Prelude

Blue Notes Series: Book 4

World-renowned conductor David Somers never wanted the investment firm he inherited from his domineering grandfather. He only wanted to be a composer. But no matter how he struggles, David can’t translate the music in his head into notes on paper.

When a guest violinist at the Chicago Symphony falls ill, David meets Alex Bishop, a last-minute substitute. Alex’s fame and outrageous tattoos fail to move David. Then Alex puts bow to string, and David hears the brilliance of Alex’s soul.Rainbow finalist

David has sworn off relationships, believing he will eventually drive away those he loves, or that he’ll lose them as he lost his wife and parents. But Alex is outgoing, relaxed, and congenial—everything David is not—and soon makes dents in the armor around David’s heart. David begins to dream of Alex, wonderful dreams full of music. Becoming a composer suddenly feels attainable.

David’s fragile ego, worn away by years of his grandfather’s disdain, makes losing control difficult. When David’s structured world comes crashing down, his fledgling relationship with Alex is the first casualty. Still, David hears Alex’s music, haunting and beautiful. David wants to love Alex, but first he must find the strength to acknowledge himself.Best_Contemporary.NBest_Hurt-Comfort.NBest_Perform_Arts.N

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Reviews

Mrs. Condits and Friends says:

“The characters are brilliant, but also as flawed as any of us, with insecurities and doubts that almost cost them the love of their lives. I absolutely LOVE this book and would DEFINITELY recommend it and the other fantastic, fascinating stories in the Blue Notes series to everyone.” – Trish

Live Your Life Buy the Book says:

“Wow!! The authors have outdone themselves with this latest installment in the wonderful “Blue Notes” series. David, Alex, their music, their passion, their struggles, their perseverance … all portrayed wonderfully in this story.” – Dianne

Rainbow Book Reviews says:

“I loved this story! …I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys romance, music, passionate sex, and a love hard won. Thank you, Shira and Venona, for reminding us that, no matter what the circumstances, we determine our approach to life.” – Lena

Multitasking Momma says:

“Beautifully written, Prelude is sure to satisfy all followers and fans of Blue Notes Series.”

Book Extras

Wow!  I didn’t realize just how much music “appears” in Prelude!  Here’s the list with links to YouTube.  My favorite of the bunch (aside from the Sibelius Violin Concerto)?  The Dvorak Violin Concerto, last movement.  Enjoy! -Shira

“Enigmatic Ocean,” Jean-Luc Ponty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9XHFqCvMIY

“Satisfaction,” The Rolling Stones:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx0bLBk-BNM

Sibelius Violin Concerto:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-P183jzdfw (my all-time favorite recording with David Oistrakh), or a slightly different interpretation by Joshua Bell:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITTbY1n3Iz8

Berg Violin Concerto:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqSSHwFEn_8 (Itzhak Perleman)

Wieniawski Violin Concerto No. 2:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYzYVsvD5as (Shlomo Mintz)

“Devil Went Down to Georgia,” Charlie Daniels Band: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgvfRSzmMoU

Symphony No. 5, by Dmitri Shostakovich: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FF4HyB77hQ (Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic)

Mahler Symphony No. 4:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6Tbi0Rfzs8 (Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic)

Chopin’s Opus 25 Étude, No. 11:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bj5Mp31nZlA (Anna Fedorova)

Gounod’s Ave Maria: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNNbtR5R68U (Anne Akiko Meyers), and a very old recording of Jascha Heifetz:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wtc4SMUjhG8 and a recording of operatic soprano Renata Tebaldi: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVMSeFTHDEs

Thelonius Monk, “Round About Midnight”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMmeNsmQaFw

Dvořák Violin Concerto (last movement) (3rd movement, Allegro Giocoso):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kouKmC3yUOA  (Josef Suk)

Stéphane Grappelli “Blue Moon”:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhB5qAq7OkI

Mahler Symphony No. 9: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zHXJw9avAn0 (Danish National Radio Orchestra)

“Harold in Italy,” by Hector Berlioz:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W5B9iMLpDgU (Israel Philharmonic Orchestra)

“The World I Know,” by Collective Soul: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7TLTjqUyog

Bach, Partita No. 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcB56k4vR5k (Hilary Hahn)

Excerpt

Chapter Two 

Chicago, Present Day

David Somers had a headache.  He’d hoped it would pass, but it had only gotten worse in the past fifteen minutes.  He waited stage left as the orchestra finished tuning. 

Deep breath.  Focus.

