!” Announced the directress. We hadn’t had the prop in the dress rehearsal. It was launched on us on the evening of the first performance. It was slightly disconcerting to be wondering how the mezzo was going to get rid of the fruit treat and still look at the conductor by the time I was to launch into “Hansel, you just snarfed all the strawberries.” Problematic props.
“Did Göring’s piano arrive?”
Okay so now I was no longer in Switzerland singing “Hansel und Gretel.” I was at a masterclass near Berlin. The private estate hosting the event had a grand piano brought in for the masterclass.
“No, the other one.”
That would be the infamous one then. “Too bad, his brother helped the Jews.”
Getting a masterclass off the ground is hard work, but at a lower level.
“He died. I was told I could use him to pick people up and run errands.” The organizer sighed. “Last week. Heart attack, quick and easy death.”
The errand man had taken time to talk to me last August whenever I was standing in the raspberry bush having a snack. He was very spry. “During the war,” he said looking at me with blue eyes under a mop of white hair, “I had to play in the Hitler Youth Orchestra around here. Played the…..” He liked to give out hugs and enjoyed being around the music.
I gazed at the raspberry bushes under the chill sky, just beginning to come up with tender green shoots, all promise, strewn with a heap of horse manure. The horses out watched from the stable paddy as we waved our hands about standing on the lawn. The Chi Gong teacher happy bustled about with his set of brass bowls and gong hammer. The tent on the upper lawn shimmered embroidered with Taoist motives. The grand piano moved in that afternoon after lunch and was sounding good.
The strawberries were coming up too, a few frail plants to start. I remembered the patch’s billowy fanning leaves hiding the few remaining berries at the end of the summer. I had felt guilty eating them, whenever I found one lurking at my feet, yet determined to fight the ants from getting the first bite.