Piano Forte

Chapter 36-The Glory of Music

 
CHAPTER 36
THE GLORY OF MUSIC
 
<Austin and William>
 
William’s phone sounded at just before seven in the morning, waking him and Austin from sound sleeps. Austin’s naked body was wrapped around his boyfriend and William could feel the younger boy’s morning wood poking his belly. William knew it wasn’t his alarm and he wanted nothing to do with whoever was waking him up an hour before he had set his alarm.
 
Austin was now awake as well. He was closer to the phone, so William told him to reject the call. “I don’t want to talk to whatever asshole is calling before I want to get up, so reject the fucking call,” William told Austin.
 
Austin rolled over and lifted the phone from the nightstand. “It’s Gramps,” Austin told him.
 
If it had been his father, William would have rejected it, but there was no way he would do that to his grandfather no matter what time in the morning it was. “Okay, hand it over to me.” He swiped the answer icon. “Good morning, Gramps,” he said with an exaggerated yawn. “What’s going on so early?”
 
“Good morning, William. If you had answered your phone last night, I wouldn’t have had to call this early in the morning.”
 
“Um…Austin and I turned off our phones.” William had turned his back on so he and Austin could wake up to some rousing Tchaikovsky.
 
“I can imagine why.” William felt himself blush as he guessed what it was his grandpa was talking about. “So, anyway, what’s going on?” he asked again.
 
“I’ve been talking with Jordan the last couple of days. We want to try something in the auditorium, and for that we need you. We want you and Austin to meet us there at eight-thirty.”
 
“So, you wake us up before the legal decent time? You could have called a half-hour later and we would have been fine.”
 
“I understand adolescent boys. By the time you shower, decide what to wear if you’re even going to bother dressing, eat breakfast, get what you need for your morning schedule organized, take care of whatever attracts your attention, and finally head out to meet us, it would have been well past eight-thirty.”
 
“Grandpa, please.”
 
“You haven’t even asked what this is all about.”
 
“I’m too tired to think. I’m still half asleep. So, yeah, what’s this all about?”
 
“Last night, Jordan and I set up some microphones on the stage and did some testing. Now we need you two to come and practice your “Fandango” together using his sound setup.”
 
“I thought Jordon was off today.”
 
“He was, but he isn’t now. The boy is a whiz with sound and electronics. He’s got a career waiting for him somewhere.”
 
“Whatever,” William said impatiently. “If you decide to talk us to death, it will be at least nine before we get there.”
 
Gene’s chuckle told William he hadn’t stepped on any of his grandfather’s toes. It was hard to piss off his grandfather, which was one of the many things William loved about him. “Okay, Gramps, we’ll see you at the auditorium at eight-thirty—and we WILL be dressed.”
 
“I certainly hope so.” Although Gene had to admit to himself that seeing the boys practice naked on the stage would be a real treat. Physical beauty meets musical beauty, he grinned.
 
“What was that about?” Austin asked after William disconnected. William told him. “Whoa, that sounds kind of awesome. I know Gramps was worried if we would be able to get the right balance on stage without practicing there. Now we’re getting a chance to be even better than we already are.”
 
“There’s going to be more here than just balance. We have to work together to deal with that microphone.”
 
“We’re good. We’ll do it,” Austin said confidently.
 
William gave his boyfriend a kiss on the cheek. “These are the times I love you. Now, let’s shower and eat and go meet Gramps.”
“Don’t forget ‘let’s get dressed.’”
 
“Damn, you’re right. That is so easy to forget.”
 
After breakfast, the boys made their way to the Administration and Middle School building. They went straight to the auditorium where they saw Gene sitting at the piano playing Bach. When he saw the boys, he stopped playing and went to the edge of the stage to greet them.
 
“Where’s the microphone?” William asked.
 
“Look up,” Gene replied. He did and saw a microphone on a wire hanging a few feet above an empty chair on the stage.
 
“That’s it? I thought we’d be playing into a big mic set up on the floor. How is that going to help?”
 
Before Gene could reply, Jordan and Lindy Moore, who filled in for Jordan on his days off, stepped out onto the stage. Today was supposed to be one of Jordan’s days off, but Gene had been working with Jordan for a few days on setting up microphones to help William’s guitar be more audible over Austin’s piano. Jordan’s day off was now a workday. Gene talked the school into paying Jordan for his extra time.
 
Jordan knew the school had the equipment he needed. He called one of his mentors, who was a professional sound engineer, for advice. He came in the day before even though it was his day off and was back at the school today to set his microphone up. There was a place to set up the amplification equipment and he went to work connecting the parts, which meant getting up into the rafters. There was a door backstage which opened to a steep set of stairs going up to the rafters. While he worked on the amplification equipment, Lindy took care of her job, which was recording each performance.
 
William pointed to the microphone hanging over the stage. “I thought that microphone was for recording the performances.”
 
“It is. I have another mic up on the catwalk, which I’m going to lower,” Jordan responded. He turned and headed to the door that led to the area above the stage.
 
“Gramps, I thought you said we were using the mic hanging up there.”
 
“I never said you were,” Gene shrugged. “I just told you to look up. Before I could say more, Lindy and Jordan joined us. As soon as Jordan lowers the mic you will be using, you and Austin are going to do some rehearsing and testing, which is why you’re here.”
 
“How about we get warmed up,” Austin said.
 
“Good idea,” William said. He was obviously frustrated about having his routine interrupted the day of the recital. Austin could read that frustration and thought that making music, even if it was their warmup routine, would help settle his boyfriend down.
 
