Intermezzo – a short connecting instrumental movement in a musical piece
Friday arrived and it was the last day she was going to play at the train station. She was quite certain someone would have recognized her by now, though she hadn’t been approached by anyone yet. Nonetheless, she would still put on her best performance for today. It was a finale for her experiment at the crowded train station.
After her five- day experiment, Taeyeon came to the conclusion that most people were either oblivious to their surroundings as they rushed to work or they just couldn’t be bothered with irrelevant stuff that didn’t mattered to them when it was free of charge. If they had to pay to watch her perform, she was certain she would have their attention 100% of the time.
When she started playing her second piece, Taeyeon spotted the lady who had been around since day one. It seemed like she arrived at the train station slightly later today. This time, there were more people who stood around to watch Taeyeon play. Perhaps it was a Friday and people were in a more relaxed mood, hence they weren’t in a need to rush to work.
When she ended her performance with a short excerpt from Rhapsody in Blue, Taeyeon was rewarded with a few applauses. It was something she had been trying to elicit for the past four days. Taeyeon bowed to her small audience and thanked them, saying that it was the last day she would be here. A few of them smile and waved goodbye but most of them merely dispersed from their spot when the music ended.
The lady approached Taeyeon and handed her a $20 note and a can of iced coffee, just like the previous days.
“Is this your final performance?” the lady asked.
The lady noticed Taeyeon while on her way to work on Monday. It was a pity Taeyeon had just finished her last song and was packing up. The lady had been captivated by Taeyeon’s music. The melodies tones that came out of the black woodwind painted a picture of the piece Taeyeon was playing. She made up her mind to arrive earlier so that she could watch Taeyeon in action.
Now that it was the final performance, she felt a little sad. Previously she did see some buskers at this train station but none of them played as well and as passionate as Taeyeon.
“Yes. From tomorrow onwards, you would need to pay a lot to watch me perform,” Taeyeon said half-jokingly.
“Oh, what a waste because I wouldn’t be able to afford that kind of money. Nonetheless, it is my first time listening to classical music and I like your performance very much, especially this last song. I wish you all the best in your future performances,” the lady said sadly. She turned around and walked away.
Taeyeon picked up her case and ran after the lady. She could feel the disappointment in the lady’s voice when she learnt that it was the last performance. She knew she wanted to do something for her because she was touched by her sincerity and kindness.
“Hey,” Taeyeon called out, tapping the lady’s arm with her bell of her clarinet as her arm wasn’t long enough to reach her.
The lady stopped in her tracks and turned around to see who had tapped her arm.
“Yes?” she asked, surprised to see Taeyeon standing behind her.
“I know it sounds a bit abrupt, but do you have some time tomorrow? You seem very keen on classical and I would like to show you more of what classical music is like. It ain’t easy to find someone who doesn’t know about classical music but yet appreciates it more than those who pay hundreds of dollars to watch a classical music concert,” Taeyeon said sincerely.
The lady thought about it for a while. “Are you going to charge me for it?” she asked innocently.
Taeyeon waved both arms in front of her frantically. “No no, obviously not. I’m sorry I made that remark about paying high fees to watch me perform earlier on. It’s just…anyway, it’s free of charge. No gimmicks, no catch at all. ”
The lady pursed her lips, deep in thought. Finally she nodded her head slightly.
“I’ll see you at the entrance of the Seoul Performing Arts Centre at 3pm tomorrow, okay?” Taeyeon asked.
“Okay, see you then.” The lady smiled and bowed a little, thankful for this rare opportunity.
Taeyeon watched the lady turn around a corner and enter a nearby building. Suddenly, she let out a gasp.
Oh my God! I didn’t ask her for her name. What a dumbo I am!
Taeyeon was pacing up and down the pathway outside the Seoul Performing Arts Centre. She had arrived half an hour earlier. This time, she wore her normal clothes and didn’t bother to hide her face since there wasn’t a need to.
