It’s the morning now after I’ve driven back from my first Pine Springs Retreat––the annual LLU School of Medicine and friends event in the San Bernardino National Forest––and I figure I have approximately way-fewer-than-I-think minutes before I have to start hitting the books again. That should definitely be enough time to write this post, though. Physiology can wait! YOLO!!
(I’ve been known to say that a great many things on this planet are both hilarious and tragic. I think the fact that putting physio off for another half hour has totally sated my rebellious streak for the week is definitely, definitely hilaragic).
To be honest, though, I actually don’t even mind the fact that I have to “catch up” a bit after spending the last couple of days at Pine Springs Ranch. My PSR experience definitely deserves its own post anyway, and mostly because of a little song called “Corcovado.”
“Corcovado”––also known as “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars”––has always been one of my favorite tunes. The original recording by Joao Gilberto and Stan Getz on their album “Getz/Gilberto” (Verve, 1964) gives me chills nearly every time I put it on––the beautifully haunting intro, Gilberto’s serene vocals over the never-hurried, yet slightly driving groove, and one of Stan Getz’s always captivating tenor saxophone solos has cemented its status as not only one of the most iconic standards in bossa nova and jazz history, but also as the song that plays in my head in those moments where despite the travails of life and love, everything feels just about right.
With that in mind, imagine my excitement when I somehow got Drew Sheldon (alto saxophone), Daniel Chiou (bass) and Giovanna Sobrinho (fluent in Portuguese and a real-deal Brazilian!!!!!!, vocals) to let me play with them for the talent show at Pine Springs!
Of course, to do the song justice, we would have to practice, which takes time, which is unfortunate because, well, we’re all medical students! When we got together for only the second time an hour before we were supposed to leave for Pine Springs, there was some uncertainty. Do I come in here? Is that a G-sharp or a G-natural? Half-step or whole step? When am I supposed to come in again??
After practicing until what we thought was the very last minute, and then taking a few more to sort out a few important details (skinny black tie, or skinnier black tie?) and to WAIT FOR SOMEBODY TO PACK BECAUSE HE HADN’T YET (I still love you Daniel), we somehow loaded all of our bags and gear into my little Hyundai compact and started to meander our way to Pine Springs. The car ride was a blur of not knowing how to get there, sort of knowing how to get there and then doubting that we were getting there (all set to a eclectic soundtrack accompanied by our, uh, “singing”), so we were really happy once we got there, even if we had to run to the cafeteria to get fed before they closed.
What I noticed immediately was this odd sensation that I had been displaced from my natural habitat, which by now has become the annals of Centennial Hall and the library. It wasn’t an unwelcome contrast––there was a beautiful view of the mountain, clean air, and most importantly, when I looked up, there were the stars––Pleiades, Draco, Cassiopeia and the rest, twinkling like the final flickers of life’s ember. Later that night, as I laid down on the side of a hill with a few friends, took out the guitar and sang the first few lines of “Corcovado,” I couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else.
The next day, between worship, some ill-fated hikes, and some combination of volleyball/basketball/ultimate frisbee games, the four of us found a bit time to practice again for the talent show that night. It wasn’t perfect, but who could care at that point? The only things left to do were to look as awesome as possible and to groove as hard as we could. That night, after a few brilliant acts ranging from spoken word, to musical comedy and opera, we got our chance.
When we sat down afterward, we were all wondering the same things. How did you think it went? Do you think they noticed _______? I think some people were singing along! Of course, everyone was super polite after the show, but it was hard to not feel a little trepidation about how it was really received. As the boys of our group walked back to the car to put away our gear, there was the feeling that we were trying to reassure ourselves that it had in fact gone well. Yeah, you sounded great man, don’t worry about it.
A while later, we had stuffed our faces full of dessert at the ice-cream social, said our goodbyes, shoved all of our stuff back in the car and were on our way back to Loma Linda. There was only one thing to do: boot up the laptop and watch/listen to the recording. Oddly, something happened that usually doesn’t when I listen to recordings of my own performances––I smiled. I was proud of us––a couple of med students that had absolutely no business trying to pull off a passable performance of a jazz and bossa nova classic did just that, and in front of the whole medical school community no less. As we drove off into the quiet night of quiet stars, this time accompanied by our own original soundtrack, I couldn’t help but think that things just felt right, even if just for one delicate, fleeting moment. Corcovado… oh how lovely.