As they warmed up, Jordan lowered the microphone with the guidance of Lindy. When it was in place, Gene handed them scoresheets of “Shenandoah,” and asked them to play the first page. Both boys were good sight readers, plus they had played the piece together in their room and with Gene as a light warmup.
 
“The key here is for Austin to modulate his sound, so the piano doesn’t dominate the guitar,” Gene told the boys. “Jordan will make sure that William is heard as an equal.”
 
While they played, Lindy sat out in the auditorium and communicated with Jordan, who adjusted his sound levels. Gene sat back with Lindy and passed some suggestions for her to pass on to Jordan. He was impressed by the knowledge and professionalism of the two high school kids.
 
“Okay, I think we’re ready for the real thing,” Jordan shouted down from the catwalk.
 
Austin and William looked at each other, silently communicating that they were ready to play. As they had rehearsed, Austin gave a slight nod of his head and on the third nod they began to play. The first time through they seemed to be self-conscious having the microphone and were often somewhat hesitant. Gene allowed them to play through, however, wanting them to get used to applying the touch and tone he had discussed with them. Austin seemed so intent on not playing too loudly and blocking out William, that his touch was erratic. At times, the boys seemed to be competing instruments rather than a synchronized pair playing as a unit.
 
The second time through they played with more confidence and Gene had no problem stopping them and making a suggestion or two. They then proceeded at or close to the stopping point. On their third run through, he moved from the third row to the back of the auditorium, stopping them only two times. Austin’s sensitive touch returned, especially over the last half of the work, and he and William were performing much more like one instrument.
 
“Okay, gentlemen, let’s see if we can get all the way through without interruption,” Gene said. “You both seem to be much more at ease.”
 
When they finished there was some applause from the aisle above the lower seats. Four of the high school campers had come to the Middle School/Administration building to rehearse a string quartet in the auditorium as soon as William and Austin’s time was over. Along with the high school campers, Gary and Ned, who had unobtrusively entered the auditorium and were sitting in the back row, joined in the applause.
 
“You guys sound great,” one of the violinists, a blond sophomore, called out.
 
“We want to hear the whole thing,” a dark-haired junior who played the cello said.
 
“Our time is up,” Gene reminded him.
 
“That’s okay, we want to hear it. You dudes are awesome,” the other violinist, who was twin brother of the first violinist confirmed. The violist, a red-haired girl, said nothing, but nodded in agreement.
 
William and Austin were happy to play for their enthusiastic little audience. They felt they had just finished playing well, but this time they were positive they were ready to play as one, just as Grandpa Gene wanted. Dr. Boardman, who was passing through the auditorium, stopped to see what Gene was working on. When he saw it was William and Austin on stage, he sat next to the great pianist to listen to his prize pupils.
 
On Austin’s nod, William and Austin started the music. As Gene listened to his talented grandson, William, and talented “grandson”, Austin, play Boccherini’s “Fandango”, he swore the sound was coming totally from the stage. There was no question that the two boys—no, make that the two musicians—were playing as a single unit and that Jordan Davis was an important, if unseen and unheard, part of that unit. As William and Austin approached the conclusion of the work, Gene smiled as he noticed the four high school campers move to the dance-like rhythm of the composition. For Gene Delacroix, what he was witnessing was the glory of music.
 
The four high school campers as well as Gene and Dr. Boardman applauded and hooted loudly at the conclusion of the “Fandango.” William and Austin stood and took their bows, bumping fists and then waving to their little audience.
 
“If you guys play like that tonight, they’ll have a parade to carry you off the stage,” the cellist cried out. The members of the quartet decided to find a way to listen to Austin and William in actual performance. Maybe they could get Dr. Boardman to convince the high school camp supervisor to let them skip the high school recital.
 
“Hell, I think everybody should skip it just to hear those two play,” the first violinist said. His three companions didn’t argue.
 
<Gary and Gene>
 
“Austin and William are going to kick some serious a…I mean, are going to be seriously awesome,” Gary told Gene as they sat together in Practice Room 6.
 
“I observed you and Ned sneaking in,” Gene grinned. “What did you two skip in order to observe your friends?”
 
“Ned and me didn’t skip except our exercise time in the gym. Titus wanted to come, too, but he had his last practice with Ms Z scheduled.” Ms. Zimmer was going to be Titus’s accompanist for the third movement of the Mozart F Major Violin Sonata at the night’s recital.
 
“Why didn’t he use you this time?” Gene asked. From his chats with Rene Zimmer, Gene knew the answer, but he wanted to hear what Gary’s take on his friend’s decision was.
 
“Well, since I accompanied him once and then did it for Denny Sherman last week, plus I had my own recital today, plus I was starting some new stuff with you, plus Titus wanted to get some lessons on how to work together with a pianist from Ms Z, we kinda decided that since Ms Z was okay with doing it, she should be his accompanist.”
 
Gene wondered if Gary would have to come up for air as he gave his rambling explanation, but Gary was an expert prattler and had no problem completing his discourse. “That all makes sense to me. I’m glad to see campers taking advantage of playing with the expert musicians at this camp.”
 
“Well, I’m ready to play the Scott Joplin I’m doing tonight plus the Bach you told me to work on.”
 
“You’re a hard worker, Gary, and have made a lot of progress in the short time we’ve worked together.” 
 
“Thank you, Mr. Gene. It’s too bad we can’t do two different things because I feel ready to play Mr. Bach.”
 
“Well, how about showing me what you’ve accomplished.”
 
Gary played Bach’s Gigue. While his playing was stilted and hesitant at times, it was mostly on the mark—as good an interpretation as a twelve-year-old could give the great master. “Lots of crossovers,” Gary grinned. “How did I do?”
 
