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Ylisa's Harper Concert

January 2003

 

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Amphitheater

You reach the top of the hill expecting to see the other side, but you find yourself at the top, last row of the amphitheatre. Four rows of well chiseled steps fan out from the marble stage.  Smooth, comfortable benches seem to have grown out from the side of the hill, so masterfully they were carved.  There is a calming feel to this place, it makes you want to take a seat and loose yourself into the worlds of imagination, or lean back and look at the stars on a cloudless evening.  As the breeze blows through, you can hear faint whisperings of past performances.  You realize it took a fine group of craftsmen and craftswomen to create this place.  Choose any seat, for from any and all you can hear the sighs and taste the sounds that await you.

You notice a smooth marble column in front of the stage that is just level to the floor of the stage.  A gold plaque bears the inscription: "Welcome one and all to the Shinnai Memorial Center for Istan Performing Arts.  Let the stories bless our children's ears.  A silent hush falls over the crowd as you look at the stage ...

 

You see Pluto here.

Caeran and July are here.

 

July descends from the steps and slides into a seat close to the center of the ampitheater. Hmm. It's a bit empty, but it's better early than late.

 

Caeran stands at the very back of the amphitheater, holding a small chunk of meatroll in one hand. "Alright, Pluto. Now, sit," he commands. The canine just stands and stares, still unsure of what he is supposed to do. For now, the pup is just excited about his new surroundings. "Please," he begs. "Sit."

 

Ylisa is looking a little preoccupied at the moment, as she gets ready to perform.  She's carrying a couple of gitars, which she deposits on the front row of seats prior to tuning up, and she scans the theatre anxiously, checking that people are around.  Well, someone's in the audience, anyway.  July gets a smile.  Caeran gets a cheery wave, but her expression turns a little less cheerful when she realises that he's got a canine with him.  "Heya, Caeran."  She looks cautiously at the animal.  "Is he yours?"

 

July draws her mouth into a thin, disapproving line at the teenager. A canine at a concert? Someone should throw him out. Though from the looks of this crowd, perhaps everyone *was* thrown out. She relaxes anyhow, flipping through a few pages in her program. If the performers don't care, it's really none of her business.

 

Marek walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

Mimi flounces in from the Gather Square and Market.

Marek releases Inguz, who launches into the air.

Avarok walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

Caeran waves back, but the grin on his face quickly disappears when he sees Ylisa's reaction to Pluto. "Yes," he says with a concerned nod. "He's mine. I hope that's not a problem." Before now, he never really considered that pets may be a problem in joining the harpers. Would he possibly have to give the canine up? He tells himself that it can't be the case.

 

Trau hurriedly strides in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

Avarok walks in and, slowly, taking in his surroundings.  He looks around for people he might recognize as well.  He notices Trau, and walks over to him.  "Hello my friend, how are you, this evening?" 

 

Othear walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

Ylisa smiles at Caeran, but there's a hint of frustration in her voice.  "Well, he's very nice, I'm sure, but a concert really isn't the place for canines.  Please could you take him somewhere out of barking-range and make sure he stays there?"

 

Shanel walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

Illata moves with an unconscious grace in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

July cranes her head over the pages of her program now as all sorts of interesting people are beginning to spill into the auditorium. Good thing she got seats first. She notes the entrance of the harper journeywoman, all in black. Artsy type?

 

Rune blinks in from :: between ::

 

Shanel slides into an empty seat near the back. A quick look around confirms her lack of knowledge of any others here. Smiling shyly, Nel keeps to herself.

 

Illata wanders in, glancing over those gathered for familiar faces as she searches for a seat. She finally spots a few good ones near the front, but not too near the front and she quietly slips into them, smiling at those she passes.

 

Caeran reaches a sigh of relief. So his being at the hall isn't a problem. "Don't worry, Ylisa," he promises. "He's pretty quiet. And that's why I'm in the back, just in case. If he starts up, I'll leave." He nods with sincerity and gives his pet a pat on the head. Would he intentionally do anything to spoil the performance?

 

Mimi lingers around somewhere between Ylisa and the stage, ever so slightly out of sight of the general crowd as she sits in a chair, leaning over and strapping the strap of one of her shoes together around her ankle.

 

Trau saunters tiredly in, yawning his head off and stretching. He takes a seat, in the middle, about halfway up, flinging up his robe before planting his rear on the bench. He searches briefly for knowns, and upon scanning the area, leans back, relaxing and waiting for the performance to start.

 

July sees Illata slip into the front, and abandons her nice center seat to join her. "Afternoon," she says a bit shyly in a generic greeting, not sure if the girl would recognize her.

 

Niara slips softly in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

Illata grins at July, indeed recognizing her from late night conversations at the Mug, though it has been a while. She keeps her voice low so as not to bother the rest of the audience. "Hey, it has been ages, how have you been?"

 

Ylisa grins at the canine-loving apprentice.  "If I hear so much as a squeak out of him... go on, then."  She starts to check her tuning again.  She's working on one gitar, and there's another instrument case beside her, awaiting attention.  She plucks strings, needing only to adjust a single peg in this last minute check, then repeats the process with the second instrument.  That done, she gets up and carries both of them to the stage, where she leaves them in an instrument rack.

 

July scans the audience, and then leans in closer to Illata. "Same as usual, really. I feel a bit old here though... " she notes, eying all the tanned blonde teenage boys in the audience. How many have their real hair color, nobody knows.

 

Drogo walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

Niara clambers over seats and steps to reach a spot near the front, intent on staying out of sight and mind, but well within ear shot of the musicians. She spots Drogo and waves him over, eager to gossip about anything that might go wrong, or applaud if everything goes boringly right.

 

Drogo goes home.

 

It's a calm and pleasant evening, with the sun still lighting the Amphitheatre, but no longer so hot as to be uncomfortable.  The stage is almost bare, apart from a tall stool positioned towards the right hand side.  Unobtrusively placed behind it is a small stand for musical instruments: there are a wooden drum and a couple of gitars resting on it.  Harpers are bustling about, disappearing backstage or simply standing around chatting.

 

Othear lingers ominously in the shadows, near to the back. His hood shrouds his head, and his hands are tucked tightly into the folds of his cloak. A mien of aloofness can be detected near and far, and only half of his face is visible from the shadow that the thick, coal black fabric casts on him. He's just here to listen, not to talk. Period. Of course, he might if someone came and started a conversation, but no one ever does. Not the shadow man. No one talks to the shadow man.

 

Illata chuckles softly as she follows the path of July's gaze. She nods sympathetically and settles more comfortably in her seat since there seems to be some activity near the stage. "Don't worry about it." she offers unhelpfully.

 

JeDera walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

Diane trudges in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

Ylisa waves urgently to one of the Harper Apprentices.  He bounces over to her, grinning broadly, and they exchange a few words in a low tone.  The lad glances down at his clothes, then straightens his collar, re-laces his jerkin so that the holes match, and rubs the dusty toe of his boot against the back of his (fortunately dark) trouser leg without any trace of embarrassment at his sartorial lapses.  Ylisa nods approvingly and gives him a friendly clap on the shoulder.  "You'll do, Ferdie.  Just make sure the voice is warmed up, OK?"

 

Liesana steps silently in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

"I'm the oldest one here," July murmurs miserably to Illata. "I'm even older than the performers," she whispers, pointing to Ylisa on stage. "Nice dress though." Her weaver eyes notice everything. A pretty young woman appears in the front, the same row as July and Illata, talking to a man. July blinks for a second, her mouth opening and closing. Gah. Niara??

 

Shanel sits quietly watching the people pour into the theater. Scanning each face, hoping to find someone she knows. Finally spotting someone in the form of Diane, Nel stands and waves attempting to get her attention. "Di!"

