Reflecting back, I have to wonder at times if I did not imagine the entire episode, but then something will present itself that can only be explained by those three-and-a-half years in Lisbon (so long ago now): a scribbled note with typically dramatic phrases, received from someone who represented one convincing reason for my eventually leaving that beautiful city; hearing Portuguese by chance somewhere, understanding its warmly gracious expressions so thoroughly and suddenly feeling so nostalgic that I know I must have lived in Portugal and learned the language; the struggle (still after such a number of years) to adhere to a schedule in more northerly surroundings, with recollections of that period when my built-in daily clock seemed to have found its natural rhythm, no adjusting necessary.
Orchestra life in Lisbon eminently civilized
Orchestra rehearsals in that faraway place began as a rule at 3:30 in the afternoon, but every once in a great while, a scheduling conflict with the theater would necessitate having the final run-through at 11:00 a.m. The plans were a bit mysterious and last-minute, nothing like the yearly schedule relayed to us in this northern location with strict rules concerning how much notice must be given for any changes, and would be posted unexpectedly on a bulletin board backstage, with all the musicians straining to see that one piece of paper while commenting indignantly on its contents. “You don’t think I’m going to come at eleven da madrugada, do you?” Madrugada: what a delicious term this is. Strictly speaking, it refers to the morning, but more closely, to the early morning, and its true definition is the dawn or sunrise. “Surely you’re not expecting me to turn up at eleven o’clock in the dawn!” This seemed to me then, and still seems, no less than eminently reasonable plus poetic, to boot.
Symphony orchestra on tour in Madeira quite relaxed
One other fond reminiscence of that madrugada mentality floats to the front of my mind when I am racing to catch some mode of transportation on a precise timetable. The plane for a concert tour to Madeira was taking off promptly at 8 a.m., we were told. Moreover, this was not a commercial flight departing from the city’s airport, but one arranged with the government and leaving from a military airbase that was very inconvenient to get to. I was sufficiently intimidated to make sure I reached this bleak destination very early, only to find that I was more or less alone. Eight o’clock came and went; a few colleagues straggled in, followed by several more, quite relaxed and not the least bit concerned. Nothing was said about the missed deadline or a possible new one as it went nine and then nine-thirty with only about half the symphony orchestra present. Finally, when an administrator could be found, I was told, “Ah, yes. We always lie about the departure by two hours, and that way everyone shows up on time.”