I grew up surrounded by music. Although we lived in the mountains of Colorado at 9000 feet on 20 hilly acres of forest and meadow, music was so essential to my father that he bought yards and yards of cable and walked around the hillside behind our house until he found a place where he could pick up Denver’s classical music station. I believe it was KDEN at that time, call letters that currently belong to an NBC Spanish language TV station. Our radio was set up on a timer so it woke us up in the morning, put us to sleep at night, and played most of the hours in between. The main exception was when Dad was playing an opera on his reel-to-reel tape player. KDEN (whose classical music function was taken over by KVOD in 1969) was at the time a commercial station with a wonderful range of programming. I especially remember their broadcasts of various Broadway musicals, complete with scene set-ups and commentary modeled after the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts and their wonderful folk music program featuring, among others, Joan Baez and “Denver’s own Judy Collins.”
I know that music had always had at least some part in my parents’ lives. Dad played the violin when he was young. He and mother, during their courtship and the early years of their marriage, had visions of playing recorder duets in their idyllic mountain log cabin. I recently discovered a journal Mother kept of our first trip to Mexico (about 1956) in which she writes of walking over the hill to the beach and playing the accordion into the evening. (I think she is referring to the beautiful sandy cove called Chencho on current charts, but which we called Colorado Beach because it was protected from the open sea by Punta Colorado.)
When Dad was in an overseas hospital during WWII being treated for what was then known as shell shock, an opera singer came through the wards, giving impromptu performances to the wounded soldiers. From what Dad has told me, this was where he acquired his lifelong love of opera and ballet. The night before he died, he and my brother watched a video of Swan Lake together. When I was growing up I remember opera playing almost constantly in his workshop while he worked on his new designs for camping equipment. I will never forget the day I learned that operas tell stories. I must have been very young, maybe six or seven. I often joined Dad in his workshop, helping him package drawstring clamps and other small items or constructing my own projects out of nylon and leather scraps. A comment I made led him to explain to me that an opera is a play set to music. “What is happening now?” I asked. “Well,” he said, “Rigoletto thinks that he has the body of his enemy the Duke in the sack he is about to throw into the river. But that is the voice of the Duke singing, and Rigoletto is about to discover that his daughter has been killed instead.” That’s enough to make a lasting impression on a young girl.