Would she come or not? Maybe she thinks I’m a weirdo in a hoodie who randomly plays classical music at a train station. Maybe she thinks I’m trying to kidnap her by locking her up in one of the rooms here. Maybe…
Taeyeon was jolted out of her thoughts by someone who tapped her on her shoulder.
“Are you the musician at the train station?”
It was the blonde lady. Today she was dressed more casually in a tight fitting white tank top with a grey cardigan and a pair of dark blue skinny jeans. She wore a pair of beige hi-cut sneakers and had a black bag slung over her shoulders.
She looks so mesmerizing in her casual outfit.
“Ah yes I am. You can recognize me?” Taeyeon asked, snapping out of her thoughts.
The lady had a look of surprise when she saw Taeyeon’s face.
“You look like the person on this poster and you mentioned that you charge several hundred dollars if I had to watch you perform in the future. I figured that since the both of you play the clarinet, you could possibly be the same person at the train station,” the lady answered, pointing to the noticeboard outside the entrance of the centre where the concert poster was still pinned to the board.
“Oh I see,” Taeyeon uttered, her face turning red from embarrassment. “Yes, I’m the musician at the train station and my name is Taeyeon. What about you? What’s your name?”
“Jessica. I’m truly honoured to be able to meet the star clarinetist.” Jessica was star struck as they shook hands. She read about Taeyeon on the news but couldn’t believe her eyes when she was actually standing face to face with the actual person.
“Aww, I’m just an ordinary person who loves playing the clarinet. I’m not a star as they made me to be,” Taeyeon said in a humble tone. “Let’s go in. I want to show you something.”
Taeyeon led the way into one of the practice rooms which she frequented. Closing the thick door of the sound-proof room, Taeyeon told Jessica to give her some time to prepare and that she was free to roam around the room. This room was practically a second home for Taeyeon. Many long hours were spent in this room during Taeyeon’s younger years when she had to practice to perfect her skill. While other children of her age were playing in arcades or at the park, she was cooped up in this room and practiced from day till night. It was lonely but she had chosen to walk on this path and didn’t regret.
The room was simply decorated with a row of side cupboards that had the words ‘Music Scores’ pasted on it. There were three chairs stacked up on one side of the room and several black music stands were randomly placed around the opposite end of the room. There was a small locked cabinet that had the word ‘Reeds’ marked on it.
Taeyeon opened one of the cupboards and took out some sheets of white paper. She placed them onto a music stand in the middle of the room. She beckoned for Jessica to join her as she wanted to show Jessica how a clarinet was assembled.
“This is a B flat clarinet, the most common one used in orchestras. There’re others such as the bass, C, E or A clarinets. Mine’s made of wood which gives it its characteristic woody sound compared to the plastic ones which are more commonly used in schools,” Taeyeon said as she pointed to her clarinet.
This was Jessica’s first time being in touch with classical music up close. She would have never dreamt of stepping into the arts centre since she couldn’t afford the spare cash to spend on classical concerts. She was just a typical office worker in a small local company, earning enough money for herself and to help supplement her family’s income.
“Can I have a feel of the clarinet?” Jessica asked politely.
“Sure, go ahead. Be careful with it though.” Taeyeon held the instrument upright on the top of the cupboard for Jessica to touch and feel.
Taeyeon was very protective of her clarinet, guarding it like it was more precious than her own life. However, for today, she was willing to let someone else touch the sexy black instrument. She felt a connection with Jessica. Perhaps it was due to her eagerness in wanting to learn more about classical music or maybe it was her sincerity that touched Taeyeon’s heart.
Jessica ran her fingers along the side of the instrument, pausing to press some of the silver keys.
“It’s very pretty.”
Taeyeon let out a chuckle. “It’s the first time I heard someone say the clarinet is pretty. People tend to be fans of the flute or trumpet. I’m glad you like it.”
Jessica smiled shyly. Her reaction caused Taeyeon to momentarily forget what she wanted to say next.
