Anyone can follow a correlated series of events down the string of time... to the present moment and thereby declare their mundane situation truly divine and inspired by the gods (or essential oils)—but please, let me explain.
A folk duo, The Bergamot, played a show in Paris at Break Art Mix for the featuring of their most recent album, “Tones”. After the show, we conversed and they expressed their need for new photos and videos. I admired their vibrant personalities as well as their harmony and so we decided to collaborate. The very next day we set out to do what we (individually) do best.
I (Brad Leach) met with the musicians, Nathaniel Paul Hoff and Jillian Speece, to record short videos featuring songs from their new album, but in the midst of the process, we hit a road block: we didn’t have a piano. Thankfully, they knew of a man across town who owned one we could use. After a phone call, we set out to meet him. On the way, I imagined the piano being in a small and humble apartment with creaky floors—as is the customary living space for an average person in Paris—but little could prepare me for what came next.
Getting in was a process: we talked to a receptionist who then talked to her co-worker who then called a manager of the house who spoke with Charles—the owner—who then told her to grant us entry. It was beginning to dawn on me that this was not the average person, or apartment that I had expected, and the swivel of a giant steel door—which opened the home to us—confirmed my mounting suspicions. "Let the Scooby-Doo games begin”, I said quietly to myself. This was not an apartment, this was a mansion. A mansion with butlers and fountains and all. The man who designed the place is Laurent Gilbert; a wealthy real-estate CEO who was given a couple albums by The Bergamot and immediately fell in love with their music, inviting them to stay at his place. You see where I’m going with this?
There are few things quiet as intrusive as taking a video camera into a stranger’s house with the intent of filming everything, but I began to question this when we were invited upstairs to play on the personal, grand piano of one of Henry E. Steinway’s sons. Mind you, I am just beyond “chopsticks”, and every time my fingers disgraced the keys I could sense the Steinway family turning in their graves. Thankfully, I had two talented musicians with me to assuage their anger and sing them back to their peaceful rest.
Charles, the owner of the mansion, must have sensed that we were up to no good because he took a moment from his busy schedule to come see us, but instead of banishing us from his kingdom, he offered his finest “french bubbles” upon the condition that we don’t spill it all over Steinway’s keys. Needless to say, we came to an agreement.
With the aid of the best champaign we had ever tasted, we went straight to work. Nathaniel’s suit made me feel like I was on the set for Pulp Fiction, and the minimalist theme of the their outfits, along with that of the interior of the house, made shooting a blast. Behind the mansion was a deck that, with a push of a button, descended and filled with water to make a pool. You know, because why not.
The day was unexpected and one I shall not soon forget, but as wild as all this was for us, nothing had more of an impact on my mind than the fact that it all started with a simple “hello”. Within everyone’s past lies a galaxy of “ifs” with which one can easily drown themselves in the innumerable factors that could have ruined or bettered their lives. This was one of those “ifs”.
Over espressos and M&M’s provided by one of Charles’ interns, we reflected on the day. Jillian and Nathaniel expressed their gratitude for Charles, and shared with me his general outlook on life: that he has a strong desire to help others, especially artists, find their way in the world. He frequently opens his home to artists who need stay. At one point Swiss tennis player, Roger Federer, stayed there but lost a match the next day. Subsequently, because of his superstition, he refused an offer to stay at the house again and even left his shoes behind. We, on the other hand, left feeling like we had gained something grand. We won a lucky card in the game of fates, and generous friends in the game of life.