It’s the Agate Beach Golf Course on any given day, the spread of rolling green my siblings would practice on most Mondays “kids day” every summer. It rests on the east side of Highway 101 right up the street from our summer house. In those days, my mom would urge us to look both ways and send us off with clubs and dimpled balls for the day. (With the steady, speedy stream on 101 now, it’s hard to imagine.)
On this waning day, the light softening as the sun makes its way to bed in the Pacific, pianist Hunter Noack is set up on the 18th green, his 9-foot Steinway grand piano on a flatbed. There are maybe fifty of us, the lucky ones, awaiting his performance. But we aren’t confined to chairs. Greeters have given us wireless headphones—it is windy and as resonant as a grand piano can be in a concert hall, it is no match for a blustery evening on the Oregon Coast. This enables both enhanced sound quality but also the express purpose of Noack’s mission:
“No longer confined to seats, they can explore the landscape, wander through secret glens, lie in sunny meadows, and roam old growth forests.”
So says his website.
In the spirit of the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) Federal Music and Theatre Projects, which presented thousands of free concerts and plays in theaters, public spaces and parks across the country during the Depression, IN A LANDSCAPE events are offered primarily in rural communities for free or on a donation basis.
My husband and I have stumbled upon this event in a local publication listing what’s happening locally. Having relocated here recently, we’re exploring new ground, altered for me by time and distance. After all, we only have to cross the highway.
The night, the performance, is magical. I don headphones and walk the fairways where I grew up honing my golf game, music swelling as a backdrop. I’m not a classical music buff, but on this night, I become a fan. This, I understand as I’m held in its spell, was once popular music; I’m only a few centuries behind the times. And Noack is brilliant yet accessible. This is not exclusive, snooty; this is for one and all.
When I learn he is to return to play on March 21st and 22nd with the Newport Symphony, I can’t wait. Adam Flatt, who has continued my music education in the best possible way as rock-star conductor, and Hunter will comprise the perfect team.
You know where this is going. Nowhere. The shows are canceled—yet—
I still have that night to sustain me, that night when the trees swayed, and the coda confirmed, “You’ve come to the right place.”