Music and how it moves us
"If Music be the food of love...."
Play on, as the saying goes. Music can indeed provide the perfect intoxicating backdrop to a romantic situation, but to those of us who live our lives to music, it is capable of creating so much more than just exaggerated feelings of love.
I don't believe there's any major event that has occurred in my life that can't come skipping back into my memory banks with nothing more than a few notes of a familiar tune as a prompt. I was still at school in 1972 when Johnny Nash wrote and recorded "I can see clearly now, the rain has gone." and that song will forever remind me of the excitement of the arrival of the summer holidays.
Similarly, in 1975, at the age of 17, when rugby and under-aged drinking were the real focus of my attention, and girls were really only playthings who shouldn't be taken too seriously and certainly shouldn't come between you and a good night out with the lads, I fell in love for the first time, and in a bave effort to deny the depth of my emotions, I adopted the 10.c.c anthem "I'm not in Love" as my theme tune.
If I was to sit down and think about it, I'm quite sure I could recall individual songs that would identify with each person who has had a significant role in my life.
"Don't go changing... I love you just the way you are!" That was Karen, and our 5 year relationship, but she did change, and so did I, and we both moved on.
"Endless Love" was Angela, but it wasn't endless, at least not in the romantic sense, despite the 10 years that it took us to part company.
Events, too, are brought sweeping back into consciousness by a tune on the radio or television. The tragedy of the Romanian orphans will always come to mind because of a superb charity appeal that featured "In the Bleak mid winter." I only need to catch a bar of that Christmas song to feel the urge to start writing a cheque to the latest worthy cause.
But it is at times of heightened personal emotion that music seems to have it's most profound effect. I was blessed to have been born into a family for whom music was not just an accompaniment to their lives, but was an essential part of their fabric. Both my mother and father were, and still are, steeped in a passion for the great composers and lyricists and song-smiths. Every day of my life has been filled with Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Holst, Sibelius, Chopin, Bach, Debussey (my personal favourite), alongside the great vocalists, Pavorotti, Domingo, Tito Gobi, Caruso, throught to Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy, Joan Sutherland, Kiri Te Kanawa, and a host of crooners who were maybe more to the taste of my mother than my father. Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Sinatra, and would you believe, they both had a passion for the beautiful voice of Karen Carpenter.
As I matured and developed my own tastes, mostly the beautiful, lyrical singer-songwriters of the 1970's (Jim Croce, David Gates, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkle, Janis Ian, Carly Simon), I never lost the love of the classics that had been instilled in me from an early age.
So it was that on the happiest day of my life, my wedding day, at the ripe old age of 49, music was of the utmost importance. Surrounded by my nearest and dearest, the music was a reflection of a lifetime of wonderful memories and associations. The string quartet played some of the favourite pieces of my parents as we awaited the arrival of the bride. During the service, a choir of our childrens stage school sang the Alleluia, and some of our highly talented musical friends treated us to beautiful solos and duets. But the memory that will never leave me was to turn and see my radiant bride-to-be walking down the aisle to a stunning rendition of "The Flower Duet" from the Delibes opera, "Lakme". That moment, that vision, that melody are all blended together as one, in the moment of time that I would most like to catch in a bottle, and set on my desk, so that everyday for the rest of my life, I can gaze in awe at a moment of perfect happiness.
Time flies, but the melody lingers on, and that has never been more true to me that in the case of my parents. As a young man, I watched my father play the role of "Tevye" in "Fiddler on the Roof". It was a defining event in my life. Dad, a father of five, was playing a father of five, living, sharing, enjoying and suffering every joyous or tragic moment of their lives, loving them and his adored wife with as much passion as a soul could muster, and as I watched him, I realised.... that's not Tevye.... that's my dad. A man whose family meant more to him than heaven and earth. A man filled with pride, and comedy, and anguish, and humility. A man that it would fill me with such delight to be able to emulate.
I'll be playing "Tevye" myself, in just a few weeks, and sadly, due to distance and the frailties of advancing years, my father won't be in the audience..... but he'll be there with me... in every word, in every note, in every gesture.... he'll be there.
And as for my mother, everything I love about her can be summed up by the look of warmth, caring, comfort and bliss that comes across her beautiful face when she relaxes into a cosy armchair and gets happily lost in the strains of the Bruch Violin Concerto. The most heavenly and evocative piece, and like my mother, calming, beautiful and intoxicating.
My parents celebrated their 67th Wedding anniversary this year. They are my music, my passion and my inspiration.
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