 

Mimi, quite famously known as the dancer, wanders out from backstage, walking carefully on surfaces that will not cause her shoes to clop. She grabs a seat near to the stages and the ins and outs so she can watch until she has to run off to stretch and all that pre-dance jazz.

 

Pluto sniffs the air. Yes, something smells good. Sneaking softly away from his Caeran, he moves toward what he thinks must be the source of the scent. Stopping at Orthear's feet, he sniffs them. Yes, this is it. His master, however, is close behind. "Now Pluto..." he scolds. He apologetically looks back up to the man. "Sorry 'bout him."

 

JeDera is far older than anyone else here by a long shot, the white streaks in her hair and the lines on her face give her away.  She makes her way carefully to the section set apart for Harper Masters and settles into her chair quietly.  She smiles at all the Harpers she knows and tries to get settled.  These seating areas aren't meant for creaking bones.

 

Liesana makes her appearance next, the tomboyish Craftheadsecond making some concession to being a bit of a figurehead by showing up in a dress for the occasion rather than the breeches and peasant shirt she'd no doubt prefer.  "July!"  she calls over, spotting an old friend and sidling over to chat for a bit before she's called upon to go take her seat over by JeDera. 

 

Diane is cradling her one month old in her arms when her name is capped, grinning, she starts right towards Shanel. "I knew I'd find someone here, Nel." she notes, slipping in to the row of seats where Shanel is and giggling, red curls left loose. Rebel's red locks are already seeming to grow pretty quickly, almost down around her neck. Pertty good for a one month old who was born with a full head of hair, eh?

 

Othear doesn't even look up at Caeran, but gives a visible nod, acknowledging that he wasn't bothered in the least. He's not exactly a bundle of joy, energy, and happiness today.

 

Sounds of tuning emerge from backstage, but soon fade out.  Those performers that were still wandering around seemed to have vanished, either backstage or to strategically placed seats, so it looks as if things are about to start.  Ylisa has been watching the entrance, but it seems that the person she was expecting has appeared. She nods to one of the other apprentices, who picks up a drum.  The sound of its beats cuts across conversations: the signal that the concert is about to start.  Ylisa walks onto the stage, and stands at the front, looking very slightly apprehensive, and waiting to get the attention of the audience. 

 

Niara turns away as Drogo disappears and settles herself on the bench, lifting feet up to tuck to the side and under her as she leans against an outstretched arm. Her gaze travels idly over the crowds, smiling in relief for Ylisa-so many people showed up. July's name catches her ear and she turns around, her brows wrinkling together in confusion-until she spies a familiar figure looking right at her. "July?"

 

July oohs at Liesana, ignoring her oldness (or now relative youth) for some nice catch-up conversation. "Ooh, you look nice," she confides to Liesana, since women are Officially only allowed to be catty towards each other. "Who forced you into it?"

 

Illata smiles brightly as she notices Liesana and she leans towards July, joining in on the conversation, her eyebrows rising teasingly at Liesana's nice attire. As the stage begins to hush, she finishes talking in whispers and soon redirects her attention towards the front, waiting for something of interest to begin.

 

Larisa walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

Shanel returns the grin of her friend and cues at the baby, tickling her lightly and hoping forever passes for a baby-laugh. "I was hoping you'd come. I was afraid I'd have to sit here all by myself."

 

Dale walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

Larisa enters with a fairly nondescript journeyman and they sit somewhat close to the others so Larisa can hear what is going on... She smiles to his choice of seats.

 

Diane giggles softly as her baby girl burbles, soon giggling herself. "Aww, Rebel likes ye," she notes, winking at Shanel and nodding. "Yeah, I caught a ride from a rider who had to fly straight cause of some injury.

 

As hush descends on the amphitheatre, singers file onto the stage, forming themselves into a loose semicircle behind Ylisa.  She smiles, looking round the good-sized audience.  "Good evening.  My name is Ylisa, Senior Apprentice Harper, and on behalf of the Harper Hall, I'm delighted to welcome you to this concert.  We have a variety of music for you tonight, and I hope it will be an enjoyable evening.  So, without further ado, let me introduce the chorus, with a song called, "Ice in my heart."

 

Dale steps out to the Gather Square .

 

July idly recognizes other people in the crowd as well.. some people Alexander knows.. the farmcrafter, the redheaded starcrafter with a baby, the newly arrived smith journeyman posted at Gar.. but it's not like she remembers any of their names anyhow, and they probably don't remember hers. But there's Niara. She waves, to her as introductions begin. Can't talk now, but you can still switch seats!

 

Liesana crinkles her nose at July, but refrains from sticking her tongue out at her, instead noting archly that "Just because I rarely wear dresses doesn't mean I /never/ do, m'dear Weaver.  But you'll notice the absence of pink, lace, or frillyness from this outfit... Oh."  Someone's just noticed Ylisa taking the stage.  "Looks like I have to go join JeDera..."  she stage-whispers.  "I'll catch up with you later."  A hurried scuttle, with skirts raised, and she takes her seat.

 

About a dozen harpers form the vocal group: most are wearing apprentice knots, and they're a mix of men and women.  There's no obvious conductor, but when they're in their places, they all turn their eyes towards a middle-aged journeyman on one end of the row, who discreetly gives the beat with the merest twitch of a raised finger.  Apart from that, they don't seem to need much direction.

 

JeDera looks up at Liesana with a warm smile as she settles into the seat beside her.  "Hey Lies.  Looks like Ylisa has got things together."  She slips something wrapped in a cloth to the other Master.  It looks lumpy, like cake.

 

Shanel smiles as the baby giggles her little baby-giggles. "Well, I'm glad. She's cute......" Shanel's voice trails off as the concert begins. The conversation can wait for now.

 

Niara randomly sticks out her tongue and crosses her eyes at Liesana's departing back before scrambling up a row to settle next to July. "It's been ever so long!" she hisses under her breath as she grabs the weavers hand and squeezes, her attention refocusing on the stage.

 

 

      Pa-pa-pa-pam

      Pa-pa-pa-pam-pa-pa-pa...

      Pa-pa-pa-pam

      Pa-pa-pa-pam-pa-pa-pa...

 

No instruments support this song; the singers themselves build up an accompaniment with wordless syllables that blend and weave their rhythms.  Over this textured fabric of sound, a woman soloist begins the lyrics.

 

      Picture a girl in a crowded workshop,

      People all round but she works apart,

      Making and shaping with all her skill, but

      Building a wall round her frozen heart.  

 

      How could I know that the sun was rising?

      How could I know that winter would pass?

      How could I know that love -

      Would come at last?

 

The refrain is bright, its rhythm sharp and the pace unremitting, slowing only as the last line is reached.

 

            Ice in my heart

            Cracking and breaking,

            Ice in my heart

            Melts in the sun,

            Ice in my heart,

            Springtime is waking - 

            Now love has come.

 

      Pam-pa-pam, pam-pa-pam,

      Pam-pa-pam, pa-pa-pa-pam-pa-pam.

 

Now the male voices take up the lyrics, while the women provide the harmonies, their bustling syllables forming a busy background.

 

      Pam-pa-pam, pa-pa-pa-pam-pa-pam

 

Diane sets Rebel up on her knee a little, letting her rest more upright than laying down. The baby's gurgles hush and so does she, mother and baby's attention on the stage.

 

            Picture a man on the Holder's business

            Placing commissions, he seeks the best;

            No-one to love and no-one to dream of,

            So much to think of, no time to rest;

 

Seshat walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

            How could I know that the sun was rising?

            How could I know that winter would pass?

