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What hurricane?

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Sep 17, 2008 - 11:24:48 PM in news_2008

4985 Walnut Woods Lane, Indian Hill.
There will be many stories about Hurricane Ike, the big wind that struck Greater Cincinnati Sept. 14.

   My favorite begins . . . “Something just hit our window!"

  My daughter-in-law Sandy's cell phone faded in and out as I learned that trees were down at her house, electric power and telephone service were off and leaves, twigs and branches were hurtling through the air.

   In just three hours, Sandy and her husband John were to host a Cincinnati Symphony “Party of Note."  The caterer and florist were at work at their house, and musicians from concert:nova were due in two hours to warm up for the event.

   The voice I heard, however, was not one of panic or alarm, but challenge, a challenge Sandy was prepared to accept.  In fact, I heard laughter on her end, as of someone willing, almost eager, to go wherever an otherwise fairly predictable experience would take her.

   I got ready to leave and give them what help I could – “I just want to be with them,” I told my husband.  Next thing we knew our power went out, too, and as my computer screen blacked out, my notes for the Power Point slide show I was to present at the party  vanished.  (I had not yet printed a hard copy.)

   No problem, I thought.  I’ll re-compile the notes when I get to the house.

   The drive through Madeira into Indian Hill, was cautionary, to say the least.  I held the steering wheel tightly as wind gusts hit my car, and I watched carefully for debris that had fallen onto the road or was about to.  There was a downed tree on Miami Rd. already cordoned off by police, so I detoured behind St. Gertrude Church to get to the other side.  As I turned onto Annesdale Dr. I was relieved to see no apocalyptic damage.  Prestige Valet had arrived to park cars for the guests.  The tree that had partially blocked John and Sandy's driveway had been pushed aside somehow.

   Once inside their home (atop a hill on Walnut Woods Lane) I saw lots of activity, but little disarray.  Tables and chairs had been moved indoors (it was to have been a garden party), the tables had been set and the caterers (Creations by Melody) were beginning to assemble hors d’oeuvres.  Wine was ready to pour just outside the dining room on a recessed patio.  Beau Bolce and John Hinger (Bolce Interior Image) were handling logistics expertly. Our son John was monitoring the house and grounds for damage and exercising damage control. 

   All systems were go, I learned, because they were operating on solar power.  Alternative energy, re-cycling, organic gardening and environmentally friendly products, including a hybrid car, are fundamentals of Sandy and John's lifestyle.  There would be no problem operating the projector for my Power Point display, and as long as it was judiciously expended, the solar energy would last for several hours.

   Still, would anybody come?

   Babysitter Caitlin arrived next to take charge of three-year-old Clo, youngest of Sandy and John's three daughters. Then came the musicians, violinist Tanya Berman (Järvi) and four-year-old daughter Lea, clarinetist Ixi Chen, violinist Mauricio Aguiar, violist Heidi Yenney, cellist Christina Coletta and double bassist Owen Lee.

members of Concert:Nova performing at CSO Party of Note September 11, 2008. l to r: Tatiana Berman, Mauricio Aguiar, Owen Lee, Christina Coletta and Heidi Yenney (Ixi Chen sitting in the window in the back)
They brought an all-Mozart program with them, including the Clarinet Quintet and Divertimento in F Major, and set up in the foyer of the wide-open, contemporary design house.  They could play by natural light as long as it lasted.

   Clo's 10-year-old sister Astrid, Caitlin and I looked after the children as final preparations were made.  Lea enjoyed peeking through the spaces between the glass panels and wrought iron grids that made up the walkway on the top level of the house.  Clo pondered whether to wear a dress or a costume with monarch butterfly wings.

   As 5 p.m. approached and the windstorm continued, we hoped for the best.  Since land lines were out and most people did not know how to reach them (or us) by cell phone, we had little idea who would make the trek and who would elect the better part of valor (discretion).  When our friends Don and Laura Harrison were spotted coming up the driveway, we took heart since they had called and expressed hesitation about coming.

   Gradually others followed, either taxied to the door by the valet or on foot up the driveway.  The concert:nova musicians moved to the living room to get better light and a spot where guests could gather around and listen.  The result was a splendid concert -- a major event, not a backdrop -- and they were warmly applauded.

    With over 30 arrivals at about a quarter past six, we adjourned to the lower level of the house where the Power Point presentation, "Järvid aial" ("Järvis in the Yard") was to take place.  (As it turned out, only 10 of the 40 guests did not make it to the party.   At least five of them, we learned, had a tree athwart their house or blocking their driveway.)

A near miss on Miami Rd. in Indian Hill.

   With my husband operating the projector, keeping time and moving me along, I culled my printed text on the spot (there had been no time to excerpt notes again).  The presentation, which included archival and recent photos, was about the Järvi family of Estonia, a growing musical dynasty, including CSO music director Paavo Järvi, with numbers rivaling the Bach and Johann Strauss families.

Paavo Järvi playing xylophone for Aram Khachaturian in Tallinn mid-1970s (father Neeme Järvi at the piano, sister Maarika standing, brother Kristjan seated)
I trimmed and cut around the edges since time was of the essence.  I was relieved to be told later that it had been coherent and covered many things the guests had not known about Järvi, his talented family and his native Estonia.

   Dinner was a delicious and well-planned affair, with salmon, cold, diced vegetable soup, garden salad, rolls and sorbet with chocolate covered mint leaves.  The herbs were from Sandy's own garden.  By the time the guests had loaded their plates at the buffet and taken their seats, light was fading fast and candles were lit.

   Harpist Holly Pratt had arrived and began playing in the foyer.  It was a difficult assignment by candlelight, but her music was unfailingly gracious and helped create a warm, cozy environment.  When she moved to the living room for somewhat better light, the party took on an intimate glow.  Holly even accommodated Lea and Clo, who were fascinated by the harp and gathered around to touch it and hear Holly play “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”  (Holly's non-profit arts organization Lyrica runs an educational program called Holly's Harps.)

   As the evening drew to a close and the guests met their cars in the driveway, it was clear that a minor miracle had occurred, an evening of good fellowship. great music and delicious food amid the worst windstorm to hit Cincinnati in living memory.

A downer on Walnut Woods Lane in Indian Hill.
Whew, that was close (female denizen of the garden at 4985 Walnut Woods post-Hurricane Ike).