The Bluebottle Boys, Chapter 15, Part 3 — Edgbaston, 27 March 1962: First Rehearsal — Part 1 [section 3 of 3]

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After school, Rashmi and I worked on the “Flower Duet” from Lakmé at the Gupta residence. She took the role of Lakmé (the higher of the two vocal parts), I the role of her slave Mallika (the lower).

With two recorders, we worked out the portions of the duet we’d play (unaccompanied) to illustrate examples of each technique.  After that, with a modicum of guidance from The Screen, which I’d brought with me, we learned our respective vocal parts, to its accompaniment.

All the while, I saw Stan skulking at the stairway landing, not quite out of view, as he sat, watching and listening to what we were doing.

As Rashmi and I worked on the assignment, I recalled the times he and I’d worked out music together, sure he was doing the same. In all my life, I’d rarely seen anyone looking more dejected than he did at that moment.

I think Mrs. Gupta caught sight of it, too, although Dr. Gupta pretended not to notice. In any event, she pointed out to us that the teacher might not accept something novel as the screen, and it might well behoove us both if I learned the provided piano accompaniment.

Rashmi and I went back to my side of the house, and sat together on the piano bench. If I’d just been singing my part, or just playing accompaniment, we might’ve been able to pull it off, even in the limited time we were allotted for the assignment. But learning it all, in less than 24 hours was unrealistic and unfair – I couldn’t do it.

We agreed to limit ourselves to playing the recorders and, if called upon to, singing the duet a cappella.

As far as I knew, we were the only ones who intended to use an actual piece of classical music to illustrate our points. That, we hoped, would count for something.

After she left, I turned to my other studies, but no matter how I tried to focus, I couldn’t get Stan out of my mind. I was glad he’d been spared Ian’s and my ordeal at the cemetery – and, to that extent, that we weren’t together right now.

But. no matter how hard I tried, I kept seeing his lonely, forlorn expression before me.

He missed me terribly, I could tell. I missed him just as much, and Ian and Rashmi – wonderful company though they were – were no substitute.


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