"Before I forget, I want to tell you that Marc used to like to sit over there," said David Diamond, squeezing my hand and pointing at a spot far down the lawn near the rose garden. We were sitting on one of the pews in the Yaddo Music Room. The June air was lively. Late afternoon light streamed through the leaded windows.
Elaina Richardson had asked me to curate a recital of music by composers who had worked at Yaddo. Michael Boriskin and his Music from Copland House players performed. I wanted to honor David, so I programmed his early Flute Quartet. I also suggested that he be invited and, to everyone's astonishment, he agreed to come. He told me that he had wanted to visit Yaddo once more. I looked at David: his impeccably tailored gray serge sit hung loosely over his diminished frame. His blue shirt's collar was crisp. There was a large New Zealand-shaped liver spot on his scalp over his right eye. What remained of his hair was colorless. His skin was papery and luminous. His rheumy eyes brimmed with tears.
"Marc cared," he whispered urgently. "When he wrote Regina here, he could sing and play every note. He knew words. You remember I told you once that he rewrote the entire libretto for Lenny's Trouble in Tahiti without needing to change a note of the music?"
I stood up, walked to the front of the little ensemble, and addressed the audience. Comprised almost entirely of local high school students enjoying a rare glimpse of the estate's inner sanctum, they were attentive and excited. "A word about teachers," I began my memorized introduction. "I have been a member of the corporation here for a number of years, am in the middle of my career as a professional composer, and have addressed many audiences and classrooms filled with students. It has been twenty years since I had a lesson with the amazing man sitting a few feet from me. Nevertheless, I am more nervous now speaking in front of him than I have been before any audience in the interim. Teachers that we admire and adore have that effect on us. That's a good thing." There was a sprinkle of laughter. I asked the audience to acknowledge David and they applauded warmly.
"You know," he said, sitting down, "I can actually see them all around us: Lenny, Aaron, Virgil, and Marc." He meant it. More tears.
The concert over, I asked my wife to take a few pictures of us.
"I think that it is an illusion that the dead have left us, David," I ventured, as we posed. He smiled, and released my hand.
I thought of our monthly telephone calls, my periodic visits to Rochester to see him as the years unspooled: "How are you David?" "Terrible. My heart, you know." "But Jerry is doing your music." "Yes, but he's the only one."
"They're all here, Daron," he said, with conviction, "especially at Yaddo." And then, voice trailing off, "I've driven so many people away; I've lost so many...."
At that moment, a dozen schoolchildren from the audience surrounded us. They had loved his piece. He smiled radiantly, accepted their praise, and asked them their names.
David died of heart failure a few days later on 13 June.
Next page: Heliotrope
Previous page: Please Deposit