“A Day in the Life of Newburyport” for string quartet
Notes by the composer
I - The Break of Day Over Plum Island @ 5:52 a.m.
(painting by Sara Demrow Dent)
We pad across the beach, plum-covered dunes chirping behind us. It feels like the world pauses for a moment, still with anticipation, before the day wakens around us. Fishermen gather, gearing up for a day at sea, while young gulls patter down to the edge of the water, quickly retreating, as the waves slide up the beach.
II - 158 to North Station @ 7:30 a.m.
(painting by Janet Sutherland)
The station is filled with commuters. Some are nonchalantly gazing at their phones; some are deep in quiet conversation;while still others are filled with impatient nervous energy; but all are waiting to travel into Boston. Blues music reaches out from speakers set on the ground outside a café. Suddenly, the train rounds the bend and roars into the station. Immediately, the platform is filled with comings and goings but just as quickly, it is motionless again, waiting…
III - The Fountain on Inn Street @ 11:00 a.m.
(painting by Bonita LeFlore)
A fountain dances, bursting from the center of Inn Street. Fascinating. Leaping high; crashing down; gurgling underground in some unseen mechanical depth. Adults pass by without a glance but every child strains against their tethered hand to feel the outpouring of merriment. One by one, dragged by, then suddenly the hand is free and joy pours from children and fountain alike.
IV - The City Hall First Floor Corridor Portrait Gallery @ 2:45 p.m.
(painting by Susan Spellman)
Feet move swiftly from hall to office. Faces wait patiently. Images of those who have fallen in service watch the inner workings of the seat of government and community events. One person rests his cane against the wall, slowly reaches up, and pauses to say, “Thank you.”
V - The Harbor Marina @ 3:45 p.m.
(painting by Ron Emmerling)
A low murmuring is heard from the marina. Idling motorboats bob in the water, jostling in their slips,while halyards chime on masts, singing in the breeze.
VI - Promenade on the Waterfront Park Boardwalk @ 6:15 p.m.
(painting by Brent Rotsko)
Strolling along the Merrimack River before dinner, we are lost in reminiscence. We are overtaken by a bicycle pitter-pattering as it rolls along. We look up and see tourists waiting to disembark. Stealthily, a white lump of ice cream creeps between the boards, inching toward its escape. Strangers pass, sharing glances and smiles containing secrets – all the while, a man sits with a guitar, quietly strumming. We look at each other and are thankful.
VII - Standing in a Grove of Trees, in Oak Hill Cemetery,
at Twilight @ 8:10 p.m.
(painting by Jay McCarthy)
Surrounded by the distant sounds of Newburyport, the trees and monuments seem to grow as their shadows dissipate into the gloaming. The eerily luminescent eventide envelops us as we stand quietly, listening to the coming night.
VIII - Moonrise Over Plum Island @ 9:30 p.m.
(painting by Robin Thornhill)
We end the day where we began. The place remains the same but we are different.