There were a lot of blessings this weekend. In spite of some nasty-looking icons on my iPhone weather app earlier in the week, the weather held up Saturday and Sunday. The Orient concert was sold out. And the Latin/Caribbean music worked its wiles on both audiences in a powerful way. The Saturday show in Bellport, courtesy of South Country Concert (run by the divine Deb Birnbaum, and another very cool woman named Laurinel Owens), is a true gift: a great, low-pressure place to work out the kinks and sing for one of those smart, grateful audiences we all pray for. It’s the kind of place where the eight-year old girl in Row B turns out to be studying cello, and paying avid attention–the type of kid who will actually listen to Villa-Lobos’s Bachianas Brasileiras #5 the next day. (She joked with me that she would play all 8 cello parts when she performed the piece, miming how she’d accomplish this feat.) I’d been praying for good weather because Deb and her husband John Kocay serve an outdoor supper after the concert at their place, and that is a meal you do not want to have canceled on account of rain. John is a superb cook, and that farm-to-table meal had as much music in it as anything we’d offered in the concert hall.
The Bellport performance went well. We’d not been able to get through the show without stopping at our dress rehearsal, but there were no serious glitches on Saturday. I sometimes forget how much vitality this repertoire has, but I could feel its power that afternoon. People were electrified. The day had started with one of those incidents that will soon turn into urban legend: after driving out in a BMW that had some transmission problems (it had a tendency to stall in a busy intersection), Dimitri discovered that he had left his pants home. (Of course, they’d fallen off the hanger. Problems of straight men….) Because I had my back to him, I missed his wild-eyed entrance into the hall clad in a purple shirt and a pair of boxers. “I HAVE TO GO TO TARGET AND BUY SOME PANTS.” He headed back into the BMW, almost got hit by a truck in an intersection when the BMW took a brief snooze, drove to Target where (as I understood it) he was waited on first by a deaf person, and then by a person who could not speak. If I have the story right, am thrilled that Target has a policy of hiring handicapped workers, but there are times when it would be quicker to find someone with all their faculties. However they, at least, had pants, something Dimitri did not.
He came back about 10 minutes before curtain with two pair of pants. Target cuts their trousers in that modern style, tight in the leg and high in the crotch. I was told by a fashion person that this trend was started because it saves money for the manufacturers–less material per garment. Even the bigger pair of pants was still rather, um, form-fitting. Well, I mused, perfect for Latin Lovers. It gave a whole new lift to the songs where Dimitri had to dance.
On Sunday everyone had all their clothing, and Dimitri was back in his normal, comparatively baggy suit-pants. The little moments of tentativeness, most of the little language errors, the occasional vocal frailties had disappeared, washed away by the out-of-town tryout. The hall in Orient was packed and the audience got a very, very hot show. I think that NYFOS@North Fork is starting to have legs. I feel that my fellow Orienters are seeing the value of this residency, which is still small (one week, five artists) but could one day grow into a real institute as the support for it grows. The town is busy upgrading the hall, and the buzz around this annual event is good. At this point people out here still think of it as a gift they passively receive–look, Santa just arrived with a great show for us!–but in a few years they will feel the ownership I want them to have. They already exhibit so much generosity to us, and so much enthusiasm for the music.
–Steven Blier, August 24, 2015