Her bashful smile resembles the sunshine after a rainy day.
Taeyeon tapped the side of her face, thinking of what else to tell Jessica.
“The clarinet is part of the woodwind family which comprises of instruments such as the flute, oboe and bassoon. When you blow into the clarinet, air is forced between the reed and the mouthpiece, causing the reed to vibrate, in return the air column vibrates as well, producing a single sound. To change the notes, you would need to cover the holes or depress the keys,” Taeyeon explained as she covered a few holes on the clarinet.
Jessica’s brows were knitted as she listened intently to the free music lesson she was given. It was a precious opportunity and she didn’t want to waste it.
“I’m going to do my warm up first,” Taeyeon said as she held the black instrument to her lips. “Why don’t you take a seat over there?”
Jessica nodded eagerly and watched as Taeyeon blew into the instrument, running her fingers deftly over the silver keys. Chromatic scales filled the room and even though it wasn’t a proper piece of music, it already sounded like a mini performance to Jessica.
“Okay, now for the real thing. Yesterday at the train station, you told me that you liked the last piece I performed. Actually, I only played an excerpt of it. The piece is called Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin. He’s a famous American composer and pianist. The solo parts were mainly for the piano but have since been adapted for the clarinet as well.”
Taeyeon told Jessica to take a seat on one of the chairs as she stood in front of the music stand. Taking in a quick breath, Taeyeon began to play the clarinet solo. A bright melody filled the room, starting from the faint pianissimo (soft) to the climax of the forceful fortissimo (loud) when Taeyeon reached the high note in the first few lines of the music.
Taeyeon went on to play another two more short classical pieces before finally stopping. Jessica rose from her seat and gave a rousing applause when Taeyeon finished her last note.
“Did you enjoy it?” Taeyeon asked, cleaning the clarinet with a piece of cloth.
Jessica nodded her head eagerly, her hands clasp in front of her chest, tears brimming in her eyes. “Yes I did. You’re awesome! I…I’m so thankful to have this chance to hear you perform live.”
“Hmm, actually for such one-to-one performances, I usually charge quite a high fee,” Taeyeon paused, looking at Jessica.
Jessica’s smile disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared.
“But… all you need to do it to buy me coffee and I’ll play for you again,” Taeyeon teased. She would love to see Jessica again. They seemed to get along quite well and there wasn’t any awkward silences between them.
Jessica’s eyes’ lit up immediately. “Are you sure? I can get to hear you play for me like that again?”
“Yes, I’m serious. I like to play for someone who sincerely appreciates my music and you’re the lucky one.” Taeyeon was truly happy when she saw Jessica’s reaction. It had been a long time since she felt such joy when performing. “I don’t mind teaching you a thing or two about the clarinet or the orchestra if you’re keen.”
“Would I be bothering you? I mean, you’re a star and I’m sure you’re busy with practices. I wouldn’t want to take up your time. I mean… I mean, I’m really thankful for today. It’s like winning the lottery to me,” Jessica said gratefully.
“To be honest, it has been my dream to attend a classical concert since young. However, my family’s not very well-off. I’ve been saving up to see the classical concert but at the last minute, something cropped up at home. My younger brother got into a fight and he needed someone to bail him out from the police station. We had to keep it a secret from our parents else my dad would blow his top.” A wave of disappointment washed over Jessica as she related the incident.
Taeyeon’s heart sank. She sympathized with Jessica’s plight and could almost imagine her sadness when she couldn’t attend the concert after saving up for it.
“Hmm…the orchestra’s off for the next two weeks so we’ll be able to use this room after office hours,” Taeyeon offered. “I’m free next Tuesday evening, would you want to meet for dinner? I can teach you the basics of an orchestra if you like.”
Jessica nodded. “I would be more than happy to learn from you.”
They stood outside the arts centre and exchange mobile numbers before they bade each other goodbye. Little did Taeyeon know that she was the reason behind Jessica’s bounce in her footsteps as she walked to the train station.