“Excellent work, Gary. We’ll add that to your program at the music festival.”
 
“Do you think I could trade it with the Joplin?”
 
“I think Joplin’s ‘The Entertainer’ is perfect for the last day of regular recitals,” Gene grinned. “The Gigue is a lively piece, but the Joplin will put smiles on people’s faces.  Your technique was outstanding with the Bach, but you need some work to get your tempo. You’ll have that piece and a couple of others down pat by next month.”
 
“Austin is going to play the ‘Waldstein’ Sonata by Beethoven at the festival, right?”
 
“Correct.”
 
“I saw a YouTube video of a twelve-year-old playing it. Gavin George. I bet Austin is as good as him.”
 
“I’ve seen that video and some others. The boy is amazing. He was a little ahead of Austin at twelve because Austin didn’t get serious lessons until he was almost six. But under his current teacher and with the instruction he has received here at the camp, your buddy has grown by leaps and bounds. And I have to say, you’ve grown a lot, as well.”
 
“I’m not as good as Austin, though.”
 
“You’re very good, Gary.”
 
“Everybody says so. But Austin, it’s like he’s from a different planet. I’ve heard him practice that ‘Waldstein’. It only took him a couple of times through to get it memorized. I need a scorebook for a long time after I’ve started a piece. Like the Gigue—today was the first time I didn’t have my scorebook open.”
 
“You did great. And please, Gary, don’t go comparing yourself to Austin. Look at yourself and give it your best performance every time you sit at the piano and you will do just fine.”
 
“There was a video of Gavin playing the Gigue when he was nine.”
 
“Gary, you have to stop comparing yourself to other boys, either on video or live in front of your face. All you have to do is knock the socks off your audience with the Joplin rag, which is in your control.”
 
“Maybe I could just knock the rags off of them with my rag,” Gary giggled. “Then I’d have a naked audience.”
 
“Who would just love seeing you and Austin as naked pianists,” Gene chuckled.
 
“That’s it!” Gary shouted.
 
“That’s what?”
 
“Make Austin and me both happy by scheduling us to play at a nudist club during the festival.”
 
“That would be different,” Gene acknowledged.
 
“It would be more than different—it would be awesome.”
 
<Austin, William, and the Youth Symphonies>
 
Gene greeted Fred Byers and Don Markham as they entered the main door of the Bainbridge School Administration Building. Byers was the Director of the Seattle Youth Symphony, and Markham directed the Tacoma Youth Symphony.
 
“I’m so happy you could make it, Fred,” Gene said as he shook hands with the two noted musicians.
 
“I realize I was a bit vague about my schedule, but that was mostly because my schedule itself was vague,” Fred chuckled.
 
Gene led the two men, who were long-time friends of his, to a conference room in the school office area, where they sat at a table. “I’m glad I was able to be here last night to observe your young prodigy,” Fred told Gene. He was referring to Austin. “He is indeed quite talented but is also a bit of a mystery. Young boys with that kind of genius don’t generally stay hidden away until they’re twelve.”
 
“You need to pay more attention to what goes on in Bellingham, Fred,” Don laughed. “Not everything happens in Seattle, you know.”
 
“You mean you knew all about him?”
 
“No, what I mean is I heard of him from Roy, who heard him play in the Bellingham Spring Festival the April before last.” Roy was Roy Randall, the director of the Bellingham Youth Orchestra. “Roy said he was an excellent talent but nothing he was interested in as far as playing with the orchestra went. He thought Austin might be somebody to keep an eye on with some improvement. Roy said Austin played in this year’s Bellingham festival and he could still see the need for improvement for him to be taken seriously. He mentioned that Austin did have an outstanding teacher.”  
 
“Well, that improvement must have occurred quite rapidly. It must have been his excellent instruction here at the camp,” Fred said as he gave Gene a long look.
 
“Don’t look at me,” Gene smiled. “Austin was far above the other pianists at camp, including my grandson, when I first heard him. Josh Fielding, who is his instructor, is indeed an outstanding teacher. He seemed to have pushed the right buttons. Austin was ten when Roy heard him. A lot can happen between ten and twelve, especially when a boy is motivated. Believe me, Austin is one motivated boy.”
 
“And tonight, he will be performing with your grandson, who will be playing the guitar?” Don said in what was more a question than a statement. “This will give me a good idea how good he is when playing with someone else.”
 
“I thought you watched the videos of his performance with the trio,” Gene said.
 
“I did, and I was extremely impressed, which is why we’re sitting here. Seeing him live, however, will allow me to concentrate just on him. I want to see his face, his body language, how he handles himself on the keyboard for the entire performance. As we’ve discussed, he is a new phenom.”
 
“You make it sound like he’s all yours,” Fred grinned.
 
“I’d like to say I saw him first and he’s mine, but that’s never been the way you and I have worked together. What I will say is I think he will be more comfortable making his orchestral debut with the TYS than with your group simply because we have a history of introducing new young talent.”
 
“No argument here. My kids are more used to experienced performers, like Gene’s grandson, William, whose Schubert was outstanding last night,” Fred said.
 
“And William first played with us back when he was eleven,” Don reminded him.
 
“And played quite well, I must stay. But, with Glenn Barcott cancelling on you, William would be a perfect substitute unless he plans on devoting his musical career to the guitar now,” Fred told the Tacoma director. Glenn was a high school freshman who had broken his collarbone when he was hiking with friends. He had been scheduled to play the Schumann Piano Concerto with the Seattle Youth Symphony.  
 
“William enjoys the guitar, but I would classify it as a sideline with him. I think if you asked, he would be willing to fill in,” Gene said.
 