            How could I know that love

            Would come at last?

 

      Pah -

            Pah -              

                  Pah -

                        Pah -      

                              Pa-pa-pa-pam-pa-pa-pa

  

            Ice in my heart

            Cracking and breaking;

            Ice in my heart

            Melts in the sun;

            Ice in my heart,

            Springtime is waking -

            Now love has come.

 

An interlude in which the vocalised beats play freely, then the web of vocal lines merge again into a simple harmony of long held notes.  Male and female soloists take up the story, first alternating their contributions, then singing together.  To lead into the chorus, all the singers join in a repeated phrase that builds into a chord.

 

      Catching a glimpse as he comes towards me;

            Catching my breath as I meet her eyes;

      Suddenly my frozen heart is warming;

            Here is a love I can recognise!

 

      Suddenly now the sun is rising,

      Suddenly now the winter has passed,

      Suddenly now I'm realising

      Love has come

            Love has come,

                  Love has come -

       At last!

 

The final chorus includes much echoing of its distinctive rhythm,  before a last repetition of the opening harmonies brings the song to a close.     

 

            Ice in my heart

            Cracking and breaking,

            Ice in my heart

            Melts in the sun,

            Ice in my heart,

            Springtime is waking - 

            Now love has come.

     

      Pa-pa-pa-pam,

      Pa-pa-pa-pam-pa-pa-pa...

      Pa-pa-pa-pam,

      Pa-pa-pa-pam-pa-pa-pa...

      Pa-pa-pa-pam

      Pa-pa-pa-pam-pa-pa-pa

      Pa-a-a-a-am.  

      Pum!     

 

Othear steps out to the Gather Square.

 

Liesana, so recently settled in her seat, stirs herself again to offer applause, clapping her hands loudly but neatly to signal her approval.  "Well written, well played!"

 

As the song ends, the chorus wait for a few seconds, most of them watching the reaction of the audience.  When the leader gives a signal, they bow.

 

Othear walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

JeDera settles in quietly, just watching and listening.

 

Shanel joins the applause enthusiastically. Her eyes widen at how well the song was done, especially with the harmonics all vocalized.

 

Othear walks out.

 

July starts clapping hesitantly when she realizes the song is over. Clapping before the song is over is a painful experience. As the singers bow, she applauds more enthusiastically. "A capella is the best!" she acclaims to Illata next to her.

 

Caeran looks to the stage. Though he is a harper apprentice, he isn't performing in the choir today. Since his voice it's changing, his singing isn't exactly wonderful at this point in his life. Instead, he is content sitting and listening, keeping a tight grip on Pluto's collar. He doesn't want him getting away again. As the song ends, he applauds.

 

Mimi applauds loudly from her strategic seat near the front. Oooh very lovely yes very nice. So she just sits and waits for her cue to head backstage.

 

Illata claps brightly, nodding to July's comment, agreeing with her on some levels. She just likes music of all kinds, but this was very good indeed.

 

Diane grins softly and cradles her baby 'tween her arms and claps with everyone else, yay!

 

Larisa applauds as well, following the journeyman she came with, as he claps a couple heartbeats after Liesana.

 

Seshat claps loudly, disappointed that she missed the beginning.

 

As the chorus file of the stage, a quartet takes their place.  They form up in a close group, turned so that they can see each other. At the back stands a young woman with a gitar and a small lad with a drum.  He must be one of the Harper Hall's youngest apprentices, and his excitement is clearly visible on his face. In front of them are a violinist and a young woman with a flute.  Ylisa introduces them. "Our next piece is the Threadfall Quartet, performed by Apprentices Vella, Toman and Rayera, and Junior Apprentice Niperin."  She then retreats to the obscurity of the wings. The flautist catches the eyes of the others and the music begins.

 

 

The violin begins alone, with a peaceful, song-like theme that speaks of quiet days and warm sun.  Its long phrases flow pleasantly onwards, joined after a while by the gitar, which adds a simple, contented accompaniment.

 

 

The melody repeats, but after a few phrases, the drummer starts to play a quiet beat at the start of every bar.  The strength of the drumbeat gradually increases, until it starts to become a little obtrusive.  Is something amiss?  The flute enters, on a high, silver-toned note that adds a remote interval to the underlying chord - not quite a discord, but certainly not a comfortable element.  The music takes on a sense of unease, of threat, of something sinister on the horizon.

 

Flavian walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

 

A sudden realization: the drumbeat intensifies while the flute slides down a chromatic sequence, then repeats it from a lower starting point, its notes seeming to fall, twist, and fall again.  The threat is real now, and the gitar accompaniment switches to a fast rhythm, giving the alarm.  The violin's melody is more intense, but starts to break, giving way at times to the flute's now-strident tones before stopping completely, as if a peaceful day had been shattered by the onset of Thread.  The gitar's harmonies modulate briefly into a minor key.

 

 

The violin begins another theme, this one firm and bold, yet not heavy or ponderous; indeed, it seems to fly from the bow.  The gitar changes key again to blend with this new element, taking on a rhythm that's almost martial, perhaps a slow march, or the beating of great wings.  The flute fades into silence for a few moments as the focus of the music is elsewhere, while the drum's continued tattoo adds to the urgency of the moment.

 

 

The flute re-enters, its notes loud and fast, seeming to cut across the texture that the other instruments are creating, assaulting the melody and threatening to score and scar it.  The violin responds with a faster variation on its theme, and the gitar, too, starts to bring out that tune more boldly, as the deadly peril is met. These are the sounds of a fight!

 

 

A moment of shock, as the violin seems to depart from its line with a sharply accented phrase that's almost painful in its suddenness.  Then it pauses, leaving the gitar to carry the melody, as if some wounded dragon had left the fight to others.  Soon, however, the crisis seems to pass. The violin re-enters, seeming almost in unison with the gitar, and together with the drum, they create a fiery crescendo that leaves the flute silent and defeated.

 

 

There's a pause.  Then the gitar starts to play the original theme: calm is restored, the ancient enemy defeated yet again.  The violin takes up a lyrical counter-melody that seems almost sad: even in victory there is loss.  The flute re-enters, playing in its lower register to provide a gentle harmony.  The instruments blend together, supported by the gitar's soft, even rhythm and a few hollow drum-beats that fade away to nothing.  The piece ends quietly.

 

The musicians smile at one another, the youngest of them grinning broadly.  He whispers to the violinist, "My first performance!"

 

Larisa whistles and claps wildly. A song to remember...Her journeyman grins at her though he is younger than she...

 

Trau looks almost stunned in his seat, eyes as wide as dinner plates. He claps loudly, enjoying every bit of the performance so far. A comforted smile he wears on his face as he is relieved from the stresses of the day.

 

Seshat applauses with a smile, her eyes bright and content.

 

Caeran applauds loudly. Great song. Hopefully there's more like it.

 

July sits in a daze on her bench as the piece suddenly ends. You call this music? Why, back in her day music actually used to sound *good* and be soothing, not like this.. punk.. stuff they play nowadays. Young whippersnappers. Grumblegrumble. She, however, holds her peace for Liesana and Illata's sakes, and applauds politely, then a bit more warmly as her stance softens with the smile of the youngest apprentice. He must genuinely enjoy what he does. Awww.. so cute!

 

Illata holds her breath as the piece ends. Her dark eyes intent on the performers. Even eyeing their instruments with great interest. She finally recovers enough to clap encouragingly, leaning over to whisper in July's ear, "WOw, that was impressive." she then notices July's expression and bursts into quiet knowing giggles.

 

Diane laughs softly, her eyes dancing as she applauds "That was great, don't you think Nel?" she asks, grinning.

