Last Wednesday, after our train pulled into Washington, DC, and before the unfortunate drama of our poor soprano partner-in-crime falling ill, I was to meet one of my best friends in the world for lunch. I called to tell her that I was making my way from Union Station to our rendez-vous point in Dupont Circle, and she told me not to rush, because something had come up at her office and she was going to be a little late. Her delay turned out to be fortuitous, allowing me time to enjoy an afternoon of sunshine before the first blizzard of the week befell the east coast and take a leisurely walk down to 15th and P streets where I could attend to an errand that I needed to take care of before I left DC – pick up a score that I needed for an audition that I had with a conductor the following week.
I was relieved to find that Musical Source was where I remembered, and that my memory had not failed me. I descended the few steps to the front door and walked in to the spacious store, filled with shelves and shelves of music, classical music softly playing on the radio. I breathed a sigh, enjoying being in this store that was designed for browsing and discovery. One of the people who worked there asked me if he could help me with anything. I told him what I was looking for, and he then directed me to a stack near the near the front of the store. I then checked the time on my phone and decided I had time to dawdle.
I walked over to the shelves that housed a lot of the music for voice and discovered a treasure trove of vocal chamber music. I perused scores for voice and harp, voice and flute and piano, new editions of Telemann cantatas, and Beethoven Scottish songs, my mind humming with new ideas. I found countless things I had never even heard of, fascinated to discover what all of this music was like, and I started concocting schemes to explore all of it and, perhaps, to program some of it. It felt electric and exciting. I took a stack of things that I thought looked good and interesting to the cash register along with my Beethoven score and paid. I had come in looking for one thing, and I left having spent well over a hundred dollars more than I had intended to and with a much heavier suitcase than I expected to lug home on Friday.
Once upon a time, we had places like this in New York, but alas, no more. As I (very happily) paid the man who worked at the store, I told him that I hoped that Musical Source would be around for a long time to come. I would never have even thought to look for any of the things I bought – I only bought them because I discovered them purely accidentally and could open the scores and peek inside to see if any of it looked palatable or interesting. As I left the store and headed back to Dupont Circle to meet my friend, I felt a bit wistful, sad that the only resource left to me at home, shopping online, will never feed me that same rush that I felt in the store that afternoon.