“What if I asked you and your grandson to both play? He plays before intermission and you play after.”
 
“What did you have planned for after intermission?”
 
“The Tchaikovsky Fourth Symphony, so it’s nothing that can’t be changed.”
 
“I’ll give it some thought. I want to see how Austin fits into all of this first. The boys are due soon and being the growing lads they are, I think they’ll be early since there is food involved. I told them today was going to be more about information and tomorrow you will be making decisions. I think William expects to be involved somehow since you two requested his presence.”
 
As soon as Gene finished talking, as if on cue, Austin and William entered the room. “Hello, gentlemen. Right on time, I see,” Gene grinned.
 
“We’re like five minutes early,” Austin panted in a shaky voice. He looked over the two men sitting at the conference table with Gene and felt his knees get shaky. Even though William had assured him that both men loved music and were great with the kids they worked with, he had gone from normally nervous to close to a nervous wreck the moment he walked into the conference room.
 
“Austin, I would like for you to meet Dr. Byers, the Director of the Seattle Youth Symphony.” Gene pointed to Fred and Austin shook the director’s hand.
 
“Pleased to meet you sir,” Austin said in the most polite voice he could muster. He hoped his hand wasn’t as cold and clammy as he thought it was. Gene then pointed to Don and said, “This is Dr. Markham, the Director of the Tacoma Youth Symphony.”
 
Austin shook the smiling man’s hand, feeling a little more confident. He wondered if that was because Tacoma wasn’t Seattle, the big city. He also knew, from what Gene had told him, that Dr. Markham was the one who was more interested in him.
 
Unlike Fred, Don stood up to shake Austin’s hand. “A pleasure meeting you, Austin. Your mentor speaks very highly of you.” Don was referring to Gene. He noted that Austin was a smaller boy than he appeared on stage but that he had wonderful hands and fingers—perfect for a pianist, even one as small as the red head.
 
Dr. Byers started chatting with William, who had soloed with the SYO when he was twelve. Austin didn’t care much for Dr. Byers. He understood that Dr. Byers and William had a history, but the Seattle director hadn’t said a word to him during their handshake. Dr. Markham, on the other hand, acted as if meeting Austin really had been a pleasure.
 
“As much as we would all love to chat the time away talking about music, a reservation for lunch awaits us at Alfred’s Fish House,” Gene said. Gene and Fred stood up and they headed to the parking area where Gene had parked a school SUV he had procured for them to ride to lunch.
 
Dr. Byers sat in the front seat with Gene, who was driving. While Austin’s nerves had settled, he still didn’t care much for Dr. Byers and was happy he didn’t end up sitting next to him—instead he sat between Dr. Markham and William in the middle seat. He listened as William and Dr. Byers continued their chat about William’s playing Mozart when he made his orchestral debut with the SYO. William played with them again when he was thirteen and toured the country playing with five other youth symphonies. That was followed by his two professional performances.
 
When they arrived at Alfred’s, the conversations were put on pause until the group was seated at their table. Dr. Byers had said nothing to Austin as they walked from the car to the restaurant and returned to reminiscing with William as soon as they were seated.
 
As Austin wondered what he had done to offend Dr. Byers, his thoughts were interrupted by Dr. Markham. “I understand you’re thinking the time is near for you to perform with an orchestra,” he said.
 
“I’m just thinking about it, Sir, I want to do it,” Austin responded. Gene grinned with pleasure when he heard Austin’s confident answer. “He told me it’s time for me to do it.”
 
Don Markham looked at Gene and winked, a gesture that wasn’t missed by Austin. “That’s what the youth festival is all about. Many of the things happening there are scheduled a long time in advance and some of it comes up close to the beginning. Sometimes it’s planned that way and sometimes it’s because of the nature of the festival beast.”
 
“Grandpa Gene…I mean, Mr. Delacroix, said you came to the camp to hear me play.”
 
“Grandpa Gene? Well, I guess that works as well as anything, unless William objects to your infringing on his territory.” Having worked with him, Don knew that William wasn’t always an easy young man to work with.
 
“I’m cool with it,” William said. He wondered if Austin’s slip was going to lead to them having to come out as boyfriends and was happy when Don let the issue ride.
 
“I’ve seen the videos of your recitals here and listened to you play Beethoven last night,” Don continued. “I’m looking forward to hearing how you mesh with another musician tonight. You looked good playing in the trio, but I think the way you fit in with an experienced performer like William will say a lot about your makeup.”
 
“Not that you’re trying to put pressure on the lad, of course,” Gene chuckled.
 
“Of course not. After all, there is no pressure involved in sitting on a stage with an orchestra and trying to mesh with them.”
 
“What’s your take on this, Fred?” Gene asked Dr. Byers.
 
“I’ll let Don deal with the young boy. I want to talk with William about playing with us at the festival. He would be replacing a cancellation.”
 
“I’d love to play for you, Dr. Byers. It will be like old times,” William grinned.
 
I hope it’s not completely like old times, Dr. Byers thought, considering William was often a royal pain in the ass. But he’s also a major talent.
 
Austin was thinking that he wouldn’t play for Dr. Byers no matter what since he appeared to be an asshole. That thought disappointed Austin since he had always heard how great the SYO was and how well Dr. Byers worked with young musicians.
 
The waiter arrived to take their drink orders and the talk shifted from music to the lunch menu. Austin knew what he wanted without looking at the menu. He had fallen in love with the fish and chips his first visit there and planned on having more of the same.
 
