David Perry has played violin with Midsummer’s Music since 1999. Once he joined our group, everything changed, and his presence continues to elevate our performances each year.
I’ve taken to calling David the “Michael Jordan of the violin.” I don’t think it is an exaggeration. I also don’t think most folks in Door County truly realize what a gift his presence is here.
Quite frankly, David is one of the truly great violinists of his generation. We should treasure every opportunity we get to hear him play. Those of us who are his colleagues feel particularly blessed to be able to work with such an artist.
I have had the wonderful opportunity to perform with David in the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra for about 15 years. David serves as concertmaster of the CPO and has soloed in many of the prominent violin concertos with us, including the Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Barber concertos and others. When we did the Samuel Barber Concerto a number of years ago, it just happened that Itzhak Perlman had performed it a few weeks earlier with the Chicago Symphony. The music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times couldn’t help making a comparison between the two violinists, given the close proximity of their two performances. After saying positive things about both players, she wrote, “… but I prefer the version by David Perry.”
David could have his choice of any number of prestigious positions – concertmaster in a major symphony or as a world-renowned soloist. Fortunately for those of us in Door County, he doesn’t seem interested in those lifestyles. David loves to play chamber music, and he has a preeminent position as first violin in the world-class Pro Arte Quartet, which is in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
He also, along with his family, has come to love Door County. David enjoys being able to ride his bicycle to rehearsal along our back roads.
I thought I knew David pretty well, but recently I became aware of a different side of him.
Last week, Ann Palen joined us to play second violin in a series of concerts. It happened that Ann and her family were going to stay in a cabin next to David’s. It also happened that Ann was arriving on her birthday. David decided to cook a birthday dinner for Ann, and he invited my wife, Jean, and me.
To say that he is a good cook would be an understatement. He made a wonderful risotto and then a delicious pasta dish with chicken. However, before we had dinner, and even before we could open a bottle of wine, David got a funny twinkle in his eye as he approached us with several small glasses containing a greenish color liquid. We all looked at its rather thick texture with a bit of apprehension.
“This is your salad,” he said.
It turned out that David recently purchased a Vitamix machine. “It will,” he explained with a bit of mad scientist look in his eyes, “liquefy just about anything.”
I’m still not sure what all he liquefied for our “salads.” Some kale was in it, grapes, maybe some yogurt, a bit of fresh basil … As strange as it seemed to be drinking something so very green, it was delicious. We asked for seconds.
Over the next several days, he would appear in the morning at the picnic table where Ann and her girls were eating breakfast, carrying a pitcher with a green or purple liquid and with that strange look in his eyes.
As quiet and unassuming David is, his personality changes when he starts talking Vitamix. I’m convinced he could do one of those half-hour infomercials and top off his presentation with a Paganini Caprice.
Now I think I know our Michael Jordan’s secret. It’s those smoothies containing 15 kinds of vegetables and an old raccoon, or something of the sort. Great talent, very, very hard work, and secret smoothies are his formula. Our festival’s theme this year is “Bursting with Passion.” Just wait until David starts treating each one of us in the group with his secret elixir, and then stand back.
So, the next time you pass a cyclist along Old Stage Road who has a violin case strapped to his back, give a gentle toot of the horn acknowledging that you have just passed “the Michael Jordan of the Violin.” Better yet, come hear him play, and you can give him and his Vitamix a standing ovation.