The concertmaster sat back down—the signal for David to walk onto the stage of Orchestra Hall.  His hall.  His orchestra.  He breathed in slowly before walking onto the stage, his expression schooled, utterly focused.  The Armani tux he wore was perfectly pressed, his posture faultless, and his stride confident.  The orchestra stood as he entered.  The hall, filled to capacity, rang with polite applause. 

But David’s disinterested poise was merely a sham—he was irritated to the extreme.  Only his strong sense of duty had brought him back to the stage tonight for the second half of the program.  That, and the potential sponsors of his modern music series whom he knew sat in the center box seats—the box that had been owned by Somers Investments for more than sixty years.

He glanced stage-left to where the soloist waited to make his entrance.  David had seen him for the first time only moments before, and he’d been left with the distinct impression of a street thug.  Tattoos, indeed.  There was no place for such a thing in the refined world of classical music.  True, the soloist had worn the traditional tails of an artist making a solo appearance with the Chicago Symphony, one of the finest symphony orchestras in the world.  But that was de rigueur, expected of him, regardless of his personal tastes.  No, it had been the telltale ink visible at the other man’s throat as he buttoned up his shirt that had taken David by surprise.

“Lastislav Voitavich is ill,” his personal assistant, James Roland, had told him as he arrived at the back entrance to Symphony Center that afternoon, “but we’ve managed to find a replacement.”

David hadn’t been concerned.  Such last-minute substitutions were rare, but not unheard of.  He knew there were plenty of violinists who would give their eyeteeth to take the stage under his baton and with such a prestigious orchestra.  There were few conductors on the classical music scene with his reputation, let alone as young as he.

“Has the replacement performed the piece before?”

“Of course, Maestro,” James assured him. “Several times, I’m told.”

“That will be sufficient.”  It would be just that—sufficient—nothing more and nothing less.  That was the way of all last-minute substitutions.  The evening would not be a memorable one, but David would make sure that his audience did not leave disappointed.  The orchestra’s performance would, at least, be outstanding.

“There is one thing you should know, though,” James added in a quavering voice.  It meant little that they’d worked together for nearly five years; David had never been an easy man to please.  But then, one didn’t get a reputation like his by having lax standards.  David was a perfectionist and proud of it.

He glared at James—he didn’t appreciate being troubled with such nonsense before a performance—he needed time to prepare, to focus on the music, and review the score.  “What do you wish to tell me?”

“Th… the… the soloist… he… ah—”

“I don’t care who he is, as long as he can play the Sibelius.”  David ran a hand through his hair in frustration.

“He… he can, of course.” Beads of sweat appeared on James’s forehead.

Five minutes before he’d taken the stage for the second half of the concert, when he read through the bio James had handed him, David realized what a mistake he’d made by not pressing the issue further.   It’s a concert.  Nothing more.  There will be time to kowtow in apology to the board tomorrow, if need be.  He detested kowtowing, but he also knew he did it quite well.

David rarely made any sort of public speech, let alone an announcement in the middle of a concert.  He despised public speaking, but there was nothing to do for it—the substitution had been too eleventh-hour to print something to add into the programs.

“Good evening,” he began with a practiced smile.  “There has been a slight change in tonight’s program. Our featured soloist, Lastislav Voitavich, has taken ill.”   There were murmurs from the audience, so David waited until the hall was silent before continuing, “Alexander Bishop has graciously agreed to perform the Sibelius.”  Instead of voicing their disappointment, the audience applauded with surprising enthusiasm.  “Thank you.” David was unsure what to make of the response.   He nodded toward the wings.  There was renewed applause as the violinist took to the stage. 

Alex Bishop.  A rock star masquerading as a classical violinist.  Tattoos and groupies.  He didn’t doubt that the man was competent—his assistant was young, not stupid.  Still, David loathed this “new breed” of musician who all too often graced the covers of magazines like Time and, more recently, Rolling Stone.  Tattoos, indeed.  In David’s estimation, the term “crossover artist” was a mere marketing tool, intended to exploit an artist’s good looks and increase sales. 

He signaled for the concertmaster to provide the soloist with an opportunity to tune before turning to face the orchestra, his back to the audience.  The Sibelius Violin Concerto was a challenging but not an overly taxing piece, and he’d rehearsed his orchestra well.   The orchestra will shine, despite any deficit in the quality of the fiddle playing. He raised his baton and did his best to ignore the auburn hair that fell onto the soloist’s shoulders in a tumble. 

