She took us, mesmerized and lost, to an ornate place it appeared she knew at another time—a child’s return. It was the sophisticated, opulent, intellectually and artistically cross-pollinated and supremely confident Paris of the Eiffel Tower before the fall into the abyss of the War and disillusionment. We saw her as we’ve known her but there was something new, this Josephine of many colors.
For me, it was a mad dash to the TGIF concert to hear Elizabeth Child on the new Steinway, a fleeting break in a work week not over. I had to leave after the Debussy pieces. My experience from the balcony for 20 to 25 minutes was worlds away from the one I’d left and had to return to. Perhaps it was that contrast which shook me, now reveling in quiet equanimity of beauty and power.
I’ve often thought there was something in her name, “Child”. In my imagination I canvassed literary works I’d known of or read. It was Lord Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage” directing attention to another child of Tryon, however, though one like her.
Of its own beauty is the mind diseased,
And fevers into false creation. Where,
Where are the forms the sculptor’s soul has seized?
In him alone. Can Nature show so fair?
Where are the charms and virtues which we dare
Conceive in boyhood and pursue as men,
The unreached Paradise of our despair,
Which o’er-informs the pencil and the pen,
And overpowers the page where it would bloom again?
Canto IV, Stanza CXXII (italics mine)
“Sculptor’s soul” – and ours?
“Bloom again” – suggesting a return, a reconciliation?
A statue overlooks South Trade Street, a woman at a keyboard. Like Beth, she was a child prodigy, educated at Juilliard as a classical pianist. She was from us but in life chose not to be of us. It was in France, not in Tryon, that she found fame, settling finally in Provence, where she died in 2003.
Friday night at the Tryon Fine Arts Center, Beth brought us to France. Could it be there was in all her all music another gesture, confirmation, rather, that the child had been brought home again?
Coincidentally, Tryon Concert Association was in its 30th season when Beth made her debut at Carnegie hall at age 29.