 

Shanel claps loudly grinning up at the stage. Turning slightly to Diane, "They're wonderful."

 

Liesana turns to give July and her grumbling an unmasterly smirk.  "Very innovative, wouldn't you agree?"  the Harper asks of her Weaver friend.  "Shocking, and wonderful for catching the attention."

 

Niara glances at July out of the corner of her eye, catching the fleeting expression and rolling her eyes. She might not be fond of /playing/, but she enjoys it coming from people who are. So she joins in the applause around her with a vengeance.

 

July is snapped out of her daze by Illata's laughter, blushes a bright shade of scarlet, and begins to applaud as enthusiastically as humanly possible, involving pounding the benches of the people in front of her with her feet rather intrusively. Ha! She's open-minded and tolerant and avant garde and "down with it"! Yes she is! Ha! Take that, artsy-fartsy!

 

As the quartet take their bow and file off, the young drummer is hard pressed to maintain his decorum, and those who are watching from the right angle can see him leap for joy as soon as he thinks he's out of sight of the audience.  Ylisa has been watching from the wings, and now returns, with her gitar on its strap ready to play.  "Thanks to our quartet."    She pauses before introducing her first solo song, fingers moving into position on the strings.  "This is a love song, though with a rather unusual lover.  I call it 'Lament for Lost Love.'  " 

 

The introduction to this song is gentle, the gitar's tone warm as Ylisa plucks the strings.  A line of melody seems to emerge from the textured sound, then Ylisa begins to sing.  Her voice is soft yet clear, and restrained above an accompaniment that's reduced to essential simplicity.

 

Old and decrepit JeDera might be, but she sits quietly and listens, clapping at the end of each piece.  She keeps her outward expression of personal opinion down to a polite clap.  It ain't over yet.

 

        I lie in my case as it stands by the wall;

        The strings that once rang are now slackened and dull;

        My voice is unheard and my fretboard so worn

        Has felt no caresses for many a Turn.

 

 

The melody is left hanging.  When the second verse begins, after a few bars' link, Ylisa's voice starts to build in volume, and the melody is now set against a bolder gitar part.  The rippling chords would seem joyful, were it not for a hint of the minor key: hope tinged with the shadow of loss.

 

 

        I long for the day when my lover will come

        And lift me from darkness and join me in song;

        But he has another love, fairer than I,

        With hair like the sunshine and eyes like the sky.

 

 

A second tune appears, marching through brittle arpeggios, then climbs to a high point and falls away.  The same two phrases are repeated.  The gitar contributes sharp, plucked chords, one to a bar: its own song of bitterness.

 

 

        Together they wander through valleys afar

        And lost in such wonder, he needs no gitar,

        His voice speaks the words that enchant and enthral,

        And love-talk is music enough for his girl.

 

 

With the return to the original, gentler melody, hope reasserts itself.

 

 

        Perhaps she will leave him, or maybe some day

        He'll need sweeter music to beg her to stay;

        And then he'll remember his faithful old friend

        And take me to cherish and furbish and mend.

 

 

The alternate tune appears again, but with very different delivery.  This time, gitar and voice blend, a shower of plucked notes and sweeping vocal phrases giving an almost ecstatic feel, bolder in the first half of the verse, then slightly softer as the melodic line repeats. 

 

 

        I'll sing for him then as I've sung in the past,

        I'll sing of a love that endures to the last;

        My voice will be mellow, as rich as old wine,

        And how we shall blend as his song joins with mine!

 

 

The last note of the verse is picked up by the gitar, becoming almost ominous as the accompaniment modulates into the minor chords that form the link to the final stanza.  This is sung to the original tune, and as softly as the first verse.

 

 

        But what can I do if he never returns,

        But lie in my case while my aching strings yearn,

        And long for the touch of his skin against mine,

        Adrift in the memory of music so fine.

 

 

This time, the final line resolves to the home note, and a few more plucked arpeggios bring the song to a soft conclusion.

 

 

Ylisa lets her hands fall from the gitar and stands breathing deeply to calm herself and smiling at the audience.  She's looking more confident now that she's survived her first song.

 

July applauds warmly as the song comes to an end, soothing her rather frayed nerves. "The Journeywoman knows her craft," she declares unabashedly to Illata.

 

Niara holds back a sniffle, her sentimental heart touched by the plight of the old gitar. "S'not fair," she whimpers to herself before running an arm under her nose and looking swiftly around to make sure her mushy silliness is unnoticed.

 

Seshat barely claps, her eyes filled with a deep understanding and unshed tears.

 

Illata claps appreciatively before glancing at July out of the corner of her eye. The Harper's Apprentice can hardly wait to see what her friend's reaction is to this one. She gives the weaver a grin and nods slightly beaming stageward at Ylisa.

 

Mimi applauds for Ylisa, simply beaming at the senior apprentice, and slips quietly from her seat to disappear backstage to warm up a bit.

 

Caeran sighs as he claps. Another love song. Well, at least this one was dramatic. He latches back onto his canine's collar as he eyes Ylisa. She must be terribly nervous.

 

Shanel chuckles softly as she once again joins the applause. What a delightful song.

 

Larisa leans over and whispers to her younger escort. "Wish the man in that song would go back to his instrument...She's jealous of his lady..." She nods at the comment of the woman about the journeywoman knowing her craft...

 

July leans closer to Illata and whispered. "Of course, if the man ever *did* go back to his gitar, he'd really have no life." Her voice pitches even higher into a *female* falsetto. " 'I know where you've been! You've been out with that.. gitar! I thought you loved me!' "

 

Liesana snorts at overhearing July's comment to Illata and murmurs her own comment to JeDera of "Clearly, she's never met some of the more, er, dedicated, performance types..."

 

Illata sniggers at July's impressions of the characters in the piece and struggles to keep her attention somewhat focused on the performance. She shifts around in her seat, a stiffled grin on her face.

 

JeDera turns at Liesana's words and has to smile.  "Isn't Harpering the only life there is?"  Its hard to tell if she's serious or not.

 

Larisa shakes her head..."Farming..." She mutters

 

"Weaving," July chimes in to the crafter debate nearby.

 

A quick response is surprising from JeDera.  "Of course, Weaving!  Otherwise we'd all be naked and sunburnt around here!"

 

Ylisa stands smiling until the applause fades, then lays her right hand over the gitar strings and waits until she has something approaching silence  She doesn't introduce the next song, but simply starts to play when she's ready.

 

Raiden ambles, tracing dust in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

Ylisa plays only a few bars of simple introduction in a minor key before she starts to sing, but that's enough to establish a medium tempo and a hint of mystery. The song is pitched fairly low, just right for the singer's voice.

 

 

        The Turn was drawing to its close, the night was clear and cold,

        And we were three days out from land, on course for Southern Hold,

        The moons hung low but, from above, a brightness caught my eye:  

        I looked and saw the Turn's End Ghosts write silver on the sky.

 

 

The ballad proceeds swiftly, without too much decoration from the gitar apart from a few sharp accents.  There's a story to be told here!  The tune is regular in rhythm, and steady in pace, with a pause at the end of the third line that adds suspense.  

 

 

        The lookout cried,  "A ship ahead!" His voice cut through the night,

        And faintly in the distance shone the glimmer of a light,

        Before my watch on deck was done, we had her well in view -

        And saw her sails flap free as if untended by her crew.

 

 

        We saw no man upon her deck as we were drawing near;

        With 'Ship ahoy!' we hailed her but no answer could we hear;

        Our captain took the wheel himself to bring us to her side, 

        But something made my blood run cold as nobody replied.

