Allegretto Con Spirito

This is Michael’s story. And it begins in the middle of the night, in the hinterlands of suburban North Carolina.

Michael and his musician friends are hiking through a dark neighborhood, lugging two violins, a viola, a cello, four folding stools, collapsible music stands, and backpacks. And its chilly.

“Are we almost there?” says the cellist. “My feet hurt.”

“Keep your voice down,” says Michael, swinging his violin case at his side. “We’re almost there.”

“I don’t understand why we had to park so far away.”

“Keep your voice down. Do you realize what time it is?”

The cellist is in poor spirits. He is hauling a massive hunk of spruce-and-maple torture otherwise known as a cello. He adjusts the three-quarter-ton case. “I shoulda been a flute player.”

Meet the string quartet. Four average college kids from your average American community college. They’ve been playing chamber music together for three years.

Have you ever listened to a string quartet? Or better yet: Have you ever been awakened by a quartet playing Haydn on your front lawn at 1 A.M.? Me neither.

This was all Michael’s idea.

Michael has a severe case of lovesickness. Lovesickness, according to the dictionary, is the inability to act normally due to love. And tonight’s events are definitely not normal.

Although for 19-year-old Michael, this is more than mere fascination. He has been dating Eleana for one year and he hopes to marry her someday.

Michael and Eleana had an argument last week. And in the way of disagreements, theirs was Hiroshima. Pride got in the way. Feelings got hurt. He’s been lost without her. Eleana won’t take his calls. He tries texting, but she doesn’t answer.

Which leads us to Covert Operation Haydn.

Tonight’s makeshift string section sets up in a semicircle on Eleana’s front lawn. Michael is nervous. His hands are trembling when he opens his violin case.

Life is not like the romance movies. Rational people don’t do stuff like this—which Michael keeps reminding himself. This is insanity.

But actually, it’s not insane. The tradition of serenading lovers from front lawns dates back to olden times. This archaic practice harkens from ancient Spain, and it is still alive and well in Mexico.

Another recent example of a moonlight serenade happened when LA woman, Patty Trejo, had a Mariachi band serenade her husband who was in Saint Jude’s Medical Center, battling COVID-19. Patty’s husband was in a coma, attached to a ventilator, and unresponsive.

The mariachi band gathered outside his hospital window. And when the guitarónnes played, her husband astounded doctors by opening his eyes. Whereupon Patty threw her arms around her spouse of 38 years and cried until she couldn’t.

Don’t tell me music isn’t supernatural.

And now our quartet is warming up. They are erecting music stands, adjusting music lamps, tuning instruments quietly.

A few backyards away, some sprinklers start spraying. Michael is silently praying no sprinklers suddenly erupt beneath them during their performance—at least not until the second movement.

The viola player rosins her bow. She whispers. “This feels so weird.”

The lead violin rests an arm on Michael’s shoulder. “Well, I think it’s totally romantic, dude.”

Michael can hardly swallow his spit. “Maybe this was a bad idea, guys.”

Tonight, the quartet has selected Haydn’s String Quartet Opus 76 No. 5. Not because it’s beautiful music per se, but because it’s easy to play.

First rule of serenading your true love: don’t suck.

“She’s totally gonna love it,” says Viola.

“Yeah,” says Cello. “This is gonna be cool, Michael.”

And suddenly it’s time.

In the quiet moments before the music begins, an eternity passes within Michael’s nervous brain. He’s having second thoughts.

Even so, there comes a time in every man’s life when he finds himself at a point of no return. He must go forward, or go home. All fear and trepidation must give way to adventure. To heck with consequences.

“Ready?” says Lead Violin.

“Ready,” is the collective response.

Everyone takes a deep inhalation.

And…

Somewhere in suburban America, four teenagers bow a masterpiece that was composed by deft hands in 1797. They play beneath the awesome stripe of the Milky Way, accompanied by distant cha-cha-cha of lawn sprinklers.

The opening movement is allegretto, played fairly brisk.

A porch light illuminates from across the street. A few more window lights wink on. Soon, neighbors are watching. Some are videoing with cell phones. Others stand on the curb in PJs.

Michael is not looking at Eleana’s window, he’s too busy reading music. But if he were able to look upward, he would see his beloved as she tosses open her window and listens with her two sisters and mother beside her. They are all smiles.

But Michael is too busy right now, playing “con spirito.” He’s playing from his heart. He is playing for her.

At times when he bows familiar passages he plays with eyes closed tightly. Because all love is art, you see. And in an era of pandemics, explicit anger, and uncut sadness, we need art. We need it badly.

And so it was, for 19 minutes, a few college kids introduced Haydn into our indifferent world, beneath the glowing moon.

Their music was followed by light applause. Which was followed by a spectacular kiss shared between Michael and Eleana.

In his email, Michael finished his story by writing: “I’m super glad my mom made me take violin lessons.”

Me too, Michael.

28 comments

  1. oldlibrariansshelf - April 24, 2021 8:09 am

    Bravissimo!

