Hello, beautiful readers! Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to the #RRBC February "Spotlight" Author, Lisa Kirazian! Please join me in welcoming her to our space.
It's an honor to write this guest post -- and to be RRBC's Spotlight Author for February! I'm excited to share Chapter One of my latest book, Cadenza, with you!
In Cadenza, the final book of “The Music We Made” series, Brian Martin, the famous tenor son of Jenny Driscoll, goes to America to find out more about his maternal grandmother, the only other opera singer in his family: the late Maggie Crawford.
An excerpt from the book Cadenza
by Lisa Kirazian
from The Music We Made series
Brian Martin had the Covent Garden audience eager to leap into the palm of his strong, young hand—although, as the character of Rodolfo in Puccini's La Bohème, he held hands with his Mimi that evening, entrancing her as well with his “Che Gelida Manina” aria.
Che gelida manina, What a frozen little hand,
se la lasci riscaldar. let me warm it for you.
Cercar che giova? What’s the use of looking?
Al buio non si trova. We won't find it in the dark.
Ma per fortuna But luckily
é una notte di luna, it’s a moonlit night,
e qui la luna and the moon
l’abbiamo vicina. is near us here.
Aspetti, signorina, Wait, mademoiselle,
le dirò con due parole I will tell you in two words
chi son, e che faccio, who I am, what I do,
come vivo. Vuole? and how I live. May I?
Chi son? Sono un poeta. Who am I? I am a poet.
Che cosa faccio? Scrivo. What do I do? I write.
E come vivo? Vivo. And how do I live? I live.
In povertà mia lieta In my carefree poverty
scialo da gran signore I squander rhymes
rime ed inni d’amore. and love songs like a lord.
Per sogni e per chimere When it comes to dreams and visions
e per castelli in aria, and castles in the air,
l’anima ho milionaria … I’ve the soul of a millionaire …
Certainly, the Times and Guardian critics in that night’s audience had heard countless La Bohèmes. But this was a special talent, they noted, no question. His resounding tenor voice effortlessly reached the far back rows of the second balcony. His ability to control and lower the voice, hushed after an impassioned high note; his ability to sustain a high C with the same power in the tenth second as in the first. With his dark hair and fair skin, the hazel eyes and easy smile—a star among stars already, Brian was already in demand. This was a young Jussi Bjoerling or Richard Tucker, they said, well on his way from his training at Juilliard and London's Royal School of Music.
And why shouldn't he be with his musical pedigree: the son of composer Jenny Driscoll Martin and the late Charles Martin Jr., a music advocate all his life and the heroic deputy minister fallen in the 2001 terror attacks in High Wycombe. Further, Brian’s maternal grandfather was pianist Neil Driscoll and his paternal grandmother, the cellist Anne Curtis Martin—the two of whom now happened to be married. Even his maternal grandmother, Maggie Crawford—first wife of Neil Driscoll—was an American soprano, beloved worldwide for years before her untimely death when Brian's mother, Jenny, was a child. Jenny rarely talked of her mother Maggie over the years; though when she did, it was with such reverence and love, young Brian sensed from early on that his mother would burst if they talked too long about her.
Somehow, on this night and others like it, as Brian stood on the Covent Garden stage, as comfortable as he would be in his Chiswick living room, his thoughts rested on Maggie Crawford. He thought of her every time he went onstage these days, the one prior member of his musical family who had gone the singing route. He considered of all the questions he wanted to ask her and wondered again what it would have been like to meet her. Her recordings? Brian had them and memorized them all, especially her Italian and French. He also had a recording of her “Song to the Moon” aria from Rusalka that his grandfather Neil had trouble parting with on Brian's twenty-first birthday. Brian listened to it on late nights when he couldn't sleep and no one had stayed over, which was not often.
That night, however, after the final Bohème performance closed the season, Brian certainly would not be alone. His fiancé of six months and longtime girlfriend, Tania Marston, had the whole thing planned, as she did with most everything. Aperitifs at the Savoy after the cast party, their favorite takeout Chinese food at home in bed. The invitations, the celebrations, their entire life ahead had been readied, approved by all. Each was a catch, worthy of the other: Tania, a successful financial analyst on the opera board who had dabbled in flute and oboe earlier in life; Brian, the tenor currently the toast of London's opera scene and scheduled to tour in the coming two years—the Met in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Beijing, back to familiar Paris and Berlin, then to Moscow, Yerevan, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Tbilisi, and Sydney.
Everyone in his life was in the audience that night—his fiancé; grandparents; his single younger sister Katie Martin, a socially conscious, modern-era missionary and one of the few members of the family who had not pursued music professionally, though she played the guitar expertly in youth groups; and his great aunt Kate Driscoll, the famed violinist and the childless matriarch of musical inspiration for the extended family.
These angels to whom he owed his life would be at the party afterward, Brian thought, as he glimpsed them during curtain calls. They would all ask the questions they had been asking incessantly lately: When is the big date? What are you waiting for?
And all he could think of was his beautiful moment in the love aria he had sung and loved since he was a teenager:
In my carefree poverty, I squander rhymes and love songs like a lord.
When it comes to dreams and visions and castles in the air, I’ve the soul of a millionaire.
Brian’s revelations flowed within him as he swelled to the conclusion of his favorite aria.
I want this picture so badly—carefree poverty but rich in soul, free to do as I like and find the girl of my dreams. Is Tania the one? She's absolutely everything I've always said I wanted, so why does my heart still roam? Why is everything inside me restless, like a sailor hearing a siren wailing in the night? Can anyone hear the alarm pulsing inside me as I sing?