 

 

Brisk finger-work on the gitar builds excitement as Ylisa keeps the story moving.  The volume increases for the next verse, and voice and expression are animated as she looks round the audience, making eye contact, trying to tell her tale to each person individually.

 

 

        We leaped aboard her empty deck and looked about in fear,

        The glows were bright, the wheel ran free, but nobody was there,

        We searched that ship from stem to stern until the break of dawn,

        But nothing could we find to tell us where the crew had gone.

 

 

The next verse is delivered less forcefully,  but the narrator's wonder comes across in the intensity of Ylisa's voice as the scene unfolds and ship's name is revealed.

 

 

        The hold was stowed with barrels of the choicest Benden wine,

        The table in the cabin set with food and drink so fine,

        No log was there to tell her course from some far distant coast,

        But on her bow was carved her name: she was the 'Turn's End Ghost.' 

 

 

The next verse is more reflective, providing a contrast with what's gone before.

 

        Perhaps some danger threatened and their lifeboat bore them clear,

        Perhaps they sighted thread sign and jumped overboard in fear,

        Or maybe some great breaking wave had swept the decks of men,

        But though we searched by morning light, they were not seen again.

 

 

Now there's an interlude before the climax of the song.   Ylisa plays through the verse, wrapping some intricate ornamentation around the melody.  When she starts to sing again, a high harmonic line from the gitar adds to the atmosphere of mystery as she seems to share a secret thought.

 

 

        The old folk tell that Turn's End Ghosts are dragons in the sky,

        The first to fight to save our world and flame the Thread on high,

        But maybe on that Turn's End night, the Ghosts came sweeping down

        To save the lost, as dragons do, and not let sailors drown.

 

 

        We could not spare a crew to bring her safely to the land

        And so we left her sailing on towards the Southern strand,

        But maybe on some Turn's End night when stars fall from the sky

        Some other ship will meet her as she silently goes by.

 

 

The song ends softly,  sadly, slowing to the close.  Ylisa lets the last note die away completely before smiling to the audience, a slight relaxation in her stance hinting that she's pleased with her performance.

 

 

Larisa adds. "Mining, Starcraft, herders." She smiles. "And without farming, you wouldn't have the flax and the like for weaving." She speaks quietly to not interrupt the song.

 

Niara leans forward as the song progress, her story-lover's heart trilling with the words. As the song trails to a close, she bursts into enthusiastic applause, a smile as bright as her eyes testifying to her approval. /Those/ are the best types of songs.

 

July applauds enthusiastically, her high opinion of Ylisa already established. Yes, nautica! Meanwhile, a small boy next to her whimpers unnoticed, "That was my da's ship!" Well, that's your Long Lost Angst Story right there.

 

Caeran applauds once again. "Nice playing!" he shouts above the din of the crowd. Maybe he'll be up there next time. Unless the ghosts get him.

 

Liesana sits in silence a moment as the last chords from the gitar and mingled voice fade away, having fallen quiet to listen to the piece, and leave discussion of the merits of various Crafthalls to others.  She breaks it as the applause starts, clapping herself, and chipping in a quintessentially Liesana-ish whistle of approval.

 

Diane giggles softly and turns a little in her seat, "Go Starcrafters!" she whispers, her knot riding on her shoulder. Turning back to the performance, she beams and claps, still cuddling her baby 'tween her arms.

 

Illata allows a long moment for the mood of the piece to settle in, then applauds enthusiastically, adding a cheer for good measure. "That was great. I love the wide range being presented, this is a rare treat." The girl looks happy, chuckling at the ongoing crafters debate.

 

Shanel claps loudly. Not having followed any conversations around her, Diane gets an odd look for her soft cheer.

 

July confides to Liesana, "This is the sort of thing my sister would love. She says that everything in life.." Oh, here we're starting that everything in life debate again, ".. can be gained through salt water... tears, sweat, and the salt sea."

 

Ylisa introduces the next performer.  "And now, please welcome Apprentice Ferdie."  The harper who strides jauntily onto the stage doesn't quite manage to display the image of Craft professionalism.  Sixteen Turns old, Ferdie has sandy-coloured hair, parted in the middle and showing signs of having just been damped and combed into position, ever-curious grey eyes, a considerable number of freckles and a cheerful grin.  He is, at least, reasonably tidy in black trousers, white shirt, and a long jerkin in a rich Harper blue, laced at the front. The clothing is well made and clean, but has an indefinable air of not quite fitting its wearer's lanky frame.  

 

Larisa listens and turns to smile at some woman near her's little baby. The sweet thing smiles back at her.

 

July ignores, for once, the apprentice's lack of sartorial grace and acne (oh, those are freckles, aren't they?) and flashes him an encouraging smile. Everyone's been in his position once upon a time.

 

Ylisa retreats to a stool at one side of the stage, still holding her gitar as she's going to accompany the singer.  Sitting, she discreetly crosses her legs under her long skirt to allow her to play more comfortably.

 

Once about to perform, Ferdie's demeanour changes.  He holds himself straight, breathes deeply, and his expression becomes serious.  As Ylisa plays the last line of the melody as introduction, he scans the audience, visibly gathering himself for action. The melody is gentle, reflective, and well-placed for Ferdie's clear tenor. 

 

 

      Do you remember when the world was new?

      When childhood's eyes made leaves a brighter green and skies more blue?

      When you and I played in the sun

      And never knew that clouds would come?

      I loved you then, but we were far too young;

      I loved you then, but we were far too young.

 

Avarok walks out.

 

The volume builds slowly, then falls away again as the last line is repeated.   A variation on that line is played on the gitar, to give a link into the next verse.  This time, the delivery is warmer, almost joyful - until the bitterness of the last lines.  These are sung strongly, the gitar's accompaniment changing to a pattern that interjects sharp down-strokes to emphasise the stressed words.

 

 

      Do you remember when the world seemed bright,

      When love shed glowing colours on each day, and warmed each night,

      When you and he walked hand in hand

      And laughed and kissed and dreamed and planned?

      I loved you then, but dared not aim so high;

      I loved you then, but dared not aim so high.

 

 

Four simple beats on the gitar carry the singer into the refrain.  Ferdie sings with passion, and seems to lose himself in the music.  He's far from being an old man like the song's narrator, but perhaps there's a trace of real feeling there?

 

 

            Lady so high, in silence I wait;

            And maybe this waiting can never end;

            Lady so high, in silence I wait;

            But though you may never love me, I'll still be your friend.

 

The last line is softer, joy and sadness mingled in the promise.   Quiet again, the gitar plays a pattern of chords that depart from what's gone before, introducing a darker note.

 

 

      Do you remember when the world turned black,

      The day you heard the news that he was never coming back?

      You thought the pain would never end,

      Sought comfort in your oldest friend;

      How could I speak of love at such a time?   

      How could I speak of love at such a time?   

 

 

            Lady so high, in silence I wait;

            And maybe this waiting can never end;

            Lady so high, in silence I wait;

            But though you may never love me, I'll still be your friend.

 

 

There's a longer interlude on the gitar before the final verse begins, and when it starts, there's an element of restraint in the singer that suggests thought or hesitation, before he throws himself into his appeal.

 

 

      Do you remember only yesterday,

      We spoke of all the friends the passing times have swept away?

      And now that so few Turns remain,

      Is there a chance I can explain

      How love like mine can dream what it can't say?

      How love like mine can dream what it can't say?

 

 

The verse gathers intensity, then singer and gitar swing directly into the refrain.

 

 

            Lady so high, in silence I wait;

            And maybe this waiting can never end;

            Lady so high, in silence I wait;

            But though you may never love me, I'll still be your friend.

 

            Lady so high, in silence I wait;

            And maybe this waiting can never end;

            Lady so high, in silence I wait;

            But though you may never love me, I'll still be your friend.

