Back in February 2010, my then 90 year-old father was very poorly and his physical world had contracted to his bed. He was at home just down the road from me. He slept a lot but I was able to leg it down to see him when he was awake and wanting company. This could easily be three of four times a day and he loved to talk, laugh, drink tea, eat chocolate biscuits and share hours of music. It was to be his last February and I had little doubt then that it would be so vowed to make the most of every single moment we had left.
He loved Springtime and my memories of that February moving into March are very much bedecked with buds, early daffodils, crocuses and the camellia that lived down a tiny pathway behind where his bedroom was. It had dark red blooms that always seemed shy but were an absolute delight when you took the trouble to seek them out.
Dad was big into music but one song that he asked me to play over and over was Gentle Annie sung by Irish Duo Foster and Allen. I came to love it and the calm it always brought to both of us. These lines always tended to bring our eyes together, sealing our bond forever and ever.
I have no idea why it is that Lockdown has re-opened my love of duets. It’s like I can’t quite cope with bands or choirs but want to hear more than one voice.
Here’s one that brings me back to an evening many moons ago when I uttered a version of the main line from this song and in so doing kept a friendship alive that I have no doubt would otherwise have fizzled out without me ever realising the potential that it had and the joy which it would ultimately bring.
Christmas is always a time thst I go to a few concerts and carol services but this year it’s different as Covid case numbers have taken off here again.
So, I have taken to watching concerts on TV and am enjoying them greatly.
You might remember that one of my projects during Lockdown 2 was to write thank you letters to people who have really touched my life.
Among those I wrote to was Irish tenor, Finbar Wright, whose concerts have punctuated very emotional times in my life.
I sent the letter ages ago and was utterly chuffed to receive a lovely Christmas card from him the other day. I certainly didn’t expect him to reply as the pleasure has all been mine attending his wonderful performances.
Dad adored music and dancing but couldn’t sing a note or, at least, claimed he couldn’t.
When he retired in 1981, he took over a good few household chores. Washing up was his forte and he liked to do it alone to music.
Those were the days of cassette tapes and he spent hours making new tapes by recording songs he particularly liked. So, there are boxes and boxes of his favorites, all meticulously labelled and timed to perfection.
I am fortunate enough to have them and a few of his old cassette players. It’s so uplifting to delve in and find a tape and lash into chores I hate like the ironing with one of his collections playing at high volume.
I guess this is why I haven’t ever embraced Spotify or the like.
I doubt he ever thought any one else would get such pleasure from his hobby and musical passion.
The first time I heard it, I was more puzzled than the Monkey Puzzle flapping her spikey branches in our garden, right outside my ‘study.’ I was trying to concentrate and here was the loudest music you’ve ever heard.
Ghettoblaster style but it was full on classical music interspersed with Pavarotti singing not just for the neighborhood but for the entire island of Ireland and all its offshore islands.
Concentration shattered into high flying notes, I scrambled myself together and headed to the front gate. The music was louder but still no evidence of where it was coming from on a sunny weekday morning with high noon approaching.
I’m hopeless at knowing where sounds are coming from – always have been. No doubt, it’s a condition with a frightening name.
A little meander down the road and there I saw it all. The quietest neigbour I’ve ever had washing his car, totally engrossed in doing the job to perfection. Hose, dusters, buckets, chamois cloths, car wax, wellington boots, car washing old (clean) clothes…. and moving rhythmically to the music, oblivious to the world. Here was a man transported, soaking in a sea of crashing symbols, high octaves and rich symphony.
He didn’t see me and I retreated to our garden transfixed by the glorious impromptu concert.
That first concert ended as Pavorotti brought us home from Italy and I heard a car door being closed ever so gently.
There were many such concerts over the years but sadly they fell silent a good while ago now as our gentlemanly, quiet neighbour passed on to a world where I hope the music plays on.
I love music and dancing but am desperately poor at both, unless I am alone in the kitchen. I was told to mime in the school choir during a big exam, lest I cause us to lose marks and was booted out of a beginners dance class on night one because I was not up to scratch.
So, I have tended to be the spectator when it comes to these activities and was fortunate enough to be in a class in school that had lots of good singers, dancers and musicians.
About seven of them formed a singing group and they were the people who really taught me about harmony.
We’re talking early 1979’s so songs like John Denver’s Leaving on a Jet Plane and Yesterday Once More by the Carpenters were on the list.
The group did very well in various competitions so we used to have rehearsals and post-win celebrations in class time.
Those were precious moments that brought us all together as the group loved to have backing singers, even me!
I’m still catapulted back to our final year in secondary school that was based in a small room away from the hustle and bustle of the main building when I hear even a hint of those songs. The teachers never took much persuading to let the singing begin and the guitars tune up.
I think we all realised that these were memories in the making.
I’m not one of those people who is mad into Christmas; in fact, I’d go as far as to say that I’ve been falling out of love with it for quite a few years now. I know this will sound alien to many and may resonate with a few.
Thing is I want to re-kindle the love but not force it. Anyway, last night, I took myself off to the majestic Theatre Royal in Waterford for a night of Viennese Christmas Music played by the hugely talented violinist, Vladimir Jablokov, and his family.
I’d heard Vladimir, his parents and siblings play before and was enthralled by their obvious love of music and their natural synchronicity. They remind me of great sporting siblings, like the Bryan Brothers who have dominated Men’s Doubles in tennis for so many years.
About fifteen minutes into the performance, I could feel myself leaning into the music, being swept away by Strauss’ Blue Danube …..
This morning, the world looks different. I seem to be seeing a lot of red and green ….. and I’m longing to find some berried holly with all the memories and anticipation it evokes.
The arrival of September has long felt like a major turning point ~ especially from the times it marked the return to school after the Summer holidays.
In recent years, it is a month that I find difficult as my father died on September 1oth, 2010.
Speaking of father, I can’t but think of his absolute love of the light, high tides and colours of September. It was the month he always chose to go on holiday in Ireland after he had taken early retirement.
So, this is a month during which you can expect to see a lot of colour and mixed emotions here on Social Bridge.
Where does September bring you in terms of thoughts, moods and memories?
Bridges are more than special to me ~ why else would I call this blog Social Bridge?
Today I would like to bring you a piece of Irish music An Droichead which is Irish for The Bridge, played by Liam O’Flynn and Mark Knopfler. I find it hauntingly beautiful and it gets me thinking of all the bridges, physical and social, that mean so much to me.
I’d love to hear about the bridges of your life, or indeed, the writings or music that you associate with them.