Serenbe Style and Soul

with Marie Nygren



September 2016



Spirit Sisters, Part 1: Spano at Serenbe

Written by , Posted in Miscellaneous


For years, I’ve had a not-so-secret crush on Robert Spano — the six-time Grammy Award winning music director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The music director of the Aspen Music Festival.  One of the top five maestros in the world. One of only two classical musicians inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

It’s not like I want to make out with him in a parked car. I’ve admired him from afar for a very long time for his incredible talent, what he’s done for the ASO, his passion for music and devotion to mentoring young artists. He humbles and inspires me.

Atlanta is silly with celebrities and I couldn’t care less. But for years I’ve asked people, Do you know Robert Spano? And if so, can I meet him? 

Nothing ever came of it, but I have faith in timing. I knew the universe would send me what I was supposed to have, when I was supposed to have it. And recently it sent me spirit sisters who’ve been showing up and shaking things up in a big way.

It all started with Lauri Stallings, my friend and the founding artist of glo — the movement group that defies description. What that woman creates is not of this world. She is not of this world. Lauri read Kierkegaard when she was 11. She wears these big, clunky shoes that I’m convinced keep her on this earth and not floating above it.

Turns out, Lauri and Robert Spano are two peas in a pod. Robert commissioned her to do a collaboration between glo and the ASO. And Lauri, in her infinite magic, had honest-to-God sod brought in and laid on the stage of symphony hall. Instead of walking in from the usual entrance, patrons had to enter from backstage and walk across the sod to their seats. After everyone was settled in, the symphony sat down and played on the grass.

img_7099Their latest collaboration, cloth field, was set to open September 7. One day, Lauri called and said, “Hey Marie. I’d like to do a fundraiser for glo and thought I’d bring Robert Spano to do a preview of cloth field at Serenbe.”

To say that my jaw dropped is an understatement. You want to bring Robert Spano to Serenbe? Really? 

And so it was that the Sunday before the debut, Robert Spano played a Steinway. In a skirt. On the grass. At Serenbe.

Robert arrived early; he’d heard of Serenbe but had never been. We had dinner. Oh my.

Afterwards, he went out into the meadow and played a Steinway. In a skirt. On the grass. At Serenbe. I thought I was going to levitate.

We were sitting where, exactly one year before, Micah and Kara had their wedding dinner. Twelve months later, Micah held my grandson, Amos, and sat right beside the piano. Later, Micah said Amos went into a dream state while Robert was playing. He must’ve been remembering when he was in utero and Kara played classical music to him every day.

While glo was moving, fireflies appeared and danced with them. When the performance was over, Lauri opened it up to questions. John Graham, executive director of the Serenbe Institute and, in his former life, the executive director of the Florida Philharmonic and the Boca Pops, asked Robert if the music he was playing was Debussy. Robert replied that it was his own original composition.

I audibly gasped. Robert Spano played a piece he’d written himself. On a Steinway. In a skirt. On the grass. At Serenbe.

What Robert and Lauri did was church. Magic and beauty was there, all in one. And my heart overflowed because Robert Spano was there, all my children and my grandson were there and it was a gift beyond words.

After they finished, I hugged both Lauri and Robert and cried over the exquisite beauty I’d witnessed in my former backyard. It was breathtaking and in my top five best things that have ever happened at Serenbe.

I invited everyone in attendance back to my house for libations, savories and sweets. I had wine and Robert’s favorite vodka, Tito’s, served cold. And there was Robert Spano. In my house. Talking to me. Blowing my mind.

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