Thursday, February 4, 2010

Around Town: Tubas come and go but the rain returns

It was a rainy Sunday morning on Oak Grove Drive. I stood on the side of the road, waiting.

My only companion was Miss Audrey Hepburn, our black lab rescue dog from the Pasadena Humane Society.

It was wet. We were cold, but the note had instructed us to be here, near the Methodist Church, at exactly 9 a.m.

Suddenly, a vintage vehicle turned the corner. It was a the inaugural 1963, gas-powered three-wheel Harley Davidson golf cart. Driven, of course, the Anonymous Source, an attractive Thursday Club member in her 40s, in the helpful habit of providing a certain Valley Sun columnist with exclusive information.

The golf cart screeched to a halt in front of us.

“Are we safe here?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said, “Services don’t start until 10:30 a.m.”

There was no doubting the wisdom of her remarks. Unlike the Presbyterians, the Methodists were still at breakfast.

But then, I noticed a colorful fabric covering the back of the cart. Could it be a kilt? Was that a sporran?

“Why?” I asked.

The Anonymous Source whipped off the tartan cover, revealing a tuba underneath. And then, she spoke, explaining everything.

Last Saturday, the St. Andrews Society had conducted a Burns Night Supper at the La Cañada Thursday Club. Everyone was there, including La Cañada’s preeminent tuba player, Otis Hutchins.

“I borrowed Mr. Hutchins’ tuba,” she said.

“Borrowed?” I asked.

The Anonymous Source smiled, and said, “To protect the mayor. Obviously.”

And then, she handed me a sheaf of papers. It was the musical score to the Brandenburg Concerto #5 for String Quartet by Johann Sebastian Bach.

I still was perplexed. What did Bach and a stolen tuba have to do with the mayor, whose instrument of choice is the string bass?

The Anonymous Source sighed and explained. “It’s important to hide the tubas so they don’t horn in on her musical territory.”

The Anonymous Source continued to explain. In a pinch, the tuba can stand in for the string bass. The two instruments play in the same range. If the mayor got busy again, with debris basins and so forth, the mayor’s chair would be open for other musicians.

“Wait,” I said. “The Brandenberg Concerto is scored for the cello, not the string bass!”

“Oops!” said the Anonymous Source. “I’ll put the tuba back.”

As she sped away, I heard sirens in the distance. I was reminded of an ancient text, Proverbs of the Philharmonic:

What do a cello and a lawsuit have in common?

Everyone is happy when the case is closed.

“Time to go,” I said to Miss Hepburn.

Feb 4, 2010

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