Alex Bishop was attractive enough.  Tall and muscular—taller than David himself.  David was surprised he even noticed, but then there was something about Bishop that commanded attention.  Still, in spite of his apparent ease in front of the large crowd and his undeniable stage-presence, David knew Bishop was no more than a pretender to the world of classical music.  All hype and no substance—a creation of Hollywood agents and a second-rate player, no doubt.  He’d heard so-called “crossover” artists perform before, and he hadn’t been impressed.

Bishop glanced over to David, his instrument tucked under his chin.  Their eyes met for a brief moment.  Bishop’s dark brown eyes simmered with passion and focus.  David raised his baton higher, the signal to the orchestra for the downbeat.  One deft flick of the baton later, the orchestra began the first measures of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor.

As a conductor, David had always preferred the less emotional, modern repertoire to the sweeping romanticism of Brahms, Mahler, or Sibelius.  Tonight’s program had been a nod to the wealthy patrons who kept the orchestra’s finances in the black.  It was a tedious thing, to be required to accommodate the common musical tastes of his benefactors, but David tolerated it, knowing he’d been able to include a less tonal, more challenging piece of music later in the symphony’s performance schedule.  In David’s opinion, the Sibelius concerto was no exception.  He was unmoved by its soaring and plaintive melodies, although he knew that his audience would respond to it with enthusiasm.

David glanced over at Bishop.  Their eyes met again as Bishop began the first few notes of the solo line and the heady tones of his violin filled the concert hall.  With practiced concentration, David returned his focus to the score that sat on the podium in front of him.  He didn’t need to read the music to conduct the piece—he had committed every measure to memory—but he sought the distraction. 

Strange.  He’s better than I expected.  Far better, really, although David would hardly admit it to himself.

Bishop finished the opening phrase of the movement with obvious ease.  Again, David found himself taken aback by the intensity of the other man’s playing, as well as the natural musicality and the warm tone he was able to coax from the fiddle.  The violin Bishop played was serviceable, but it was no Stradivarius or Guarneri.  Still, David found it remarkable that the instrument sounded nearly as resonant the as finest instruments he had heard through the years.  “A good instrument can make the performer,” his old friend and predecessor, John Fuchs, had once told him.  “But without talent, it is only an instrument.” 

As the evening progressed, Bishop began the second movement: a slow and sensual adagio.  Once more, David found himself transported by the artistry with which Bishop conveyed the depth of the composition, and again David found himself struggling to maintain his focus and not lose himself in the music.  After the third and final movement, the crowd jumped to its feet.  Amidst the enthusiastic applause were resounding calls of “Bravo!” from some of the patrons.  Including, David noted with pleasure, the two men and one woman seated in the Somers’s box.

The audience was satisfied with no fewer than four bows, each time calling back both soloist and conductor to the stage with more cheers and applause.  As they walked back and forth across the stage for each bow, David watched with interest, half-expecting Bishop to react as a rock star might and toss an article of clothing to his adoring fans.  He did nothing of the sort, instead bowing with surprising grace and maintaining the decorum expected from a soloist performing with a world-renowned symphony orchestra.  David noticed that rather than basking in the glow of the audience’s response, Bishop appeared slightly ill at ease with the adulation, although he smiled personably and with genuine appreciation.

After the final bow, David followed Bishop offstage.  He had intended to retreat to his dressing room, but several fans already crowded the wings, blocking the way.  Irritated by the lack of security, David attempted to walk around the gathering crowd by taking a path through the wings instead of directly out to the corridor.  Several orchestra members milled about, clearly anxious to congratulate Bishop on his performance.  Seeing David, they nodded in a formal manner—they had long since learned that the he did not wish to be disturbed after a performance.  David returned each gesture with a curt nod, sidestepping the approaching fans before slipping out the door and into the hallway.

He closed the door behind him and looked up into a pair of dark eyes.  Bishop, it appeared, had also sought to avoid the backstage chaos.  He smiled at David, holding his violin and bow in his right hand.  “Maestro,” he said.  Transferring his instrument to his left hand, he offered his right hand to David.  The casual warmth of the gesture took David aback—he was used to being the one to initiate such contact with the orchestra’s guest artists.

They shook hands in silence.  There was a moment’s hesitation before David withdrew his hand and said, “We appreciate your willingness to fill in at the last minute.”

“It was my pleasure,” the violinist murmured.  He watched David as if unsure what to make of him.  “I’ve played the concerto a few times, although never with such a skillful conductor.”

David, accustomed to compliments, remained unmoved.  “Thank you.”

Bishop shifted inelegantly on his feet.  “Listen,” he said, “we’re having a little party at my place.  Just a few friends, a couple of beers, that sort of thing.  Nothin’ fancy.  Would you like to join us?”

