I am in unfamiliar water. If you are reading this then you are probably a blogger and you may understand. Perhaps you have had the same compulsion as me, and got up out of bed in the middle of the night and started to write. This is what I am doing now and I am unfamiliar with this urge.
My sleepless mind is urging me to begin. I liken what is happening to the desire my mother had at this time of the year. When she was making more than one Christmas cake. She cooked them slowly. That meant she would go to bed and would jump out in the middle of the night to pull a cake out of the oven when everyone was asleep. Perhaps it reminds me of being called from bed by a crying child who was weeping in fright. Perhaps the child was in pain but the little soul would not drop of to sleep again without a reassuring pat from a parent.
I do not know why this urge compels me to write tonight because the job of reassuring our children invariably was one I happily delegated to my wife. At any rate I am now well awake and tapping out something that seems quite compelling to me even at this unearthly hour. Hence it may not make sense.
My story is about my brushes with music, and music makers. Brushes is the word I choose but, bump – into, fits better the analogy i have in my mind. I envision telling this set of incidents as a game of billiards, or times in my life I have bumped into folk who have moulded me.. (I don’t play billiards and those childhood games I did play at the Coverdale’s table were brutal. I lost, because too often I left my ball exposed to an easy shot by my opponent. It happened when, where the billiards stopped allowed a good player to score freely.)
Bear with me – what I am proposing is to link the times in my life when I have been with musicians and close to music only to cannon off on some new pursuit, or I moved away and never took up with them again.
Let the game begin.
LAG. To begin. In turn the players hit the white, or the yellow ball, from the back cushion and cannon off the other end and finish nearest the starting point. The first to play is the closest.
Mrs GwenTucker and Mrs Elsie McAlpine were trained opera singers. Soprano voices of great depth and clarity allowed them to sing the ancient hymnal with ease. They were able to sight read the music as easily as the organist and they formed the basis of our choir. The ancient Fincher pipe organ was donated to the Church fifty years before and yet it played as new. I was a junior choirboy. My voice worked best when I sang with John for he found the notes as easily as his mother. I got to enjoy choral music from this simple start although I was marked as a failed pianist by the time I left primary school.
The hymns we sang followed the seasons of the church. The congregation sang along led by the choir everyone reading the chosen words from the hymnal. The music and the hymns were traditional. Nothing we sang was new music. Yet I loved the sound as it vibrated around and through me.
I hadn’t been in the choir long when my future brother-in-law appeared as the new organist. With his keen ear he heard occasional discordant notes so he auditioned every choir member. Without John beside me I was tentative and weak of voice and before I was allowed to sing with them again he gave me some individual lessons. With my piano lessons finishing in naught I was even more hesitant of these. I need not have worried because he could not dismiss any of the volunteers who sang with him.
My love of music for the pipe organ began with him. He took any opportunity he had to demonstrate his mastery of the implement to play Bach, or any of his favourites, when he was at the console.
DIAMONDS. The inlaid geometrical markings on the table the player uses to plan a shot. Billiards depends on skill and an appreciation of geometry. Here is one.
The best part of ignorance is it gives you such a vast ranges of things to learn. Whatever you select to discover – it will help to educate you. The difficulty is it is hard to decide what to do.
In my first weeks at Teachers College I had to decide on an elective subject. I could have chosen anything but I chose the music elective. It was a chance to study music appreciation. A very young Peter Larsen was the lecturer in charge. He loosely based his sessions on a book by Aaron Copeland. Perhaps it was “What to listen for in music.” I no longer remember. What I do remember is the passion he gave to the few of us in his charge.
We could have just wasted our time but he challenged us to grow. Not only did we listen to music he got us to compose pieces as well. At one point he asked us to write a canon. (Think Pachelbels Canon”) He made it a competition. The winner would play their composition at a college assembly (You wish) Each week he would look at what we produced and early on he announced I had produced the best piece to date.
In the end the award went to someone deserving. Fortunately Elaine the girl that won had studied music for seven years. What I got from it was an understanding of the relationship of numbers and patterns we find in music. It licensed me to tell kids. Maths is beautiful.
A teacher never immediately knows the impact they have on a child’s life. How your past catches up can humble you. In the last couple of years out of nowhere I received this uninvited email.
Hi Mr Wxxxxxx
I think you taught me at Carstairs Primary school in the 70’s.
My name then was Ruth O’Brien and your mantra was ‘Maths is beautiful’
NATURAL. (Carom games) A shot with only natural angle and stroke required for successful execution; a simple or easily visualized, and accomplished, scoring opportunity.
The first natural in my world is niece Karen. She has a bell like clarity in her voice. In her first weeks at school Noreen discovered she had such a beautiful sound she used her at every opportunity she could.
Whenever I hear her sing I am moved to tears.
The next voice of equivalent clarity belonged to Peter the Troubled. His voice was as clear that as the young Welch singer Aled Jones. Peter caused me much grief but it was all forgotten when he sang. Our school produced a concert version of Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Coat and he was our amazing lead. (Using Facebook I have discovered he is leading a very productive life and this is pleasant news.)
Natural ability at music is the talent of Peter, Alan, and Terry Norman. Both have perfect pitch. Terry was the next brilliant organist into which it was my fortune to bump. Meredith of course helped build discipline into the young piano player who later learned to play the flute so well in our home.
Some people have no trouble with their natural talent yet it is my keenly held prejudice that too many of the smartest people I know (those named excluded) have wasted theirs. That may become a story for another day. The billiards game is over. I had but three points to make and like billiards play finishes with the first person to win the agreed number of points.
1. Thank you for reading my prose. I appreciate your feed back so today, please comment.
2. Would you spend 5 seconds reading adds (while I make money) before you viewed a page link I reference.
3. If you like a billiards story here is a link I found. Someone will be paid.