            Yes, even if you never love me, I'll still be your friend.

 

 

The repeated refrain dies away, its last notes echoed by the gitar.   Ferdie waits a decent interval - perhaps four seconds - before grinning broadly, nodding his head in the sketchiest of bows, and almost bouncing from the stage.

 

Larisa applauds at the end of the song.

 

July sits straight on the bench, dazed, this time in a good way by the professionalism and profundity of the young man's song. She applauds slowly, not in the excited exuberance of her previous applause, but in deeper appreciation.

 

Caeran claps joyfully. Ferdie has done well, in his opinion. He knows what it's like to be up there, so he can appreciate his performance.

 

Akayla walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

Akayla steps out to the Gather Square.

Shanel steps out to the Gather Square.

 

JeDera folds her hands quietly in her lap, watching bemusedly. When the song is over she turns to Liesana and smiles. "All this without a Voice instructor.  You've all done very well."

 

Ferdie takes a bow, but doesn't leave the stage.  Instead, he walks to the side where Ylisa was sitting, and takes a strangely-shaped wooden drum from the instrument rack.  Ylisa quickly swaps her gitar for a slightly smaller one, which will presumably have a different tone.  Then she turns to the audience again.  Smiling towards her fellow-performer, she says, "Thank you, Ferdie.  And now, I'm delighted to tell you that Journeyman Mimi is going to dance for us."  She resumes her seat, though there is as yet no trace of the dancer on stage.

 

Brooding chords give the impression of movement in the darkness, as Ylisa's fingers roll across the strings to produce notes in quick succession.  The sound gradually grows, anticipation building, as if people were gathering, wagons drawn up for the night, perhaps a fire being built so that travellers can meet together.

 

Mimi begins to slowly make her way out from the side of the stage, her skirt held with one of her hands, her feet brought up and down as she taps merrily out to the center, swinging her arms around her hips as she turns around rather slowly to face the audience, slowing and quieting her steps to a near-stop, leaning down slightly as she brandishes her skirt around her ankles.

 

A thread of sound unwinds from the gitar: a sorrowful melodic line that climbs and turns and falls, sometimes echoing a phrase, sometimes moving swiftly on.  It is unornamented, continuing note by searching note with little harmony, as if seeking for answers, for certainty, for love.  Even in a crowd, it seems, there can be loneliness.

 

Mimi moves no further than the center of the stage, and very slowly turns around once, hands and arms winding seductively around her face and just above her head.  Movements convey a mournful, possibly melancholy feeling as she lifts her heels up and down, causing her hips to rock and her skirt to sway as she casts her eyes sadly down towards the floor to the side of her.

 

The gitar's strummed pattern returns, with the same basic beat but more ornamentation, and louder, with the sharp sound of thumb and fingernails striking the strings more pronounced.  The drum takes up the complex rhythm, giving the gitar more freedom.  This music leaves no room for acceptance or complacency; sadness has turned to challenge.

 

Just before the rhythm picks up the dancer stops, stamping her foot onto the floor to accent the change.  She leaves old feelings behind, elegantly stepping over to turn quickly towards the back of the stage, skirts flaring out to reveal swiftly moving feet, and turns back towards the front.  Each lift of her foot allows another twisting movement and a wave of Mimi's wine-red skirts.

 

Another plangent tendril of sound reaches out from the gitar, but now the seeking is more insistent, the underlying rhythm more pronounced, and there's something of determination in the way a certain phrase recurs, like a face or a feeling that the mind can't escape.

 

Mimi ducks her head and shoulders, hands pulled back to her hips. With the yearning of the gitar, the dancer turns her head up again, bringing her hands up as though they are being pulled by some force, snaking them past her face to a sudden stop, where her head is thrown back and she taps her feet slowly, at first, then faster, and faster.

 

With a sudden burst of sound that impels to action, the urgent rhythm springs again from the gitar, full of life despite echoes of sadness.  The music presses onwards, its harmony developing as the same complex beat continues, as if urging, insisting, demanding a response.

 

The front part of Mimi's skirt is quickly snatched up with her hand as she moves sideways across the stage, her unoccupied hand reaching across her face, and a small clap can be heard coming from it.  The little circles of wood in the dancer's hand send off a nice chant of taps along with her feet as she leans forwards, with steps towards the front of the stage.  She suddenly pulls backwards, leaning backwards, then turning halfway, letting a hand linger, twisting, turning, out towards the audience, other hand still wisping her skirt about in front of her.

 

Another quieter passage: its notes are yearning, dark with hidden emotion.  Their intensity grows, and with it, the music's tension, as if an appeal had been made but the answer still remained uncertain.

 

Mimi bounces on her toes, barely leaving the ground, hitting it with an accent of her tap shoes, brushing her hands back to another neat effect of her skirt ruffling backwards as she takes a few steps forwards.  Her steps become faster and more urgent.  Hands and face are sent up towards the sky with a touch of light stepping before she quickly leans down again, holding her skirt in both hands as she edges to the side, slowly, quietly, then with a louder, fiercer tapping she returns towards the front of the stage, ruffles of crimson brushing the front of her knees.

 

Ylisa smiles fiercely as powerful chords ring out, first low in pitch as if some force were straining for release, then set free from all constraints, soaring triumphantly to the higher notes.  Sharp taps on the table of the gitar accent the rhythm, and the drummer beats with increasing force.   The music seems to overflow with energy as it accelerates towards its jubilant conclusion, finally coming to a close, without slowing, in a burst of sharp, rapid strumming.

 

Mimi steps slowly, slowly towards the front of the stage, although her hands are spiraling about quickly over her head.  Skirt is picked up again in her left hand which is held near her waist, then at her hip, while she crosses one foot over behind the other with a tap, then quickly out in front again with a small succession of added taps in there, quickly dancing her way across the stage, actions full of energy, full of strength.  With a twirl and a determined set of her foot, just a slight movement and one hand is brought up past her head in triumph, while her face is set in a proud smile, the song ends.

 

Caeran chuckles in both amusement and wonder. Who knew that Journeyman Mimi could dance like that? She should be forced to do it more often. Maybe they should ask for an encore. He bursts into applause as soon as the song is finished.

 

Trik roves with uncouth grace in from the Gather Square and Market.

 

Ylisa quickly hands her gitar to Ferdie, who replaces it in the rack and slips offstage.  Then she raises her hands to applaud Mimi's performance, nodding appreciatively and silently mouthing, "Wonderful!"

 

Mimi drops her hands and backs up from the front of the stage, pausing to perform a small curtsey, cheeks slightly flushed, and she turns to Ylisa, "Great job!" Yesh. Your little journeywoman certainly can dance. And she ducks offstage, to reappear in the audience, finding a seat near a few friends with a wide grin.

 

Liesana has been applauding for the performances all along, even if you didn't see anything while her player was idle, but she's even more cheerfully loud in her clapping for her friend's performance.  "Excellent, Mimsy!  Bet your attendance levels at your classes go through the roof."

 

Trau claps very loudly, resisting the urge to whistle in appreciation. He enjoys watching dances above everything else.

 

Niara rubs her eyes, now sore from having been watching the performance intently. "There's gonna be a test, I just know there's gonna be a test," had been muttered over and over again throughout. Though now that it's over, she settles back, clapping tiredly. "I hope there's not a test..."

 

The vocal group returns to the stage, this time arranging themselves in two rows, with men at the back and women in front.  Their arrangement and stance suggest a relatively formal item to come.  Their leader is journeyman Corron again, but this time he stands with facing them in a typical 'conductor' position.  A small group of instrumentalists also take their positions with harp, violin and flute.

