Six Smutty Stories: The Accompanist, 3/3

On Thursday, Vron arrived at the rehearsal a few minutes early and found Marcin stomping around in a snit.

“Is there some universal law that requires everyone in and associated with my choir to leave town in August?” he asked Vron, or maybe Heaven itself. He introduced Vron to Mike, another tenor conscript.

“I know a pianist who could come. He’s at the conservatory with me,” Mike offered. “Does it pay?” he asked shyly.

“Not as well as crime, but, yes, the pianist does get paid,” Marcin said through his clenched teeth and named a paltry sum.

Mike went to the pastor’s office to use the phone. While he was gone, Vron offered to play if no one could be found, and Marcin growled something about needing his tenor. He pulled himself together and introduced Vron to the other tenor, who was a regular member of the congregation and glad to have company in the tenor section.

“Okay, Harold can play for you,” Mike said upon his return. “And I found you another tenor. His name is Louis. They’re both on their way.”

“You’re an angel, Mike,” Marcin said, clapping him on the shoulder. “If only you were a better sight-reader.”

Vron retreated into the choir stalls to look over his music and get over being nervous. He hadn’t sung in a choir since he’d sung next to Marcin in their conservatory days. The other choir members ambled in and took their places around him. Marcin frowned at his watch and ran the choir through some warm up vocalise. This was soothing to Vron and reminded him of his youth.

Next to him, Mike waved at two scrawny, shaggy-haired young men rushing down the center aisle. Vron would have spotted them as Conservatory students my their lack of haircuts alone; the t-shirts and jeans on their underfed frames made it a certainty. The young men exchanged hasty greetings with Marcin. One of them sat down at the piano and the other joined the tenor section. Mike whispered, “Hi, Louis,” so Vron assumed the pianist must be Harold.

Ably accompanied by Harold and conducted by Marcin, the choir finished their warm-up and launched into the repertory. Louis and Mike were strong singers; Vron thought they’d probably end up in opera choirs or regional opera companies because there’s a glut of genius tenors in the world, too. With Vron and the member of the congregation, the four of them managed to represent their section tolerably well.

Harold seemed very in tune with Marcin’s direction, which indicated to Vron that he was well-trained and polite, even if he didn’t seem terribly interested in what he was playing. He did seem interested in watching Vron, repeatedly making eye contact. Vron found disconcerting, so he paid even closer attention to his tenor part. Musically, it was pretty straightforward stuff and Marcin was such a good choirmaster, he had most of it drilled into them and polished by 8:45. Marcin was smart, too; he recorded the last pass and let the choir hear how good they sounded. They sounded very good and everyone went home happy.

Vron was halfway out the door when Mike caught him and dragged him back to introduce him to Harold.

Harold said, “Hi.”

Vron said, “Hi.” And there was silence.

“I, um, like the way you sing,” Harold said at last.

“You can hear me over the whole choir?” Vron asked, not sure what to make of all this.

Six Smutty Stories: The Accompanist, 2/3

Level-headed, he also knew his looks were not god-like, but he wasn’t repulsive either. Due to his lank jet hair framing his long soulful face with full lips below mellow more-gray-than-blue-gray eyes, a lover had once compared him to a young Anthony Zerbe. Vron never saw the resemblance, but he took it as a compliment nevertheless. He was loyal, pleasant, reliable, and pretty good in bed, but none of that was getting any exercise because he couldn’t find anyone to exercise it on. Worse, upon discovering how much he enjoyed his own company, not to mention the company of his right hand, he was becoming a recluse.

And into his peaceful, if somewhat lonely existence, had bounded the brash, young Harold Wyse. They had met at Vron’s friend Marcin’s choir practice. Vron and Marcin had been at music school together and, because they’d never been lovers, they’d remained very good friends. Marcin was choir director for one of the larger Protestant congregations in town and although it was not the most exciting or creative job in the world, musically it suited Marcin down to the ground. In the privacy of his own home and in all the concerts he could find, Marcin listened to nothing but the atonal masterpieces of the mid-20th century and whatever was new and exciting in atonal music. This so wore him out that he could only stand the hymns and simple harmonies of accepted and very conservative church music in his professional career. He usually invaded Vron’s lair with deeply weird music arranged for two pianos and demanded Vron sight-read these horrors with him.