As he took his final bow to warm applause showering over him, Brian looked beyond his loved ones’ heads, at all the strangers, and wondered if there was a Mimi far in the corner, with cold hands waiting for him to warm them, with a guarded heart waiting for him to escort her into the safe sunlight. Someone completely anonymous and unconnected, someone and something entirely of his own choosing. Who was forcing this life on him, really? No one—not really. He was born into it and he was forever grateful—except for nights, like this one, where he just wanted to board a train to nowhere and see what might happen, what he might find that he sensed he had been missing.
The cast party at the Savoy meant constant selfies with patrons, autographs, and smiles. His friends and family and colleagues stayed festive and loud until well after midnight. Tania had remained by Brian's side since he had emerged from the dressing room, kissing him on the cheek, beaming at her gorgeous fiancé’s triumph, and thinking of all the lovely details she prepared for later.
“We're so proud of you, darling,” Brian's beaming mother Jenny said as she stood beside her devoted second husband, barrister Jonathan Myers Davis.
“Your best yet, I'd say,” Jonathan said.
“Thanks, Mum. Thanks, Dad,” Brian said. After losing his beloved birth father so young, he affectionately called his stepfather Dad. Jonathan had helped raise him since the age of eight.
Jenny kissed her son before her father, Neil, joined them.
“My grandson!” a still-hearty Neil said, grabbing Brian's shoulders. His tall but aging bones had taken him down a couple inches, while his grey hair faded to white at his temples. They shook hands and embraced. “Superb job. Just superb.”
Brian's radiant grandmother Anne embraced him, as she did in those early needy years, strong and somehow gentle at the same time. “My boy, my boy—no longer a boy!” She smiled at him. He kissed her on the cheek.
Great Aunt Kate chimed in as well. “When you manage to make something so familiar feel so new, Brian, that's when you know you have it … and you'll always have it.”
“Thanks, Aunt Kate,” Brian said.
Mark, Aunt Kate's husband, shook his hand next.
“Fantastic, Brian. Inspired me again.”
“Thanks, Uncle Mark.”
Brian loved his Uncle Mark and how dedicated he was to his second wife Kate, and family. He never knew Great Aunt Kate's first husband, Sir Colin Andrews, but enjoyed listening to the soaring beauty of his flute recordings and assumed he must have been a knight of a man. His grandmother Anne had always concurred, saying that Great Aunt Kate was blessed to find the love of her life, twice. And in a way, she said, so was his mother, Jenny.
“If you can find love even once, Brian, consider yourself beyond fortunate,” Grandma Anne always told him after he became a teenager. And whenever she said it, Brian observed how she always looked off, as if toward a memory of her own that he couldn’t see.
Had he found that love of his life? Brian hated that he even had to ask himself—and so often.
“Let's toast the man of the evening,” Tania announced, raising her drink after making sure the attentive waiters had refilled everyone's glasses. Brian snapped out of his preoccupations.
“Such as he is,” Brian said, self-deprecating as ever.
“To Brian. We all love you. Bravo,” Tania said, her voice taking on a tenderness not usually found in her daily work or on their weekend drives.
He looked at Tania—beautiful and slender with strawberry blond hair above her Valentino business suit from work that somehow still looked perfect for the evening—the woman whom he had thought, all this time, he surely loved.
But there was something he hadn't told her. Something he hadn’t told anyone.
After they all toasted him and emptied their glasses, he spoke.
“Thank you, everyone. Not sure who paid you, but I appreciate you being here,” he said, to their laughter. “You mean the world to me. Tonight was a special night. Thank you, Tania, for making it happen—for always making it happen—and to my family. I love all of you,” Brian said.
“Hear! Hear!” they all said, thinking he was done.
“But I have to tell you …” he said.
Tania’s smile froze as her gaze locked on him.
“All of this excitement—this season—has made me decide something. Just tonight, really.”
“Decide what?” Tania asked, fast and hushed.
“I'm going away for a while. Take a break. There's … something I want to do; I need to do. In America.”
All sign of emotion lifted from Tania's face.
Brian watched Tania pale and realized he had mis-stepped. But he had to do this, he told himself. If not now, when?
Jenny looked at Jonathan, Neil at Anne, Kate at Mark. Tania looked around, then down. Brian could look at no one as he finished his drink.
The buzz of social, clinking sounds in the Savoy enveloped the now-silent Brian Martin party, his night of victory now deflated.
Thank you for reading! Onward!
What a great excerpt! Thanks for sharing that with us, Lisa. If you'd like to pick up a copy of this book, click here.
Kirazian writes fiction, plays, screenplays, and also directs for stage and
screen. Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Performing Arts
Magazine, San Diego Union Tribune and many other publications. She is in demand
as a speaker and has been a guest on KPBS Public Radio and at various
conferences. Lisa is a graduate of Stanford University.
Several of her screenplays have placed in major competitions and festivals. Twelve of her stage plays have been produced across the U.S. and have won numerous awards, including a few publications. She also directed and wrote the adapted screenplay of the short film, "Reflection Day."
Her novels include BRAVURA, APPASSIONATO, and now CADENZA, the three books of "The Music We Made" series, following three generations in the Driscoll family of musicians and inspired by her experience as a violinist. The series is also being developed for television.
Lisa lives in San Diego with her husband and two daughters and is involved in the Armenian community locally, nationally and abroad.
In CADENZA, the final book of "The Music We Made" series, the young tenor Brian Martin finds himself on the cusp of superstardom and marriage, until he is compelled to leave behind his distinguished musical family, and his fiancé, in London, to visit the U.S. to see where his famous late grandmother, Maggie Crawford, the only other opera singer in the family, grew up. His journey takes him to Marshall, Minnesota, and Maggie's hometown high school, where he meets the music teacher, Laura Jones, who helps him with his family history in more ways than he could have imagined.