 

The harp begins the introduction to this choral item, plucking slow chords, one to a bar.  A violin adds sombre phrases that seem to weave a fabric of sound round the harp's framework.  The tenors begin to sing softly, their voices restrained and almost remote, but gradually increasing in volume.  After two lines, the basses add their strength.

 

 

        The winter sun shines chill across the land;         

        The burden beasts inscribe their furrowed trail;  

        And tools are bitter in my stiffened hand, 

        While aching shoulders warn that strength can fail;  

 

 

The controlled growth of sound continues as the female voices enter, reaching its peak in the last line of the verse.

 

 

        But when life's green      

                begins to show

                        Where all was dead and dark, I know 

        That's why I farm the land.

 

 

The flute repeats the final part of the verse over the harp and violin's accompaniment.  Now the singing breaks into harmony, the melody sung slowly by the sopranos over lower lines that are full of movement.

 

 

        I've known the driving labour in the field

        As parching sun sets into harvest night,

        To win secure another acre's yield,

        Before the wind can break or rain can blight;

 

 

The rest of the verse is sung almost in unison, with only small variations by the lower voices, providing a contrast that emphasises the homely image.  The violin doubles the melody while the flute adds decoration.

 

 

        But when I see                

                The table spread

                        With tender roots and fragrant bread,

        That's why I farm the land.

 

 

A tenor soloist steps forward to start the third verse, his voice warm and expressive over the support of the instruments.   As he continues, he is joined by the other voices, humming softly. 

 

 

        My vision is the promise in a seed

        My skill, to know the lines that will breed true,

        My care, to prune and water, stake and feed;

        With patience, wait the birth of something new.

 

 

The choir, in full harmony, joins in a majestic crescendo to celebrate the farmers' achievement as the piece draws towards its close.  Flute and violin add an exuberant flourish as the final phrase is repeated in triumph.

 

 

        But when I see

                That two fruits grow

                        Where one has grown before, I know

        That's why I farm the land;

        That's why I farm the land.

 

 

The last note is held for its full, precisely measured length, then at a gesture from the conductor, singers and instruments fall silent.

 

Seshat walks out.

 

Caeran smiles. That just may bring the craft debate back to life. At any rate, it was a good song. He leans back as he enjoys the concert.

 

The singers walk off stage, but their conductor simply turns to face the front, and waits while Ylisa moves forward a few paces, halting in full view of the audience but still not far from the side of the stage.  "Journeyman Corron stays with us for the next song, which was written to honour our friends in the Star Craft."  She withdraws to make way for the performers. 

 

A middle-aged Harper journeyman, Corron is impeccably turned out in black trousers, a white shirt, and a black waistcoat edged with red piping and laced with a bright red woven cord.  He is of middle height and fairly rounded in build.  His face is also rounded, with dark brown eyes under neatly trimmed brows, a small, neat nose, and a chin that's neither prominent nor lacking.   Once-black hair is receding and now mostly grey.  He holds himself erect and has an air of dignity, but a quick smile betrays a sense of fun.

 

The soloist steps forward, scanning the audience with a serious expression as he positions himself in the centre of the stage.  The instrumentalists who are to accompany the song also take their places: a gitarist, a violinist, and harpers with tenor and treble pipes.

 

 

The piece begins with a slow introduction.  Long notes on the violin provide a foundation, then pipes are added, building into an eerie harmony.  The gitar enters, harp-like, playing one rippling chord to the bar. 

 

 

The singer gathers himself and begins to sing, his deep voice resonant with the vastness of space.  The first phrase is strong, the second longer and lower, its first few notes echoed by the rest of the line in a rhythmic pattern that seems to die away.  The next lines start to repeat the same melody, then sweep upwards into the second part of the verse.

 

 

      Thundering in silence,

            Worlds that travel,

                 following a path that has no signs;

      Splendour in the darkness;

            Brighter than a

                 diamond is the furthest star that shines.

      Mystery of distance,

      Wonder of existence,

      Everywhere surprise...

      Open your eyes!

 

 

The instruments provide a short link and continue to accompany the second verse, their sound now less ethereal, more edged.  As the singer continues, subtle emphasis on the beats reinforces the images of  craftsmanship, then a smoother delivery enhances the suggestion of vast distance.

 

 

      Labour and precision;

            Grinding glass and

                  bending steel to make the image clear.

      Far-extending vision,

            Reaching out to

                  touch the stars and bring the distant near.

      Called by hidden forces,

      Worlds upon their courses

      Trace the path of light:

      Splendid the night!

 

 

As the climax of the song approaches, the next verse begins with a slow crescendo, the rich voice building in intensity as the starcrafter tells of his calling.

 

 

      Rules and calculation

            Help predict the

                 coming of the menace from on high.

      This is my vocation;

            Knowledge is a

                 treasure, for in ignorance we die!

 

 

The power of Corron's deep voice seems to fill the amphitheatre with the warning that follows.

 

 

      Red Star in the morning:

      Learn to read its warning.

      Know where danger lies:

      Look to the skies!

 

 

The first verse is repeated, beginning quietly and smoothly.  The singer's voice is never loud, but carries because of its intensity and well-controlled delivery, building to the mid-point of the verse, then falling away again.  A violin obbligato, the only accompaniment, adds to the sense of wonder.

 

 

      Thundering in silence,

            Worlds that travel,

                 following a path that has no signs;

      Splendour in the darkness;

            Brighter than a

                 diamond is the furthest star that shines.

      Mystery of distance,

      Wonder of existence,

      Everywhere surprise...

      Open your eyes!

 

 

The ending of the song is firm without being loud.  The violin plays a final sequence of broken chords that climbs to the top of its range, then it, too, falls silent.  On stage, nobody moves for several seconds.

 

July has closed her eyes, not watching, but deeply involved in the music. This is probably why she hasn't said a word for such a long time. Finally, she opens her eyes and breaks the new silence with her applause. She never knew calculus could be so exciting.

 

 

Illata claps loudly, Amazed at how the instruments managed to suggest so many underlying themes to the piece. Quiet an ingenious composition. Illata shifts in her seat, realizing she hasn't moved once the entire time, being a bit spellbound.

 

Corron acknowledges the audience's applause with a bow and a flourish, eyes twinkling.  The musicians leave; he follows them, walking briskly.  Ylisa reappears, pausing at the side of the stage to slip on her gitar, then moves to the centre and waits for the audience to settle before she launches into the last couple of items.  The sun is starting to dip, and the Amphitheatre is bathed in golden light.

 

Ylisa starts to play softly.  The sound of the gitar strings is gentle, but intensifies as the harper begins to sing. 

 

 

        Let my fingers ruffle through your hair,

        And dry the salt-sweat from your work-hot skin;

        Let me whisper comfort in your ears:

        I am the wind...

        I am the wind.

 

 

More complex harmonies change the mood from entreating and almost seductive to something more sinister.  Ylisa's voice becomes firmer, more insistent.

 

 

        Let me pierce your aching limbs with cold,

        And knife the frail protection of your furs;

        Let me lock your joints and chill your bones:

        I am the wind...

        I am the wind.

 

 

Sharp chords signal a change of tune and pace.  Now the gitar's voice is harsh, the tone demanding, and the rhythm of the song drives it swiftly onwards.  Two long phrases are delivered quickly, then questions scarcely veil the threat that follows.  The tune builds to a high point, then drops to the final emphatic notes of the verse.

 

 

                Though you clasp your garments,

                I can tear them from your back;

                Though you run for shelter,

                I can pass through door and crack

                So when I rage against you, will you bend?

                Or will you try to stand

                And shatter in my hands?