“I appreciate the invitation, but I’m expected at a donors’ party in a few minutes.”

“No problem.” Bishop smiled and nodded.  “I understand.” 

Was that disappointment David saw in the other man’s face?  Unlikely.  He’s relieved.  Besides, can you see yourself at a party with a few friends and a ‘couple of beers’?  He’s just trying to be kind.  Then, realizing that his response had been quite rude, David said, “Perhaps another ti—”  His words were cut short by shouts and giggles as two teenage girls launched themselves at Bishop, nearly knocking his violin from his hand. 

David stepped backward to avoid the onslaught and almost collided with a woman with long blond hair who swooped in to protect Bishop from the girls.  The girlfriend, no doubt.  Time to leave.  He turned and strode quickly down the hallway to his dressing room, closing the door and taking a deep breath on the other side.

 

Alex bent down and managed to catch his instrument before it hit the ground, but when he stood up once again David had vanished.  He managed a self-conscious smile as another woman planted a wet kiss on his cheek, missing his lips by a hair’s breadth.

That was strange.  He was disappointed to see that David had disappeared.  There was something appealing about David Somers, not the least of which his command of the orchestra and his unique musical voice.  He had heard David conduct before, of course, but performing under his baton had been a refreshing experience.

“Thanks for the rescue, Mar,” he said after he’d signed the girls’ programs.

“You looked like you needed it.”  Marla laughed as the girls headed off toward the exit.

He took his roommate’s arm and led her down the hallway to the green room, where he’d left his coat and case.  Marla waited as he wiped the rosin from the strings, fingerboard, and bridge of his violin with a small white cloth.  Satisfied with his handiwork, he gently laid the instrument in its case, loosened the hair of his bow and locked it into place in the lid.  He clicked the case closed and picked up his coat without a word.

“You’re quiet tonight.” Marla watched him with obvious interest.  “Disappointed with the performance?”

“Nah. It was one of the best concerts I’ve played.”

“Sounded pretty good to me, too, but then I’m no musician.” She pressed a pensive finger to her lips and cocking her head to the side, asked, “So, how was he?”

“He?”

“The maestro.” She laughed.  “David Somers.  You said it yourself, he’s probably the best young conductor on the classical music scene.  Did he live up to his reputation?”

“He….”  Alex hesitated.  He honestly wasn’t sure how to describe David.  “He’s certainly a difficult man to approach.  Still….”

Marla’s musical laughter filled the room.  “I wasn’t talking about his personality, silly boy, I was talking about his musical ability.” She eyed him with suspicion before adding, “But it seems as though he might have made more than just a musical impression on you.”

In spite of himself, Alex’s jaw tightened.  “You’re playing matchmaker again.”

“Can’t blame a girl for wanting a Michigan Avenue apartment of her own, can you?”

“You couldn’t afford it without a roommate.”

She sighed and shook her head.  “No, probably not.” He’d been paying the rent and utilities on the condo they’d shared for more than a year—he had insisted on it now that he was making good money performing.  The advance on his last recording hadn’t hurt, either.

“Besides,” he added with a smile, “I’ve got a least a few more year’s rent to pay you back before we’re even.”

“Eh, you’re right.” She tossed her hand in the air, as she often did when he let her win.  “I figure I’ve got about a year left before I’m out on the street.  So how about the maestro?”

“Don’t think he’s my type.” Alex emphasized the word and glared at her, shaking his head.

“You never know.” 

There was an open challenge in her expression that he chose to ignore. Instead, he opened the door to the green room and picked up the violin case.  With her arm firmly wrapped around his waist, they walked back into the crowded hallway.  He signed a few more autographs until Marla began to push through the crowd, leading him to the stage door.  The fans, assuming that Marla was his girlfriend, looked more than disappointed, some openly hostile.  He ignored this.  He was used to it.  Besides, Marla was quite adept at fending off the women she affectionately called “simpering spineless sluts.”

As they walked out of the Adams Street entrance, Alex spotted a limousine waiting a few yards away.  The driver held the door open and a lone figure walked quickly over, avoiding any contact with the public.  David Somers, dressed in a dark coat with a white scarf flung about his neck, ducked into the limo.  As he sat down, he glanced back to where Alex stood.  Their eyes met for an instant before the driver closed the door.

Marla eyed Alex with suspicion. 

“What?” He shot her a look of mock irritation.

“Nothing.” She grinned at him.  “Nothing at all.”

They crossed the street and headed the half block to Michigan Avenue for the shortcut through Millennium Park to their apartment.

 

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