The audience is small – one hundred and fifty people gathered under an outdoor tent, lit from above by sparkling fairy lights, and on one side from the sun setting over the mountains behind the stage. The performers step out. Peter Kater wears a jacket and skinny jeans, creating a rocker-pianist look. Tina Guo arranges her yellow “banana dress” around her legs and her cello as she sits.
The concert that follows holds the audience in rapture, an almost-silent, not-quite-dry-eyed hypnosis. Each song is a once in a lifetime experience – improvised in an agreed upon key and mood. The melodies are little brain waves, sound bytes, plucked and bowed and pressed from brain to instrument to air. Each note is on the spot, in the moment. The performers look at each other every once in a while, connecting through and over their creation, but more often they play with their eyes closed, feeling out the next note, the next phrase.
A minor… E flat… Something spooky… A happy castle song, inspired by location of the concert – Cherokee Ranch and Castle in Salida, Colorado. Each creation is a little piece of performance art: small, intimate, unrepeatable – a site-specific happening. Everyone is present, wrapped up together in the immediacy of the event.
However the improvisation isn’t the only element of the evening. Guo and Kater each perform solo pieces that break up the partnership. Perhaps the most impressive is “The Swan” – a French song played on a French cello, and the best rendition that I have ever experienced. “Love” wraps up the solos, and the piano keys tell a story which inspires longing and hope and contentment.
A slight breeze accompanies the entirety of the performance, helping to carry the music to the crowd, and casting Guo as a goddess whose hair floats as she plays. As the sun goes down it casts a golden glow, which becomes blue as the night overcomes the day. And then it is dark, and the audience is left with one last taste of the ephemeral collaboration. The final notes ring out, reverberating into the listeners and into the fairy lights and into the mountains and into the stars.
As the performers exit the stage, no sheet music is left behind, as there are no stands for it to be left on. No trace remains of the melodies which just moments before filled the air.
It is all just a memory.