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Whether the founders commemorated in the Founders day concert where the founders of the school, or the Barossa valley, was of no real importance. The school showed off the cream of its musical talent.
Cameron was loitering in a corner of the car park when Claire found him.
‘We’ve only got twenty minutes. What are you waiting for?’
‘ Stella said she’d be here’.
‘ Well let’s assume that she’s on her way..and you can chat to her during the interval’
She grabbed his arm, he shook himself free.
‘Claire, don’t panic. I’m staying here till she gets here, and, yeah, this could be them now’.
He gestured towards the road as a white four wheel drive negotiated the roundabout and headed into the car park. The lights flashed and the horn beeped in acknowledgment.
A young woman, obviously Stella, climbed out of the passenger side and came across towards them. The driver settled the car more accurately into a space, and then opened the door and jumped out
Stella Mantegna, despite her Italian name was blonde and slender, in a dark blue dress patterened with small apricot flowers. She looked marvellous and Claire, in regulation school concert uniform, felt very dowdy and unfashionable.
‘Hi there Cam..and you must be the older sister’.
‘Seven minutes older, but every minute counts where Cameron is concerned’ Claire acknowledged. ‘That’s great dress. Where did you find it ?’
‘Oh this old thing. I got it at AdVintage, the recycled store on Unley Road. If you ever get to Adelaide you should check them out. Old fashioned styles would really suit you, and everything’s a one off.
Stella’s escort came across to them. ‘Let me introduce my brother. Mauro..Dr Mauro Mantegna’.
Cameron’s jealousy at the sight of Stella’s partner vanished in a split second. Mauro Mantegna, Dr. Mauro Mantegna, was tall, a little over six foot and dark where his sister was fair, with an easy smile and enough well trimmed stubble to frame his mouth and add some definition to his jaw. There was a shrill whistle, and Claire and Cameron turned. Rebekah was on the steps at the back door of the hall and was waving them into the building.
‘ Tickets in your name, box office round that corner and we’ll see you in the interval’. Claire and Cameron turned and sprinted back to the hall.
Mr and Mrs Mason, running behind time, took one of the last places in the car park. Dorothy had just flipped the security button to lock the car when another car parked smoothly beside them. They waited as the driver got out. She was an elegant and fashionably dressed woman, though Dorothy thought she was little old to be wearing a neckline so low. Her suit was an expensive and tailored grey silk blend, and she wore a small black hat trimmed with a band of what Dorothy hoped was fake leopard skin. She carried a matching handbag, and wore elegant shoes.
‘ Excuse me .Could you direct me to the Linger auditorium?’ She pronounced the name incorrectly.
‘Oh you mean the Linger,’ said Dorothy, tactfully correcting her. ’It’s this way .Have you driven all the way from Adelaide for the concert?’
‘I’ve flown over from Sydney, as it happens. My son is singing a solo and he did so want me to be here’, the woman explained.
‘You must be Audoen’s mother. I’m Dorothy Mason and this is my husband. Our children, Claire and Cameron, are good friends with your son. We see a lot of him’.
‘Violet L’Estrange,’ she introduced herself, extending her hand to Mr Mason and when he took it politely, she closed her other hand over his, in a small seductive gesture.
’I’m delighted to meet you. Audoen has briefed me extensively on his life in the Barossa. Your daughter plays the piano and your son..they’re twins aren’t they? plays chess very well.’
‘ And your husband?’, Mrs Mason enquired, reminding Mrs L’Estrange that there were two married women in the conversation.
‘Mr L’Estrange is still overseas, unfortunately’. They walked towards the doors of the concert hall.
The auditorium was packed with parents and family. Mrs.L’Estrange’s ticket placed her in the other side of the auditorium from the Masons, and her grey silk suit and stylish hat were a striking contrast to the local members of the audience.
The concert began with the chamber orchestra playing two movements by Holst, which they despatched carefully under the baton of Mrs Lorimer. Then they were joined by the junior choir.
Claire and Rebekah were in the girls dressing room. Rebekah was zipping herself into a dark blue satin frock, while Claire, hairgrips clenched between her teeth, was arranging her hair for her.
‘Where did the frock come from?
‘ Don’t tell. Goodwill shop in Kadina. Mum and I took it up at the hem, in at the waist and down at the neckline’, she tugged the neckline down a little more, checking herself in the mirror. ‘The offcuts made the bow on the side’.
Rebekah opened her make up case, touched up her lipstick, smoothed her eyeshadow and held out her hand.
‘Pass me my stole, would you dear?’
Claire handed over the long piece of black silk with an ironic flourish.
‘What’s Audoen wearing?’
‘ Excuse me? Who cares? I’m a diva, this is my diva dress and no one is going to be looking at him. Now would you just open the door for me?’
As they came along the corridor, they could hear the flute quartet finishing their final number. One more act to go and then they were on.
JamJar the school barbershop quartet finished their version of Lida Rose, the classic close harmony song, tipped their bowler hats to the audience and left the stage. Claire took her place at the electric piano, ficking the switch to harpsichord mode and Cameron, sitting to her right, plugged his electric guitar into the amplifier. Rebekah made her entrance from prompt side. Audoen, dressed in concert black shirt and trousers came on from the other side.
The two singers looked at Claire.She looked at Cameron and he began slowly strumming the introduction. Then Audoen began the duet.
Pur ti miro..pur ti godo
Poppaea’s words to Nero ..and then Rebekah joined in, her voice answering his.
‘ now I see you now I hold you.’.
Mia vita o mio tesoro
My life my treasure
Most of the audience knew nothing about Monteverdi and they had never heard Audoen sing. There was stifled gasp somewhere in the audience but the magic of the sound seemed to draw the audience in.
