Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Surprise Concert

I was eating pancakes when I received the call.

“So, I think my mamá wants us to play music for this thing, but I’m not really sure what it is or when, but she asked if I could play the violin and you could play the guitar.”

These are not the best phone calls to wake up to.

“I don’t have a guitar.”

That seemed to settle that, so I hung up and moved on to my papaya. I hadn’t taken more than a bite when the phone rang again.

“She says she’ll find us a guitar, and could you be here in 15 minutes?”

I thought for about two seconds, but I've found that when someone asks you to do something a little crazy, the best response is very often 'yes.'

My friend Bethany and I both live with faithful members of the large Catholic church here, and her mamá was hosting a gathering of church workers. Knowing that we liked to play music, she asked us last-minute if we wouldn’t mind being the lunch-time entertainment. Or at least this is what Bethany gathered from the phone conversations she’d been having all morning. Phone conversations in Spanish are very hard.

We sat in her room and played through a few hymns and praise songs, me grateful that in the absence of sheet music I could fall back on a genre that seldom has more than four chords. After 15 or 20 minutes we shrugged at each other and set off, instruments in hand, to find the venue.

“What are we doing?” I asked Bethany.

“I don’t know, but somehow this is normal life in Honduras.”

Her mamá was calling from a venue we’d never heard of, the “Casa Blanca.” We ended up asking a tajadita seller for directions. The place was a compound, with beautiful trees and trellises and open meeting centers. We milled awkwardly outside a meeting hall for a few minutes before Bethany’s mamá found us, hugged and kissed us, and filled us in.

“I have fifty priests down there,” she exclaimed, “I hope you can improvise!”

We were ushered in to a room where a few dozen people were gathering food from a buffet. As the murmur died down, we received an introduction from a priest who had been hastily filled in on our names.

“Let’s welcome Bétany and Kateri who will be sharing three songs with us this morning,” he said, and we shrugged at each other again, and launched into “Be Thou My Vision.”

We were meant to be background music, and we were. People talked quietly, but applauded enthusiastically when we stopped. If I faltered or played the wrong chord, Bethany saved it with a strong melody on the violin.

It was really not that bad.

Everyone was polite afterwards, and they gave us food from the buffet and asked about our time in Honduras. The priests shook our hands (there were no more than six or seven priests there, in the end, the rest of the people were church members) and we left no more than 40 minutes after we arrived.

“What did we just do?” Bethany asked.

We shrugged at each other and moved on to something else, both a little bit more convinced that when someone asks you to do something a little out of your comfort zone, you should probably just say yes.

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