I first heard the songs from the musical CHESS back in college. One of the guys in my Douglas Houghton Hall dorm at Michigan Tech was demonstrating the astonishing clarity that his new CD player brought to the music. (And yes, this was the latest thing back in the early 80’s.) He started with the radio hit “One Night in Bangkok” but then went back to the first disc that opened with a full operatic chorus singing:
“O light the heart
That lingers in Merano
Merano! The spa no
Connoisseur of spas would miss.”
My friend promised to make me a tape of the CDs. I wrote out all the names of the songs in my less than stellar handwriting. Eventually, I switched over to CDs myself and didn’t play the tape too much. It did move around with my husband and me to six states. I could still sing many of the songs on the album, but I confess that the repeating words Merano in the song were eventually replaced by “La, LA, la. La, LA, la.” Yes, the tape did lack the clarity of the CD.
When my husband was offered a job in Merano, I read up on it and learned that it was a spa town. I wrote to a friend and wondered if “the Tyrolean spa with the chess boards in it” could be where I’d be living for the next three years. My friend emailed back with the opening lyrics to Merano.
That song started playing in my head this morning while working on a section of description for Calyn’s story. I decided that it would be easier to describe the entrance to the walled town of Grissian if I modeled it on Merano.
I used my own description trick of working off of photographs of real places instead of trying to build and design all the sets myself. While the words didn’t write themselves, I had a much easier time with developing the sense of place.
I went back and forth between two websites. At the end of a row of photos, you’ll find the Porta Passiria. The neighborhood of Steinach was especially helpful in the photo album of Merano site. Any readers of Defending Irene might find the shots of the Portici and Passagiata to be interesting. That’s where Irene went shopping and had ice cream with her strict Italian grandmother.