 

 

Peace is restored.  The original theme flows smoothly from gitar and voice; but not for long, as harsher tones return.

 

 

        Let me ease and soothe you with my balm,

        The cooling breeze that softens cloudless skies;

        Let me be your friend when days are calm:

        I am the wind...

        I am the wind.

 

               

                Ships will run before me

                As I pile the oceans high;

                Storm clouds must surrender

                When I lash them through the sky,

                So when I rage against you, will you bend?

                Or will you try to stand

                And shatter in my hands?

 

 

The gentle opening melody is transformed into a warning by a forceful delivery and an accompaniment that insists on taking its own path.

 

 

        Never seek to tell me where to go,

        For such as you can never learn my ways;

        I alone decide where I shall blow:

        I am the wind...

        I am the wind.

 

 

As the wind mocks, Ylisa is totally wrapped up in the music.  The amphitheatre fills with the sound of her voice as she puts all she has into the song. 

 

 

                Trees fall down before me

                And I scorn the works of man;

                Mountains hear my laughter

                As I show them who I am;

                So when I rage against you, will you bend?

                Or will you try to stand

                And shatter in my hands?

 

 

Fickle as the wind itself, the mood of the song reverts to the earlier enticing softness as it draws near its close.  After what has gone before, Ylisa's low voice seems almost eerie as she sings the gentle words.

 

 

        Let my fingers ruffle through your hair,

        And dry the salt-sweat from your work-hot skin;

        Let me whisper comfort in your ears:

        I am the wind...

        I am the wind.

        I am the wind...

        I am the wind.

 

 

The final phrase is repeated, first by the singer and then by the gitar alone, dying away to silence.

 

July applauds as the last notes are carried away into the evening. She wears a look of relief on her face that this song, unlike the last two, won't provoke any more craft debates.

 

Illata applauds more softly, admiring the sound of the singer's voice and sighing in appreciation.

 

Caeran claps enthusiastically but politely. He's really enjoying this today. The weather is perfect to just sit outdoors and muse.

 

Ylisa stands in silence, hardly even smiling, as she allows herself a few moments of rest after the song.  That one was quite tiring.  Then, after a deep breath, she speaks to the audience, the cheerful expression back on her face.  "Thank you.  The last song this evening celebrates our beautiful island of Ista.  It has a chorus that's quite simple, so please feel free to join in if you would like to."

 

Ylisa begins to strum her gitar in an easy rhythm, an eight-bar introduction that hints at the tune to come.  She's relaxed and smiling, as the mood of the song requires.  The melody begins with a four-note phrase repeated in a falling sequence, full of movement, yet somehow conveying contentment. 

 

 

      When day is drawing to a close and all my work is done,

      I take the road that climbs the hill, beneath the evening sun;

      The land is edged with silver light that shines from sparkling sea;

      My island home of Ista is beautiful to me.

 

 

            My island home, my island home,

            My heart belongs to Ista, my island home.

 

 

The refrain is straightforward and easy to pick up.  Ylisa glances encouragingly round at her audience as she sings; they're welcome to join in if they wish.   The next verse begins with no interlude.  Ylisa builds up the excitement in the long phrases that describe far-off splendours, then sings the last line with yearning softness.

 

 

      Though I may go to halls of fame, where highest Lords hold sway,

      To places where our past was made, or so the harpers say,

      To northern mountain's icy height, or verdant southern shore,

      My island home of Ista will call me back once more.

 

 

            My island home, my island home,

            My heart belongs to Ista, my island home.

 

 

The next verse is quieter, and the accompaniment changes so that the rippling notes of the gitar seem to reflect the Istan sea.  Ylisa's voice is clear, the words distinct.

 

 

      A thousand shades of forest green that clothe a fruitful land,

      With hidden coves where pools of turquoise lap the silver sand,

      Majestic cliffs whose towering rock drops sheer to ocean's foam,

      These are the gems of Ista, my precious island home.

 

 

            My island home, my island home,

            My heart belongs to Ista, my island home.

 

July sings along, swaying like she's doing the luau. "My island home, my island home, My heart belongs to Ista, my island home."

 

Ylisa resumes the strummed accompaniment for the final verse.  She sings in resonant tones, building in volume then softening again to emphasise the rising and falling intervals of the second line, as she uses the dynamics to create the impression of space and distance.

 

 

      If I could fly on dragon's wings to continents afar,

      Or leave this world and make the crossing to a distant star,    

      No wonders of the universe, no marvels yet unknown

      Could take the place of Ista, beloved island home.

 

 

            My island home, my island home,

            My heart belongs to Ista, my island home.

 

            My island home, my island home,

            My heart belongs to Ista, my island home.

 

 

To end the song, Ylisa repeats the chorus, slowing on the last line.  She stands smiling, upright but relaxed.

 

Caeran finishes singing the final chorus. He couldn't resist joining in, no matter how bad his voice may be. Singing about his island home is fun.

 

Liesana has been singing along with the chorus, as requested, her trained soprano kept quieter than normal performance-levels.  She's not here to distract from the main focus of the evening, but the petite woman enjoys herself nonetheless.

 

July finishes singing as well and applauds, even though she's not that patriotic. Well, it would be bad manners not to applaud herself at least. And of course, Ylisa was exquisite. It makes her want to run out onto the beach and eat some pineapples.

 

JeDera sings happily along with everyone else, good songs are good songs.  She claps happily along with everyone else, enjoying a good performance as much as anyone.

 

Rune suddenly disappears :: between ::

 

Almost done.  Ylisa scans the audience, relieved that they took up the invitation to join in, relieved that they look as if they enjoyed it, relieved that she doesn't have to do it again tomorrow...  She lets them clap for a few moments longer, then raises a hand for silence.  When they've settled down a bit, she makes her final remarks.  "Thank you all for coming this evening.  I hope you've all had a good time.  Thanks also to all the performers, who've been very busy working on all this.  Goodnight!"

 

Diane goes home.

 

July applauds Ylisa once again just for good measure, to make up for any silent space wherein she did not applaud. She rises from her seat, making sure to pick up her program, and goes and mingles with the crowd.

 

Ylisa stays on stage for a few moments longer, then heads down to join the other harpers who are milling around the front rows.

 

Illata applauds raucously. "Well done!" The girl is beaming with pleasure from a great experience. This has been one of the better concerts she has been to.

 

Trau steps out to the Gather Square .

 

Caeran bursts into applause one more time. This was indeed a wonderful concert. Taking up Pluto's leash, he heads back toward the great hall. He can congratulate Ylsia in person later, when she's less busy.

 

Sioned walks in from the Gather Square and Market.

Caeran steps out to the Gather Square .

Pluto steps out to the Gather Square .

Mimi steps out to the Gather Square .

Trik steps out to the Gather Square .

 

July still has "My Island Home" stuck in her head, and continues humming it under her breath long after having finished singing. "Hey, you putting on a concert any time soon?" she asks, ribbing Illata.

 

JeDera goes home.

Sioned walks out.

 

Illata smirks at July, then winces slightly at the ribbing, her demeanor growing a bit more serious. She leans closer, only whispering because she hates explaining things. "I've changed my specialty. I'm focusing on instrument crafting, so.. there might be a show of sorts eventually, but unlikely any performances."

 

Niara steps out to the Gather Square .

Illata steps out to the Gather Square .

 

Ylisa wanders about, collecting her instruments and saying a few words of thanks to those of the performers that she encounters.  She's looking a little stunned, and soon picks up her gitar cases and makes for the exit.

 

Larisa follows her journeyman close to Ylisa. "Wonderful job..." They leave commenting about the great songs they heard....

 

Larisa steps out to the Gather Square .

 

 

 

 

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