A lifetime of performing classical music onstage leaves various mementos in its wake, including a closet of black concert clothing.
Although I solemnly vowed at an early age never to regard or refer to years gone by in vast blocks, I come to find, later on, that this is the sort of oath only a very young person could take, unaware of the impossibility of adhering to it as the years add up — despite all naïve attempts to the contrary. Now that the numbers of concerts still on the agenda are, almost without warning, far fewer than the many seasons already played, perhaps the most readily visible evidence of what has gone before is — much more voluminous than the piles of orchestra parts, the instruments and bows and cases, the music stands and recordings and music-related knick-knacks — a huge closet filled to overflowing with black concert clothing (like this example on Amazon.com).
No concert without the requisite concert clothing
For overheated halls and drafty churches, an air-conditioned stage or an outdoor podium, a stuffy orchestra pit or a brightly lit televised performance — all these venues have their particular demands, and although the music is, of course, by far the most important thing, wearing the appropriate concert clothing is certainly not unimportant. Thus a glance at clothes in a store is never completely free of the idea that it might turn up the perfect black blouse. A sale visited with the ambition of finding blue jeans ends up with the purchase of a long black skirt. Items wear out, to be sure, and there is the yearly deep weeding, but even so, the closet’s contents always seem to maintain the same volume.
Concert clothing is a tangible link to personal music history
Decades on, I still am unable to distinguish clearly amongst the hangers of garments, no matter how I have tried to adjust the lighting, sort everything in a recognizable order, or even use labels. No, there is no help for it but to flip past it all individually, saying, “too warm, too cool, too short, I was thinner then, I can’t get into this now, too long, that was very comfortable for Beethoven’s 9th so maybe it’s a good choice for Mahler”, and on and on. I haven’t found a way to avoid this ritual, and I believe it’s fairly safe to say at this point that I never will. However, now that I am on the verge of abandoning this way of life, I have come to accept it and even feel delighted instead of annoyed, because gazing upon this landscape of concert attire starts to remind me of the marvelous black pieces by Louise Nevelson — not to mention all the luscious music for which these garments have been donned.