Having traveled to 1977, Batresh sees Denny for the 1st time
Looking down at the chairs in front of her, she recalled vocal techniques she learned from downloads. The memories were not hers, but those of a voice student working at New York City in the 1980s. She remembered an older woman, a chain smoker, with a rough voice. The student from whom these memories were stored called the teacher, Ruth. The drapes behind them were open. Batresh saw they were on the ground floor of an apartment building. The voice student was surprised the teacher, her voice damaged from smoking, knew so much about singing. Even with this vocal liability, the person in whom these memories originated believed Ruth was the best voice teacher she ever had.
Batresh was brought back to the present by a woman sitting down in front of her. She had short dark hair, wore a black polyester pant suit and no make-up. More people were arriving. To her left were the tenors, to her right, the altos. Chairs were placed on wooden rectangular boxes, risers made by stage-hands decades earlier, scratched and worn by repeated stacking and unstacking. She looked ahead, into the auditorium of Powell Symphony Hall. Empty audience chairs were covered with red-velour, the carpet, crimson, the walls, cream colored with gold moldings. It looked like the inside of a birthday cake.
A thin, elegantly dressed man wearing a pea-coat, sat down next to her. “He is a tenor,” she thought to herself.
He looked around the stage. “Well, here we are, on the stage of Powell Hall,” he said to her.
She laughed and responded, “I feel famous!”
He laughed in return. “Are you an alto?” he asked.
“According to Mr. Beckham, I am a contralto,” she smiled referring to the conductor. “I always thought I was a mezzo soprano.”
“Let’s see,” he said, gesturing to her face with his left hand, “From your speaking voice, I can tell you would make a great Carmen,” he joked.
A man sat down to his left, “Hi Bob,” he offered.
Batresh saw more singers walk to the stage. “This is a big chorus,” she thought to herself. Walking with three other women, hesitant and shy, was a young person of indeterminate gender. He or she, had a beautiful face, with long, light brown hair, brushed back. She didn’t see breasts, so she guessed he was a young man.
Then, she realized it was him.
She had not seen him since he was a child. He walked with feminine grace, and wore yellow-satin, flared trousers, a gold sequined belt, and a loose white shirt. He was stylish for January, 1977. He carried a green wool coat in his arms, along with a black folder holding sheets of music. She didn’t want to stare. But, she couldn’t take her eyes off him. He looked at her, but didn’t recognize her. He had not seen her since he was five.
Only two weeks had passed for her, but 14 years for him. She had gone home for a time, to rest, to be with people she loved. Her first mission had been harrowing. She felt she had not been ready. But, she was successful. She made friends who helped her accomplish the mission. She took more time to prepare for this, her second mission. Along with cultural downloads, she was genetically modified. Her hair was no longer blonde, but black and curly. Her skin was darker. She seemed to be of mixed race.
Looking to her left, she saw the man sitting next to her was watching the young man approach. Denny took a chair in front of them.
Bob, sitting next to her, placed his right hand on the young man’s shoulder. He turned around. “Are you a tenor?” he asked, trying to determine his gender.
Denny responded, “Yes, I am.” He blushed at the older man’s attention.
Her neighbor extended his right hand and offered, “I’m Bob Miller, looks like we’re going to be neighbors.”
Batresh noticed from the way he spoke to Denny, the way his eyes lingered on the young man’s exposed skin, the way he looked into the younger man’s eyes, that Bob was attracted to him.
Denny smiled back and shook his hand. But then, he turned around, looking at the man who stepped onto a low podium in front of them.
While she had been at Sekhem, Batresh received downloads consisting of a decade of voice lessons. She was now an accomplished choral singer. Although not a soloist, she could sing and read music. And, she disagreed with Mr. Beckham, the conductor who stood in front of them. She believed she was a mezzo.
Thomas Beckham had worked with famous choruses in the United States. He recently came from working with the famous conductor, Robert Shaw. He was excited about this high-profile project as the first conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus. Tonight was the premier rehearsal. He looked over the chorus with some anxiety. He was not a tall man, and spoke softly. Batresh could feel his spirit. He was compassionate, empathetic. This was a good environment for Denny. She looked in front of her at the 19-year-old and smiled to herself.
Mr. Beckham began, “Welcome! Welcome to the first rehearsal of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus!”
The chorus applauded. Some cheered. Batresh looked back at the singers. There was a mixture of ages and races, pale and brown faces, smiling at their new conductor.
“Let’s open the Prokofiev,” Mr. Beckham offered. “Page five, the penultimate measure.” She looked down in front of her. Denny was calmly going through his music.
“Jerry has done a good job,” she thought to herself. She recognized that Denny, even considering his difficult home life, had made it further than many would have predicted. He had grown beyond the culture he was born into. Nothing gave away his humble, country origins. Jerry sent her messages about his progress. She knew Denny studied voice since the age of 15, and that he sang in choral groups, in musical theatre, and even in an opera during high school. She also knew that his father had become more abusive but then, suddenly stopped beating him when he turned 16. She thought Jerry probably had something to do with that.
She looked to her left towards the men, the tenors and basses. She saw, to Denny’s left, a tall man, thickly muscled, handsome. Then, she looked down at the floor to her surprise.
He was a Tlaloc.
Looking back, she saw he looked at Denny from the corner of his eye.
Chords sounded from the long, concert grand. The conductor lifted a baton into the air. She opened her music.