As they ate, the discussion came back to music. It was decided William would be playing two concerts with the SYO at the festival and Gene would perform in one of those concerts. “Too bad we can’t fit in a third and have David play as well,” Gene lamented, referring to his son and William’s father, David Delacroix.
 
“That would be a real treat for the orchestra,” Fred Byers said. “It’s something that could be considered for a regular season performance, or even William performing with his father. But son and grandson—what a special treat.”
 
“It would be fun if William and I could perform in the same concert someday,” Austin said to Gene.
 
“That would be yet another special treat,” Gene grinned.
 
“How is it that you and William know each other?” Dr. Byers asked Austin. “You seem to be very close friends.”
 
Austin was so stunned at being addressed by the Seattle Director that he had to fight to get his thoughts together. “We’re roommates here at camp,” he finally uttered.
 
“Interesting. You two behave as if you’ve known each other for years.”
 
“More like five weeks,” William said.
 
“It’s amazing that you two get along so well considering the difference in your ages. I know this camp will often place a younger camper with an older one to give the younger one a role model. But you two seem to have become fast friends.” If you only knew the entire story, Gene thought. “I’m looking forward to hearing your performance tonight, even though it won’t be for piano four hands.”
 
“Maybe some other time,” Austin said. “Hey, there’s a thought, Grandpa Gene, William and I could play the Mozart concerto for two pianos in a concert.”
 
“That idea is intriguing,” Don Markham said. “It could be something for next season, but more likely the season after. I’m going to make a note of that.”
 
As far as Austin playing with the TYS, Don remained noncommittal. “I still have time before turning in my program,” he said. “Like I said, the festival is pretty loose and flexible. That is one of its charms. But I still have to make a decision within the next week.”
 
Fred Byers arranged to meet with William the next morning and Don set a time to meet with Austin as they finished up their lunch.
 
After lunch was finished, Gene paid the bill for everyone and they headed to the parking lot. Austin and William had the media room reserved in fifteen minutes and were eager to get there. They wanted to run through the “Fandango” alone without microphones or advisors. They felt the best final rehearsal would be just the two of them connected by the music they were going to perform.
 
<Austin, William, and Jordan>
 
Jordan stepped out of the control room when he saw Austin and William enter the media practice room. “Hey, dudes, where’s your gramps?” Jordan asked.
 
“It’s just us musicians,” William replied. “Kind of a final musical bonding between us for tonight’s performance.”
 
“Naked, if it doesn’t bother you,” Austin added.
 
“Why the fuck should it bother me? This is what I live for,” Jordan grinned.
 
“I thought you were going home as soon as the mic was set up,” William said.
 
“When I saw on the schedule that you guys were coming in this hour I had to hang around and watch you in your drawers. I told Lindy to go home and I’d see her at the recital and not to worry, she’d get her pay. I told her I wanted to hang with you guys while you did whatever you were going to do during your time.”
 
“You’re better at the recording and sound shit than she is anyway,” William observed.
 
“She knows the basics of what to do, but I know how to do it beyond the basics. That’s why I pretty much work this room on my own. Shepard (the camp director) thought it would be good for Lindy to have a couple of days on her own this week and next since she will be doing stuff for the high school dudes after you guys leave and when school starts. I thought I wouldn’t mind the time off, but I hate it. This is where I belong. Besides, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and since camp is almost over why fuck with things?” William thought it was appropriate that the person in charge of working with the camp’s sound equipment was a non-stop talker who seemed to enjoy the sound of his own voice. 
 
“And today you wanted more than sound, you wanted to see us undressed,” Austin giggled.
 
“I was thinking down to your underpants. Nude is a mega-extra bonus.”
 
“Well, nude it is.” Austin pulled his “CAUTION: NUDIST AT WORK” sign out of his backpack and hung it out on the door. He closed the door and quickly removed his shirt and pants. “The sign should be plural,” Austin giggled, “but what can I do?”
 
“Get naked, of course,” Jordan said.
 
“You can get naked with us if you want,” William told Jordan.
 
“You don’t need to tell me twice.” He looked over at Austin who had now removed his shorts and underpants and was dressed in just his socks. Jordan was surprised and pleased that the little twelve-year-old had a hardon.
 
William was quickly following suit and Jordan was just seconds behind him. William was also hard. Seeing the two hotties with boners was all it took for Jordan to be sporting his own six-inch erection as he pulled off his green and red boxer shorts.
 
“Do you guys always have boners when you practice?” Jordan asked.
 
“It happens a lot,” Austin said. “And if things are really going good, I get them when I perform, too.”
 
“I’m like him,” William confirmed.
 
“You guys are fucking hot,” Jordan said. “I got a gig working at the festival next month and you guys better be there.”
 
“We plan on it.”
 
Austin and William went through their warmup procedures. As they did, their erections deflated which Jordan quickly noted. Looks like there’s nothing exciting about warming up, he thought.
 
When they were ready to play, Austin gave William the nods they had become used to and they started into the slow opening of the “Fandango.” Jordan had heard them play it almost every day since they started working on it. A few hours ago, he had heard them perform it flawlessly on stage as they did their sound work. This time he could sense the energy flowing between the two naked performers who he knew were more than friends. He felt he was about to hear something special.
 
Jordan wasn’t disappointed. The two were playing totally into their music and into each other. He wasn’t surprised when their cocks began to become erect. While he noted the change, Jordan was so into their performance the hardons didn’t give the impression of being sexual—it was like they were the product of the total energy flowing through the music.
 
When they got to the dance part of the “Fandango,” it was like the room was moving with the music. Jordan fought off the urge to get out of his chair and dance to the rhythm. Yet as the energy built, Austin and William were locked into their instruments, their music, and each other. As the work arrived at its conclusion, Jordan finally stood up and danced around the piano, his body twisting and turning.
 