    Reply
  2. Debbie g - April 24, 2021 8:41 am

    Michael and Eleana. Wishing y’all a life and beyond of happiness never give up on love. Beautiful story thanks for sharing ❤️🙏❤️

    Reply
  3. Susan Parker - April 24, 2021 10:17 am

    Young love….is there anything on Earth quite like it? Of course not! Thank you, Sean….bravisimo, Michael and Eleana!

    Reply
  4. Tammy S. - April 24, 2021 11:02 am

    Bravissimo to Michael and three good friends! A night you’ll look back & say, “Remember when we..” Congratulations to Michael & Eleana! Pray you make it past young love to an older, deep love. But young love is such a fun start. 👏🏼❤️ And as always Sean, another great one told in only the way you can tell a good story!!

    Reply
  5. missusmux - April 24, 2021 11:31 am

    Music is supernatural . . . and so is love. What a lovely inspiring, selfless and romantic thing to do, Michael and friends. Makes me feel all gushy inside.

    Reply
  6. Helen De Prima - April 24, 2021 11:51 am

    Classy!

    Reply
  7. Jo Ann - April 24, 2021 12:14 pm

    How lovely!! I’m glad she appreciated it-what a treat for the neighbors, too.

    Reply
  8. Jan - April 24, 2021 1:13 pm

    Love is a wonderful thing … and so are your stories!

    Reply
  9. Barbara Shields - April 24, 2021 1:13 pm

    Bravo!

    Reply
  10. Bob Brenner - April 24, 2021 1:19 pm

    So sweet! Well done Michael…❤️🎻

    Reply
  11. Christina - April 24, 2021 1:25 pm

    “…all love is art…” Yes, Sean.

    Reply
  12. Judy - April 24, 2021 1:26 pm

    Music is so universal and it plucks at your heartstrings..in my visual they are in formal attire. The three tenors would be proud!!

    Reply
  13. Leigh R Amiot - April 24, 2021 1:36 pm

    Sean, thank you for introducing me to the word “hinterlands”. I fancy myself a word nerd, but was not familiar with this one.
    Lovely column, a mellifluous melody!

    Reply
  14. Patty hesaidwhatks - April 24, 2021 1:57 pm

    I’m thankful that a friend introduced me to you – virtually, of course. A beautiful story such as this is a gift. Thank you.

    Reply
  15. Mary J Neal - April 24, 2021 2:26 pm

    This is great. I looked on our Sonos and found Opis 76 No.5 on Pandora! Beautiful

    Reply
  16. DEBRA A GAMBLE - April 24, 2021 2:41 pm

    So special. A beautiful story of pure love. I hope they live “happily ever after” forever!

    Reply
  17. JonDragonfly - April 24, 2021 2:45 pm

    You’re right, Mary. Folks, google “Haydn’s String Quartet Opus 76 No. 5” and let it play in the background while you re–read the story of Michael and Eleana. It will make you float and dream all day today.
    And kudos to Michael’s friends for turning out in the middle of the night for this lovely couple.

    Reply
  18. Ann - April 24, 2021 5:06 pm

    Such a sweet lovely story❤️❤️

    Reply
  19. Celia - April 24, 2021 5:24 pm

    Beautiful!

    Reply
  20. MAM - April 24, 2021 5:29 pm

    Thanks once again for telling us an uplifting, sweet story, as only you can, Sean!

    Reply
  21. Linda Moon - April 24, 2021 6:02 pm

    Another story…..I’m just now reading about Michael….and looking forward to finishing all of it in real time. Yes, I’ve listened to a string quartet, but not awakened by one. The beauty of your recent stories about us humans existing in a challenging and often indifferent world are ART for me, Writer. Thank you, Michael’s mom, for giving him the gift of music. And thank you again, Mrs. Dietrich, for giving gifts of love to your son Sean.

    Reply
  22. Christine - April 24, 2021 6:29 pm

    Awe, so special and sweet❤💞💑

    Reply
  23. Rebecca Souders - April 24, 2021 9:40 pm

    Beautiful story with beautiful music ( I looked it up and listened!) Thanks, Sean Dietrich.

    Reply
  24. Suzi - April 24, 2021 9:48 pm

    Lovely

    Reply
  25. Christopher Spencer - April 24, 2021 10:22 pm

    Stories like this are why I have dreamed all my life of being a great musician. Because of the power of music to move people, to touch their souls and make them feel the full range of emotions from happiness, sorrow, bliss, laughter, and love.

    I am 66, 67 in a few months. I have the instruments. Now I just need to learn to play them, to master them.
    With God’s help I will.
    Chris

    Reply
  26. Sandra Nelsen - April 25, 2021 3:02 am

    Very sweet. The Hope and Glitter post is my favorite one this week, though. Still cracking up over glitter and 77 Chevettes.

    Reply
  27. pdjpop - April 25, 2021 9:15 am

    Thanks for another home run.
    Just when I think it can’t get better, you write these TWO!
    Keep the joy flowing from that pen….. keyboard.

    Reply
  28. Gerry Smith - April 25, 2021 3:19 pm

    That was a great story. Makes me wish I had continued my clarinet lessons I started in the 6th grade.

    Reply

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