Once upon a time I used to have some influence, indeed full control, over what music was being played in the car when ferrying children. I don’t know when it happened exactly, but there came a point when I just accepted that the channel would be changed, without request, even before a seatbelt was fastened.
I suspect this presumptuous behaviour extends far beyond the Hely-Hutchinson household.
Initially I was disappointed with this. When still in a car seat, my youngest daughter had filled me with enormous encouragement when she enthused ‘Oh, yes, I really like this one’ to the strains of the Brahms Violin Concerto. Her initiation has not endured. My eldest daughter will take it in moderation, especially if I help her listen to the tune.
At about 10 years of age, my son was a little more enquiring. ‘Why do you actually like this stuff, Dad?’ And not in an aggressive way, but in a way that was genuinely seeking an understanding of my love of it. It was a curved ball: how do you answer that satisfactorily, when the simplest, but wholly inadequate response, is ‘I dunno, I just do’? When you are asked such a question out of real interest, your questioner deserves a better explanation.
Music in all its forms is the one art form above all others which can elicit the widest range of human emotions: the same piece – classical, jazz, pop – can make one person weep, another dance. There is no correct reaction: the experience, and its toying with our imaginations, is all. That, in itself, does not need to be explained: it really doesn’t mater why.
And it is the ultimate comforter.
2018 will go down as one of the most turbulent years of modern times. There is no need for me to rehearse the ingredients here. The saddest theme for me is a noticeable, and, I fear, growing sense of anger. People seem to have even less time to ‘stand and stare’; less time to communicate properly; we are all in a mad rush; stressed; too much emphasis on doing, and not enough on being. And before knowing it, our being will be done.
You will know by now that I am quite a fan of George Handel (1685-1759). Choosing music at this time is not easy, but clearly something of a Christmassy nature is apt, and Handel’s Messiah, a work lasting nearly two and half hours which he composed in just 24 days, has grabbed my attention as the perfect antidote to this division. Even more so, for Handel leaving his birthplace in Germany to live his last days in London. I hope we did not place his remains in Westminster Abbey against his will.
Listen to these few minutes of a very familiar passage ‘For unto us a child is born‘. With a little more attention, you will notice from the opening note its freshness; its lightness, in voice and orchestra. Sir Colin Davis was one of the kings of choral conducting (just noticed his second name was Rex), and the articulation requires no subtitles. And what words! ‘Wonderful! Counsellor…The Prince of Peace.’
It is a brief passage full of hope, joy, excitement, optimism; a few minutes, if you like, completely devoid of anger. The embodiment of the ability of music to ‘enable us to pass our lives with a little sweetness amidst all the bitterness we encounter here’ – words written by Marin Mersenne in his Harmonie universelle, and just as appropriate today as they were in 1636.
Thank you for your lovely support for these humble jottings – feel free to pass on the link to friends or family, especially younger ones. Happy Christmas and a peaceful 2019 wherever this finds you.
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