“Wow, that was so incredibly awesome,” Jordan shouted with glee. Austin and William looked at each other with loving smiles—they knew they were ready for the real thing. Austin and William felt as one with each other and with their music.
 
“Thanks, Jordan,” William finally said. “I can see you were into it.” He reached over and placed his hand around Jordan’s erection. “Here’s the proof.”
 
“Well, you guys went from hard to soft when you warmed up and then got instant boners when the music started to move. And let me tell you, in the end that music is really sexy. I think I gotta go jerk off.”
 
“You don’t need to jerk off,” Austin told him.
 
“Oh, yes I do.”
 
Austin grinned at his boyfriend. “Who’s going to do it, William? Me or you?”
 
“Me. I need to know.”
 
“Gotcha. Go for it, love.”
 
“What do you need to know?” Jordan asked William.
 
“Just something Austin and I talked about,” William replied.
 
“Austin, your love. I loved hearing him…ack, ohhhhhhhhhhh, what are you doing?” Jordan looked down to see if William was doing what he thought he was doing. He was. Williams lips were wrapped around Jordan’s cock and when Jordan actually saw what he was feeling, he moaned again.
 
William had Jordan’s cock in his mouth because of a talk they’d had the night before. After Austin had fucked him, William told his little boyfriend how much he loved him. “But there’s one thing I want to know,” he said.
 
“The answers are yes, you’re sexy, yes you’re a stud, yes you’re a really good musician, and yes I love you even more than you love me,” Austin grinned. “So, what else do you need to know?”
 
“I know I’m not a virgin anymore, I know I like messing around with you and your friends and guys I know like John. I know I want sex with your brother. But I don’t know if I’m really gay.”
 
“You know what I think?”
 
“What?”
 
“Who cares?”
 
And here was William less than a day later with a big teen cock in his mouth simply because it was available to suck. He was giving a blow job to Jordan Davis because Jordan was naked with him and had a big hardon and because he was gay and wanted a big cock in his mouth. As he sucked and licked and slurped, William was now certain about his gayness. Oh, he suspected he wasn’t straight, even when he was fucking any available pussy. If given a choice of ogling a good-looking boy or a shapely girl, he much preferred the boy. And now he was sucking a good-looking boy because the cock was available.
 
For reasons he couldn’t comprehend, it was like being sure of his sexuality made his love for Austin even more special. He was no longer confused. He was in love with Austin Richards because Austin Richards was amazingly sexy, a little stud, and a fantastic musician. And he was in love with Austin Richards because Austin was in love with him.
 
“Oh, fuck that feels so good,” Jordan moaned, “but, damn, we gotta move to the control room or something…ohhhhhhhhhh, never mind, that was soooooo good and I’m about to blow.”
William was ready to take a mouthful of teen cum that would be an entirely different treat from the light, watery stuff Austin and his Quartet buddies produced. When it came it was a creamy flood, most of which he swallowed and some of which dribbled down his chin.
 
Jordan almost collapsed from the intense pleasure of William’s surprise blow job. When he had undressed with Austin and William he thought after they were done playing they would dress and leave and he would jerk off in the control room; something that had become a pleasant habit for him. Never did he dream that he would be shooting his wad into the mouth of the great William Delacroix, and yet that was what just happened.
 
“Shit!” William barked as he fired off a no-touch cum, shooting his wad on the wooden floor. Jordan grinned when he saw William’s load pool on the floor. He then looked up in time to see Austin furiously jerking off and then firing his watery cum on his belly and bare pubis.
 
“Hey, dudes, thanks for the treat. I owe you all something,” Jordan said after returning to his senses.
 
“No, you don’t,” William responded. “You have done so much for us with your sound engineering skills, we were the ones who owed you.”
 
“Well, whatever, you’re both the sexiest pair of guys at the camp, and I’m not just saying that to make you feel good—I’m saying it because it’s fucking true. Now, I think we’ve played with fire long enough. Let’s get dressed and cleaned up before some staff member comes in and sees us.”
 
“Hey, from what I suspect about a couple of them, they might want to join us.”
 
“You have a dirty mind, love,” Austin giggled.
 
“And that surprises you how?”
 
“After watching you dive on Jordan’s cock, you’re going to have a hard time surprising me. That was hot!”
 
William grabbed some tissue and wiped off his chin and then cleaned his mess off the floor. Austin cleaned off his emission and pulled on his underpants. Once the three were dressed, they thanked each other and agreed that it would be great if they could find one more opportunity for fun over the next couple of days before camp ended.
 
“If not, there’s always the Seattle Festival,” Austin said.
 
“You mean, you really want to mess with us big boys?” Jordan asked.
 
“Have cock, will mess around,” Austin grinned.
 
Austin opened the media room door, took down his sign, and packed it away. “Well, what did you learn?” he asked as he and William left the room and started down the hall.
 
“I learned that I’m a gay boy just like you, and Gary, and John,” William replied. “I learned that I love you more than ever because I know I’m gay and have no doubts. And I learned I really enjoy having a big cock in my mouth.” He put his arm around Austin’s shoulder and squeezed. “Not to mention a little one what squirts the sweetest cum on the planet.”
 
Austin grinned. “Well, guess what William.”
 
“What?”
 
“I love you even more because you’re not scared anymore.”
 
“You knew I was scared about being gay?”
 
“Well, duh. It was hard not to, even when we were in bed together. Now you know we’re not experimenting and we’re both serious and I love you so much because you love me so much.”
 
