Scene4 Magazine: Claudine Jones
Claudine Jones
Soar Throat

Walking past Pendragon Books & of course their windows are plastered with upcoming events. I snapped up to a poster: Huun Huur Tu: Xoomei – Tuvan Throat Singing'That's what I want for my birthday!' & Rich sez nothing.

We've been sickies off and on for—how long? Two months?—what are the chances of doing anything, much less going to a concert?  I've almost made it through the last five weeks of rehearsals & performances & still have sinus issues & blocked Eustachian tubes, but this? For my upcoming birthday, I should ask the gods for a dispensation? Ha.

Imagine my delight  then to come upon Rich finalizing reservations on the phone. He does not cling to the surprise element in celebrations, probably not particularly caring for it himself. We are going to bully through this. He has every intention of going to my last Friday performance with me since his recuperation is on an upswing, and then we will do my birthday.

That is Monday.  By Wednesday, he is back in it. Fever, chills.  I am exempt from this, I just have the same old stuff & I soldier through. He makes it to Saturday closing. Birthday is in one week.

Miraculously, the sun makes an appearance and stays put. Flowers begin wondering what's going on; they've had some rain, so they're prepped, but it's February…who's fooling whom?  Five days zip past.

Saturday looks great.  Extending our paws & taking walks. I'm getting excited.

By four o'clock, the dinner plans are off. The sky is gray & gloomy; we can still make the show, but we'll conserve our energy and pay for parking—what the heck.

7:15  I've gotten lost on a route I've driven a thousand times in my life.  That's okay, it'll be scenic. The problem is with the parking; when it says 'limited' it means is 'fergit it'. 7:54  I head like a maniac through the side streets, looking for anything legal.  Rain is beginning to hit my windshield.  We only have the beat-up emergency umbrella in the car. Rich is still coughing. 8:05  The line outside with the SOLD OUT sign is a favorable indication that nothing has started yet.  A tiny ripple of irritation goes through the tail end of ticket holders wanting to cuddle inside out of the drizzle, please. Rich's cough is harsh.

The theater is not at hand; like a badly planned airport, one clutches one's PASS and heads down endless corridors, wishing for once to have a zippie cart to ride in.  FINALLY, the destination is at hand.  Crowds still moving about restlessly.  The beauty part is that apparently since we got our reservation in right at the last, our choice of seats being limited, Rich picked 'First Row, Second Section, Right'. So we actually are perched there with the clearest sight lines in the house.

Downstage are four plain chairs & some musical items—drums, stringed oddities. Soft lighting; it feels to me like looking into a cozy room without walls.  The microphones are the only anachronistic element. We get out our lozenges. I'm itchy; Rich is coughing. We're at the end of the row, but Rich has one guy on his right. I'm worried that we should switch places, but he says no.

Now's the weird part. From the point when the house lights begin to dim & these four musicians come on & take their seats, I am fucking mesmerized.  I lose all sense of time. After the second song, I notice my body is completely still. I have no feeling anywhere; my feet are planted squarely, my hands rest on my thighs, my back & head & neck balanced evenly.  From my right, I hear Rich gently 'kofkof' . Even my attempt at worry is banished. Then the realization that I have not blinked. Since the third song started, I peer through my glasses as though they were a piece of plate glass, perfectly tranquil. My gaze wanders from right to left and back again, as though it were a natural thing to rest my vision on the musicians, each in turn, for no particular reason. Just the sound that is pouring out into the space.

At the intermission Rich wants to know if I'm okay with leaving. He's fading & has heard all he wants to hear.  'No' I say.  In my heart, I'm set. They could do another thousand songs & I would be there, placidly in my seat.  We agree that it seems reasonable for him to take his book and hang out in the lobby, as long as he can find a comfortable place.  There are lots of chairs, so he gets ensconced.

I go looking for a real program.  The second fellow from the right had been introducing the pieces, but he's a bit hard to understand.  They're selling CD & DVDs in the lobby, but nothing is available outside the generic season program we were originally handed.  I feel my mellow being harshed, so I state my case about how nice it would have been to have gotten a scrap of paper with the titles of the songs on it & walk away.

Now my new neighbor on the end of the row, seeing Rich's empty seat inquires as to his health & I respond & privately we're both thinking our Western Thoughts about 'quiet in the auditorium', even though there are a few other audience members who have punctuated the airwaves.  Everyone knows someone who is/has been under the weather. But the lights are going down again.

Whatever was going on the first time round is now swifter & deeper. This time the songs are darting around through me while I observe. I see the nominal founder of the group, on the chair at the left.  He has a long white flute which, it is explained, actually is a piece of pvc pipe with some holes.  He puts the whole end into his mouth to play—reminds me of a shakuhatsu—but he also manages to continue to sing. At intervals, I note with my increased clarity, that he seems simply to give way to the others, sitting with his oversized arms on his lap, the flute resting on his chest.  The spokesman for the group makes little jokes & says a bit about the next song; I suddenly realize that his resonant voice is so effortless that it sounds like Stephen Hawking. There is so little tension, it doesn't seem human.

On it goes—like the air is thinner & we don't really know how high we're going to go. Somewhere somebody behind me seems to be randomly chiming in with a mouth harp. I begin to get annoyed, but either can't sustain it or think I've imagined the sound—could it be coming around my head from the front?  Meanwhile, the guys are doing three levels of unison, dropping in & out of each other's spheres.  It feels like the time I sat in the oxygen bar in Calgary for half an hour &  would exhale & then wait for a signal to breathe again.  Finally, they take off in the woods, it would seem; there are the familiar hoofbeats of the horse—o, Tuvans definitely can do horse—but then there are also animals & birds & wind & creaking branches. At last the song fades away—so imperceptibly—I'm above the forest looking down at the trees. And then it's over. No encore.

Out to the lobby with the crowd & we scurry back to the car in the light rain.  A woman moving past us throws her arms out 'I just want to open myself up!!'

And that's what I got for my birthday.


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©2010 Claudine Jones
©2010 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Like an orthopedic soprano, Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades. With her co-conspirator Jaz Bonhooley, she also has developed unique sound designs for local venues. She's also a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


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March 2010

Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media

March 2010

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