On one particular evening Marcin arrived without a portfolio of music under his arm, but with a look of grim determination. He accused Vron of being a tenor.

“Guilty as charged,” Vron said dourly. “What of it?”

“I need you!” Marcin clutched at Vron’s threadbare t-shirt.

“And I always need you, Marcin, but what’s being a tenor got to do with it?”

It turned out that Marcin’s choir was down to one tenor and that this was a desperate and intolerable situation for the choirmaster.

“I don’t see how two tenors are going to help you, Marcin; who’s going to hear us over your screeching soprano section?” Vron teased.

“You’re not the only one I’m recruiting,” Marcin said darkly. “And it would only be for a month until school starts and my usual tenor section is back from vacation. I can also kidnap a few young tenors from the conservatory then, may God help them.”

Vron said he was very flattered, but he was very busy, and-

“I can’t take no for an answer,” Marcin said. “I’ll play soft rock until you agree.” He sat at one of the grands and played “Don’t Go Changing” over and over, and with certain Webernian improvements, until Vron caved in like rotten fruit. “Excellent!” Marcin played a IV-I “Amen” cadence and leapt to his feet. “We rehearse on Thursday nights from seven to nine and perform on Sundays at eleven. I’ve got your music in the car. I’ll go get it.”

It took Vron the rest of the night and playing Satie’s “GymnopĂ©dies” over and over to get “Don’t Go Changing” out of his head.

Six Smutty Stories: The Accompanist, 1/3

The Accompanist

By Amy Throck*-Smythe

Early in the third year of his more-or-less voluntary celibacy, Vron Kaeli found himself being courted by a much younger man. As flattering as that was, Vron found himself somewhat at a loss as to how to respond.

Two years before, he’d finally broken off with his on-again/off-again married lover and decided a period of celibacy, housekeeping, and clean living was in order. After a year of such virtue, he’d looked around for someone new to devote himself to and been appalled by the available men near his age. They were either players or losers or both; it was most disheartening to a respectable middle-aged queer like Vron, so he retreated back into his workshop to reconsider his celibate state, which was looking better and better to him.

Vron’s workshop was a delightful place full of strange micro-tonal instruments in various stages of commission, the odd keyboard or percussion instrument for repair. A pair of concert grand pianos, long ago abandoned by their cash-strapped owners mid-restoration, still needed their cases refinished, but were otherwise flawlessly tuned and maintained, and acted as a screen for his meager parlor and kitchen. He’d begun a career as a simple piano tuner and repair man, but early on, his musical saw-playing boyfriend had asked him if he could microtune a set of eight saws and mount them in ascending order on a wooden frame. This was easily done and the ensuing, and rather bizarre, concert was a huge and outrageous success. Based on this success, his boyfriend accepted an offer to work in another town and Vron never saw him again. Not that Vron really noticed because he was flooded with orders for saws, percussion instruments, and strangely tuned lute-like instruments. Occasionally, he got orders from Star Trek fans to replicate a Vulcan lyre. And, of course, there were piano tuning and repair jobs, so even though Vron lost his boyfriend, he gained a career he loved.

Never lucky in love, Vron meandered from romance to romance until he discovered the lover to whom he’d finally surrendered his heart was committed to someone else. In addition to feeling devastated, he felt stupid. In a fit of pique one night, Vron wrote in the margin of Fugue No. 19: A Major from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, “Never trust a man who only lets you call him on his cell phone.”

He kept busy; there was his work and when there wasn’t work, there were brilliant compositions from the gigantic piano repertory to play on one or the other of his inherited grand pianos. He was working his way through Lutoslawski at the moment. Vron was not an inspired musician, but he was a thorough and diligent one. Early in his studies, he had realized this and, also realizing there was a glut of genius pianists competing for the same work, he decided not to add another mediocre one to the pyre. That didn’t keep him from playing and loving the instrument; it did, however, keep him sane, centered, and realistic about his role in music and perhaps in life.