“Wow, Austin Richards. My roommate. My boyfriend. My twelve-year-old gay psychologist. I love you even more.”
 
<Fandango>
 
It was going to be quite an evening for the Master Quartet. Austin, Titus, Ned, and Gary would all be performing. Ned was the only one of the four who hadn’t expected to be performing—and only Ned wasn’t interested in placing in the weekly finals on Wednesday. He considered his performance to be something experimental; he would be playing a transcription he had written for Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer.” Gary would be playing Joplin’s original piano version while Ned would be playing it on the flute.
 
During the previous week, Ned’s composition workshop instructor had suggested a couple of changes which he made—she also told him he had done an excellent job. Ned had completed his workshop assignment too late to get on the schedule for the final week’s recitals and had been disappointed he couldn’t perform them.  
 
 
“I have a plan so you can play tonight,” Gary had told Ned at breakfast on Tuesday. After Gary told him the plan, Ned told him he didn’t think it would work. Gary said he was sure it would work because it was a good plan. “And if it doesn’t work, the worst that can happen is old man Shepherd says no.”
 
Gary and Ned asked Mr. Shepherd, the camp director, if they could play back-to-back that night, with Gary playing the piece on the piano and Ned following it up on the flute. They convinced him that it was like they were playing a duet only not at the same time. The director thought it was an excellent idea and told them that when Gary’s name was drawn Ned would go on stage with Gary and play “The Entertainer” as soon as Gary finished it on the piano.
 
Now, the quartet had gathered at the same table for dinner. William was happy that Austin had the distraction of his friends to keep his mind off the upcoming recital. He was afraid that after the high of their naked run through, Austin might experience a letdown.
 
He needn’t have worried—Austin had spent most of the hour before dinner in the swimming pool with Gary. At one point, Austin floated on his back while Gary played the opening bars of “The Entertainer” on his chest and belly.
 
“Is that what they call tickling the ivories?” Austin giggled.
 
“Only if I play the bass notes,” Gary said as he ran his left hand to Austin’s crotch and tickled his penis.
 
“If you keep that up, I’ll have a piece of hard ivory between my legs,” Austin said.
 
“That’s what I mean about tickling the ivory,” Gary smirked.
 
While Austin and Gary played around in the pool, William worked out in the gym with John. The two boys had become friends and enjoyed exercising together on the exercise mats.
 
William had noted Austin’s good humor as he, John, Gary, and Austin showered together. He was pleased that Austin’s lighthearted mood had carried over through dinner.
 
But that changed after they finished dessert. “Okay, guys, you know how I am before I perform,” Austin said after finishing his last bite of apple crisp.
 
“Yep, we do, and the rule starts as soon as you sit backstage,” Titus said. “And I think I’ll join you and do the same thing.”
 
“I’ll join you guys,” Gary said.
 
“And I’ll make that four,” Ned added.
 
“What are you guys talking about?” William said.
 
“We’re talking about Austin sitting by himself backstage and not talking to anybody,” Titus explained
 
“And nobody better talk to him,” Gary said. “Unless it’s business, like the draw for the order we will play in—stuff like that.”
 
William looked straight at Austin. “How do I fit into this?” he asked.
 
“You get to sit next to me and play your guitar in your head while I play the piano in my head,” Austin replied.
 
“Sounds like a plan to me.”
 
The boys bused their trays and walked together to their dorm where they would change into their performance duds. For Austin that would be brown Dockers and a plain blue long-sleeve button down shirt.
 
“Let’s meet here in the lobby in fifteen minutes and walk to the auditorium together,” Austin told his friends. They all said they liked Austin’s idea and everyone headed to his own room.
 
“So, you’re really going to give me the silence treatment, are you?” William grinned as they started undressing in their room.
 
“As my mom likes to say, it’s for your own good.”
 
“Not to mention your own good.”
 
They said nothing until after they had dressed. William was wearing dark blue Chinos and a white long-sleeved shirt.
 
“Are you ready for this?” Austin asked.
 
“I was about to ask you the same question.”
 
“I’m not the one who goes sucking dick after my last practice,” Austin said with a sly grin.
 
“It’s a great way to release tension. And I noticed you managed to release a bit of nervous energy after Jordan and I blew our loads.”
 
“Note to self,” Austin murmured as if speaking to himself, “when having the final practice before a big performance releasing sexual tension is a big help in getting into a proper frame of mind.”
 
“Hmm, if you say so,” William said as he picked up his guitar case.
 
“In words a high school student can understand, sex relaxes the mind.”
 
“I thought that was what you meant.”
 
The boys went downstairs to the lobby where Titus and Ned were waiting. Gary showed up a minute later.
 
“Let’s huddle up,” Gary said as he walked to the middle of the lobby.
 
“What are you talking about?” Ned asked.
 
Gary held out one hand and beckoned the others to join him with his other hand. “Just put your hands on mine in the middle, like a sports huddle. This will be a Quartet cheer.” Ned and Titus joined Gary, but Austin and William didn’t move.
 
“Aren’t you joining us, Austin?” Gary asked. “If this is going to be a Quartet cheer then we need you in the huddle.”
 
“I think it needs to be a quintet cheer,” Austin said. “William should be in the huddle.”
 
“Nope, it’s going to be a Quartet cheer because we are the Master Quartet,” Gary insisted. “BUT…”
 
“But what?” Austin asked. He was getting a bit perturbed with Gary’s obstinacy.
 
“But I see no reason why William can’t be an honorary Quartet member. How about the rest of you guys?”
 
“Come on and join us,” Titus called while Ned said, “Get in here,” at the same time.
 
