Sunday, August 9, 2015

The L.A. Phil Plays Okinawa

There are unreal experiences that seem real, but what about the reverse: things that you actually experienced but over time become hazy? If they were unlikely to begin with, there’s a risk they’ll slip into a sort of dream category: Did I really do that?

These 50-odd years later I had to ask myself if I’d really gone to a concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra on Okinawa. The question intrigued me to the point where I had to contact the orchestra and ask.

As I recall it, I had settled in at my posting, a fenced-in enclosure on top of a hill overlooking the airbase we were to defend if necessary. It was a decade and more since the end of WWII and the airbase had restaurants, a PX, and a movie theater -- relatively luxurious recreational facilities. Our barracks had a pingpong table -- I became fairly proficient -- and a TV set tuned to a military channel. There’s a surprising amount of down time when you’re in the army, and I and the other members of our short-handed crew spent most of it in that barracks on that hill.

I doubt you can imagine my feelings when I learned about the concert. This was the one you swapped  guard duty nights for, two for one. I vaguely remember some walking to get there, and   I really believe I attended that concert, but the rest of the details are gone. That’s what gives it its dream-like quality.

But the LAPO archivist confirmed it; the orchestra had toured the Far East that year, performing in Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Taipei  and, unaccountably, Okinawa.  It would have been the equivalent of including a stop in New York but playing it on Governors Island.

I suppose I could have asked for the program and the conductor, but it wouldn’t have added anything. I’ve probably heard the music, whatever it was that night, hundreds of times since, and the nuances of individual conducting styles are lost on me. Confirmation of the event itself is what I was after, and now         I know for sure I enjoyed it.