Most of the brass ensemble, now waiting off stage were hearing the sound for the first time. Claire could see one of the trumpeters with his hand over his mouth in mock horror. She glared at him ineffectually across her music.
Audoen and Rebekah were standing side by side to begin, singing from memory and looking straight ahead, then Audoen moved behind Rebekah..pur ti stringo..I embrace you and his arms came round her.
They began the second section. Tell me that you love me dilo di. The music accelerated. There was a moment’s pause and the two singers began the final repeat section to which they had added a few decorations. Audoen looked across at Claire for a moment.
Then his hands seemed to float almost independently, moving from around Rebekah’s waist, rising up to hover, palms forward, over her shoulders as they sang the final bars of music with an achingly beautiful seemingly improvised cadenza. His hands dropped away, falling to his side as he moved back to his original place. They took a bow, smiling at the crowd, then with the same gesture of their left hands acknowledged Cameron and Claire who rose , turned and bowed.
They left the stage to somewhat bewildered applause from an audience that knew it had heard something really rare and beautiful, but wasn’t quite sure what had actually happened. The brass ensemble shuffled their way onto the stage.
‘He had his arms round you’, hissed one of the girls to Rebekah as she threaded her way through.
‘I didn’t feel a thing’ replied Rebekah with a smile, a little concerned that she had actually not been aware of anything other than Audoen’s voice while they sang.
In the interval, the parents and families gathered in the foyer. Mr Mason edged his way through the crowd carrying three glasses of white wine very carefully to where his wife and Audoen’s mother were standing.
‘Excuse me,’ said a man’s voice from behind. Mr Mason moved aside. ‘No . Actually it’s you I want to speak to. Here, let me take that’. Mauro Mantegna relieved Mr Mason of one of the glasses and turning handed it to Mrs Mason. He introduced himself, explaining that he was about to take up a position at the Institute, and had been pointed in their direction by Professor Rosen. Across the crowd, Professor Rosen raised his wine glass to them.
Audoen appeared out of the crowd with Cameron who explained that Claire was busy removing Rebekah from her outfit. Mrs l’Estrange accepted a kiss on the cheek from her son, who then led her aside and out through the open French windows onto the verandah.
The bell rang for the end of the interval.
As they took their seats, Mr Mason leaned over to his wife ‘I thought the phrase ‘ briefed me very well ‘an odd way to refer to a son’s letters home.’
‘ And Mr L’Estrange is an odd way to refer to your husband.’
‘Oh I don’t know, Mrs Mason’.
‘Well you should, Mr Mason’. She squeezed his hand.
At the start of the second half, which would feature the concert choir and the big band, the headmaster explained that the senior choir, victorious in the Eisteddfod under Mr Carver would now perform their award winning selection from , he glanced down at his notes ‘The Chichester Palms.’ In the applause no one commented on his slip of the tongue. Claire took her place at the keyboard, and Cameron and Faz lined up with the percussion. Whatever the tension between them were, they were excellently partnered for this role.
Mr Carver strode onto the stage, bowed briefly to the audience and then swung briskly round to give the downbeat. The first movement ended and Mr Carver beckoned to Audoen, who stepped forward, a pace from the choir. The music began. Audoen sang. Even Claire remembering the first time she had heard that sound was touched by its purity and radiance. The audience fell silent. Mrs Mason glanced across the auditorium. Mrs L’Estrange, sitting forward, seemed entirely perplexed at the sight of her son, and the bright sound that he was making. His solo finished, Audoen stepped back into the body of the choir without looking behind him. At the end of the work, he took a step forward at Mr Carver’s direction, bowed once, smiled warmly towards his mother, and merged back into the choir, which obediently left the stage. The concert band finished off the evening with a big bang, and the performers finally got to mingle in the foyer and the car park with their families and friends. Rebekah had entrusted her parents with her diva dress having been persuaded with some difficulty that having sung the Bernstein in her concert uniform she really didn’t need to go to all the trouble of climbing back into it.
Stella had cornered Cameron, and Claire found herself in Mauro’s company. He was, she discovered only seven years older than she was , and already at twenty four was the winner of several scholarships and awards including the Coleman prize for maths and physics from Melbourne University, which even she knew was Australia’s highest award for a doctoral thesis. His dream job, at the Gibbons Institute with Gibbons himself, or failing that, Sol Rosen, had dropped into his lap and he was planning to move into the Barossa at the end of the year.
The Mantegna family had been in South Australia for seven generations and he was looking forward to moving back closer to his parents, and of course, his sister. Stella was, he confided, a particularly ruthless chess player, and even games of Uno could become a battleground. ‘ She wants to go into politics, and though she’s left it too late to the first female Prime Minister, she has her heart set on being president’.
‘Well, first the National Chess Association and then the country’
Through the crowd in the foyer Claire could see her father making is way towards her ‘I’m going to drop your mother home, and then I’m doing the late shift. Don’t stay too long at the party, will you. You know how she worries’. He turned to Mauro’ Pleased to meet you and I’ll see you again when we do the clearance stuff. Welcome on board’.
Claire looked around for Audoen, but neither he nor his mother was visible.
Mr Mason drove towards the Institute skirting Murray Street where the pubs were open and noisy crowds would be spilling out from the doors. He recognized Mrs L’Estrange’s car parked outside the motel. He thought it a little odd that she wasn’t spending the night at the Grainger place. Maybe it meant that Audoen didn’t have to tidy the place up. He remembered the mess he and his brothers had made when left alone at home for a week. He hadn’t wanted his mother to see it either.