The five boys placed their hands together. “On three we all yell, QUARTET! and then break our hands.”  After a moment of silence, Gary yelled out, “One, two, three…”
 
“QUARTET!” the five yelled out as their hands flew into the air.
 
“…plus one,” William grinned. He then walked to each Quartet member and gave him a quick shoulder squeeze, finishing with a big hug for Austin. “I am honored to be an honorary member of your Quartet. Now, let’s go get ready.”
 
“We have to get through our families first,” Austin pointed out.
 
“I think yours and mine are the only ones here tonight,” Gary said.
 
“Grandpa Gene is here, and I think William’s dad will be here.”
 
“Only if he can bring himself to listen to me play the guitar,” William said.
 
The boys walked to the Administration building and into the auditorium together. They greeted Austin’s mother and brother and Gary’s parents who were waiting in the foyer.
 
“Josh will be here tomorrow,” James told Austin. “He had to work with a couple of students.”
 
“My parents will be here tomorrow,” Ned said.
 
“Mine said they should make it just before start time,” Titus said.
 
“And I see my dad did come,” William said. Knowing how his father felt about him playing the guitar, he didn’t know whether to be happy or upset about his father coming. He decided to be kinda glad.
 
The boys headed backstage and found places to sit. Their focus time had begun. Other than some minor disturbances when someone entered the waiting area, the waiting performers were amazingly quiet and focused considering they were all young adolescents.
 
William was surprised when Austin scooted his chair over so that their chairs touched. Austin then set his head against William’s shoulder. A couple of weeks ago, William might have pushed Austin away, but that was then and this was now. And now, William simply put his arm gently around Austin’s shoulder and felt the loving energy flowing between them.
 
The atmosphere changed fifteen minutes later when Mr. Shepherd interrupted the quiet meditation by gently announcing that it was time for them to go to the staging room for the draw. Amid quiet groans, the night’s performers stood and headed through the entry to the staging area.
 
Austin had been in a trance as he leaned against William’s strong body. His mind had been dancing along a keyboard as he almost dreamed the notes of the “Fandango.” He shook his head, looked up at William, and whispered, “I love you, William.”
 
“So, it’s William tonight and not Willy?”
 
“Yeah. Willy isn’t near as good at playing the guitar as William is. But he is just as good at playing with his willy.” Austin’s humorous jab convinced William that Austin was still mentally ready for their performance.
 
Titus drew the third performance before intermission. Austin and William drew the second performance after intermission. The last Quartet draw had Gary and Ned playing the third performance after intermission. They would be playing right after Austin and William.
 
As soon as the draw was completed, the performers returned to the waiting room except for Carlos, who was playing first, and Christian, who was second. All the pre-intermission performers would be waiting in the staging area for their turn. Those playing after intermission could wait in the staging area or back in the waiting room. Mr. Shepherd had allowed those not in the group that was playing to sit in the upper seating level, but that ended after the second recital. It was too easy for a performer to lose focus once he or she left the backstage area.
 
The evening was a triumph for the Master Quartet. The young boys didn’t always appreciate the outstanding musical talents of their new friends (although they did appreciate newly learned talents in bed), but outsiders could see that each of the four boys was an exceptional musician.
 
Titus played the third movement of Mozart’s K 380 Violin Sonata to perfection. The professional level accompaniment of Ms Zimmer added to what the little eleven-year-old provided. Of the four members of the quartet, Titus succumbed to the fewest distractions and, other than Austin, was the most serious about his music and the most talented musician. The audience appreciated the performance. The campers who knew Titus loved the unassuming personality of the little prodigy as well as his musicianship.
 
Austin and William didn’t leave the backstage area during intermission. They sat together on a small sofa in the waiting room holding hands and saying little. When intermission ended, they sat in the staging area until their turn came. William flashed Austin a smile and Austin gave a thumbs up.
 
The locations of William’s chair, the piano, and the piano bench had been taped onto the stage by Jordan and the two high school boys working as stagehands placed them perfectly. Jordan lowered the microphone to the location he had settled on during the sound test. Austin played middle C to give William a note to tune to. Once William was ready, he nodded, and Austin gave his three quick nods that started their performance.
 
The energy that the two had experienced that afternoon in the media room hit them with a power that sent them into another existence. Their minds focused totally on each other and their music; their universe had narrowed to where there was nothing else. The stage, the audience, the entire auditorium had vanished from existence.
 
As they played the rapidly moving fandango section of the “Fandango”, they felt the energy from the audience which enhanced the energy between them. The audience, from the youngest camper to the oldest grandparent, listened intently, knowing they were experiencing something special. The power that flowed from the stage to the audience was returned by the audience.
 
As soon as the two played the last note, the audience rose as one and roared. Austin and William stood and bowed, threw kisses, touched their hearts, and fought tears. The audience wanted more, but encores were not a part of the program. As the two stepped backstage they passed Gary and Ned, who were the next performers.
 
“You guys were amazing,” Gary said, obviously awestruck. “The audience loves you.” He touched William on his right shoulder and Austin on his left shoulder. “I love you two.”
 
He stepped away and Ned took his place. Ned planted a kiss on William’s right cheek and then one in Austin’s left. “I love you, too.”
 
Dr. Boardman stepped up behind William and Austin. “Before Ned and Gary go out on stage, give the audience another bow,” he instructed.
 
He looked on proudly as William and Austin returned to the stage. William took Austin’s hand in his and raised them above his head. The boys did not bother to hide their tears of happiness and pride. As a result, no one in the audience noticed the eight-inch difference in their physical size; what they saw was the equal size of their big hearts. Everyone in the venue was caught in their Love and in the Power of Music.
 
Next: Master Musicians.