Spoleto Festival USA: May 28, 2013

Mayday Mayday is a one-man show, written and performed by Tristan Sturrock.  Tristan’s personal monologue describes a near-fatal fall (on May Day, May 1st) that left his neck broken, his limbs numb, and him in a hospital for many months.   We know from the start that the story has a happy ending – that this paralysis did not end his career or his life – because Tristan himself moves nimbly around the stage on two feet.  He recounts the story, moving fluidly between characters with the help of small props set out about the stage and clever uses of light (like using a flashlight held on his face as he spoke the lines of the stranger/ex-paramedic who found him).  We meet Katy, his then-girlfriend now wife and the director of the production, five months pregnant at the time of Tristan’s fall. He also portrays the pilot who airlifted him to the hospital, and many health professionals, friends, and family who participated in his recovery.  

One of the funniest characters is the surgeon: Tristan depicts this man as a ostentatious actor getting ready for his grand entrance, complete with costume (‘Mind the wig!’) and make-up (‘Out-out-out-in!’ method for applying face powder).  Near the end, Tristan picks up a bouquet of flowers that, in a previous scene, had been discarded.  In a vase placed downstage center, he began individually putting the flowers back into place, speaking with each the name of the people responsible for his recovery.  The speed at which he recalled them bespoke the skill of a seasoned actor, and also a man deeply grateful.  He them picked up one of the tiny skeleton models (used previously in scenes when doctors described the injury) cradled it like a baby, alluding to his first child, born while he was recovering.  I looked around, and most of the people around me had tears in their eyes or rolling down their faces, and when he brought out his wife, Katy, and their three beautiful children at the end, I really don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.  As previously stated – Spoleto never disappoints.

Experiencing Mayday Mayday right after the Dvorak was a one-two punch that set me reeling.  It was an incredible reminder of the fragility of life, set up in mediums that drove straight to the heart.

On the morning of May 28th, I picked Drew up from the airport!  I was thrilled to share Charleston and Spoleto with him (though he did miss the chamber music performances by Steven Schick, a percussionist whose work he admires).  My suite-mate Johnny drove us to and from Charleston airport, and as a gesture of thanks, Drew treated us all to breakfast at Toast (a favorite breakfast spot with bottomless mimosas.  No kidding.) 

Today was also the day of the traditional beach party given to the Westminster Choir by the Smith-Reahard family.  When the Spoleto Festival first came to  Charleston (37 years ago), Annabelle Reahard, the matriarch of this family, “purchased” the choir at a benefit auction.  Annabelle felt that it was unfortunate that the choir was not ever invited to the official Spoleto galas (there are 40 of us, after all), so she took it upon herself to throw a party at her home for the choir.  The tradition has continued to the present, and now the Reahard-Smith family has multiple generations that have grown up with the Westminster Choir. 

We arrived at the beach house on the Isle of Palms, met Bo and Stanley, Foster and Patricia, Austin, Lydia, Oliver, William, Fineas, Mira, Page, and so many other family members.  En masse we headed to the water and enjoyed the amusements of the ocean.  We made some human towers (unsuccessfully) in the style of Le Grand C, swam and floated, played frisbee and football on the sand.

We were fed really fantastic barbeque by the same caterers that fed us last year (Home Team BBQ– it was even some of the same staff!  They remembered us, and told us how much they appreciated the music).  We enjoyed our meal with the family and Dr. Miller and Dr. Flummerfelt, and then of course, we had to sing for our supper.  We performed a number of the pieces on our concert program under the beach house on a beautiful patio.  We were in our regular choir formation, wearing swimsuits and casual clothes, sun-kissed with salt-soaked hair and skin. 

An incredible set of circumstances culminated at this beach party.  A few days earlier a group of choir members had been in an art gallery where they saw a painting called ‘Lullaby’.  This drew their collective attention for a number of reasons – it was a seascape of sorts by a local artist, and the title was evocative of a composition by Daniel Elder that is on our concert program and also on the album that we recorded last February.  The artist’s name is Austin Smith.  When we were at the beach house, and the women headed to the third floor to change for the beach, there was a painting on the wall that was in the same style as ‘Lullaby’.  Amazing but true – the artist is a member of the Reahard-Smith family.  When we told her (quietly so as to not ruin the surprise for Dr. Miller) about the circumstances surrounding the work, she was overwhelmed.  She had recently been hoping for a sign that she was on the right track with her art – that it wasn’t just her family that was supportive of her vision.  As if these coincidences weren’t enough, on the ride over to the beach that day, a preview track of our recording of ‘Lullaby’ was released by J.W. Pepper. THAT DAY.  I’m telling you, choir communities are magical by nature. 

About Westminster Choir

Westminster Choir is composed of students at Westminster Choir College of Rider University, a center for music study in Princeton, N.J.
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2 Responses to Spoleto Festival USA: May 28, 2013

  1. When things like this happen you can just feel the giant wheels of the universe slowly and ever so relentlessly meshing in such tiny places.
    Thank you for the report. You seemed to have had a couple of them in succession.
    Safe travels and Sing On!

  2. Louise H Beard says:

    Such a wonderful story!

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