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Concert on Suntop Fire Lookout

A classical encounter at Suntop Fire Lookout.

As a classically trained pianist with a definite interest in both classical music and the outdoors I find I frequently am at odds with myself. However, one day up at our fire lookout - - -

As I've stated before, Suntop is a drive up lookout. A car showed up one day, a gentleman got out, walked up the little rise – maybe 50 yards from available parking to the fire lookout – we invited him inside our spacious “house” - a single room, 14' x 14', stuffed with the imposing Osborne Fire Finder on it's space consuming pedestal, a ¾ size bed, small table, wood stove, and the accouterments we brought with us, plus a 3 burner cook stove and table. Cozy!  ( Read small, er, tiny and cramped! ) After the usual polite chit chat about the weather up here, our duties as fire watchers, how the Osborne worked, fires we'd spotted, animals, etc. I finally asked what he was doing up here, he explained he'd found us on the map and was driving from Yakima to Seattle, and we of course were just about 30 minutes from U.S. 410 so he came up. I then asked why he was wearing a small French Horn as a pin, he explained he was a member of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra ( my favorite large orchestra in the whole world! ) and was here to play French Horn for that summer's performances of Wagner's “Ring of the Nibelung” with the Seattle Opera orchestra! I then explained the Berlin was my favorite large orchestra with the Academy of Saint Martins in the Field as my favorite smaller orchestra. He was as thunderstruck to find a classically trained pianist in this little dusty out of the way place with the magnificent view as I was to be talking with a member of the Berlin Symphony here in this little dusty etc - - - We talked music a long time, piano concertos, horn concertos, I mentioned I'd had to “invent” my own piano part for one of the Mozart Horn Concertos a friend of mine performed on Horn for his Senior Concert in College, my new friend reported he'd played both Concertos with the Berlin, and once as horn soloist!

And then he announced he had his horn with him and would we mind if he brought it up and played a bit as he hadn't been able to practice yet that day? Would we mind? Talk about being excited! Two kids in a candy store! He then brought his horn up from his car, opened his horn case which was all plush blue inside and held the most beautiful horn I'd ever seen! It positively glowed golden in the sunlight streaming into the lookout! I nervously asked him about dust and the glorious finish on the horn, he was not concerned. He'd just purchased it recently and it cost, shall we just leave it at this – money. He explained also he'd spent a long time buying the three mouthpieces he had, each with different lip cushions.

And then he gave us a free horn concert! In town we would have paid a lot for tickets to hear him, we got it free in the lookout! He began with Rickard Strauss's “Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks”- written for Strauss's father a French Horn player, and one of the most difficult, hence famous, Horn parts in all of orchestral literature, then some of the horn part from “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and proceeded through various and sundry horn parts from Wagner, then went outside and played alp horn calls! An hour or so of great music. What a thrill! I was terrified he'd drop the horn or hit something with it and dent his horn, but all went well. And yes, he could play that horn! Oh how he could play it! Neither one of us has ever forgotten that glorious hour, the sun shining through everywhere in the lookout, the blue sky outside smiling at us, the abyss just to our west, Mt. Rainier to the South, the Cascades to the East and beautiful horn music. Plus the way the horn sounded outside and sparkled in the sunshine. Glorious, glorious, glorious! Breathtaking! I never thought I'd ever meet anyone from the Berlin, especially up at Suntop! We tried hard to get free for one performance that summer but it was not to be – it turned out to be a very dry hot summer and the Forest became tinder dry with humidity very very low, fuels very dry so we were needed there. We consoled ourselves with the thought we'd had a private concert from a member of the Berlin Philharmonic!

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