[An intellectual] is someone who can listen to the “William Tell Overture” without thinking of the Lone Ranger. ~John Chesson
All photographs from http://www.bramallhall.org.uk/gallery/index.asp
I had a fantastic time on Wednesday night. You know how when you intend to go out drinking you line your stomach with a good meal? Actually, that’s not something I do because I’m not really a drinker and I hardly ever go out in the evenings unless there’s a college course involved, but I think it’s a good life principle in general and I always eat before I go out anywhere, just in case whatever I’m doing runs over my next scheduled meal time. Unfortunately, my love of food remains with my stomach and doesn’t often extend to my brain, with the result that at least twice a week I forget to take out dinner from the freezer, as happened on Wednesday. Fortunately, I am blessed with the best of sons who now becomes No.1 Son over his older brother: Spud had food and came home with a chicken chow mein that was not only edible and plentiful, but delicious. But, even more importantly, it meant that I DID NOT HAVE TO COOK. That was what moved him up the rankings.*
Belly full, I was collected at six-thirty by my good friend J. I was going to call her the Taxirhymist because I wanted to mention that she is extremely generous with her car, ferrying me from workshop to college to gala performance to writing group to art gallery without accepting any petrol money; and she is a talented poet but has only discovered her talent in the last year; but it sounded pretentious when I read it back and she is certainly not that, so I shall simply call her my good friend J. Me, mgfJ and three other writing buddies all performed at Bramhall Hall on Wednesday night, along with the poet Terry Caffrey and a string quartet from Manchester Camerata. I wasn’t expecting much, if I’m honest: we attended a workshop at Stockport Art Gallery on Saturday and discovered ten minutes into it that we were going to perform some of our work the following Wednesday. I hadn’t even heard of the Camerata at that point. I think Terry was disappointed that none of us snatched at the opportunity and had to be gently bludgeoned into perhaps possibly maybe thinking about it. However, of the six people at the workshop, five of us turned up, so the message that this was a big deal must have got through.
If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music. ~ Gustav Mahler
|Bramall Hall Photo Gallery
|Photo – a view of the Lesser HallPrevious | home | Next
We were greeted in the Lesser Gallery by two men who seemed quite excited to have us there; poetry reading is not usual for the Hall, apparently. They were delightful hosts and showed us into the Chapel whilst someone went to fetch Terry. That gave me and a writing buddy time to look through teh rpintouts and notice that our poems weren’t in there. This might have been a hindrance to our reading if it had not had the foresight to bring along our own copies for just such an emergency. In my case, I wanted to bring a copy because I had made changes to my poems since submitting them to the gallery the day before. This was also the moment when I knew I had been right to single out mgfJ for the honour of my being my good friend J: our printer is out of ink so I had emailed my copy to her and she had printed it out for me and, more importantly, brought it with her. What a woman!
When words leave off, music begins. ~Heinrich Heine
Terry found, greetings greeted, and apologies made for the omission, which wasn’t his fault, he took us upstairs to meet a couple of Camerata wigs (I hesitate to call them big because I have no idea if they were) and to have a quick run-through of the running order. Then it was time for a toilet break. I should mention at this point that the house has been built and added on to since the Eleventh Century. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Never having read the Domesday Book, I don’t know if there’s a map in it pointing the way to the public lavatories, but I could have used one. When I came out of the loo I found myself alone in a corridor with doors on every side. I had no idea where I was or in which direction I had come or needed to go. I felt a little like Alice and I would have appreciated at that point a wine bottle labelled, ‘Drink Me.’ Not having the option to sprawl in a corridor and get plastered, I tried opening each door until I found one that led to some stairs that I remembered we had come up. More doors at the bottom and lots of dark, empty rooms later, I found the wheelchair access ramp which indicated I was almost home. I stopped to ponder the absurdity of a wheelchair access ramp leading to an upstairs toilet, and decided that there must be a downstairs disabled toilet, surely? It was the law. Then it occurred to me I was in a fantasy world of my own when I should be finding my own rabbits to follow, and I ran and ran the three steps that took me to the very door I needed, leading into the Great Hall.
Music is one of the best ways to enjoy the present. It’s not much fun to look forward to hearing music or to remember what a song sounded like last week, but music right now absorbs you and places you in the present moment. ~Sonnett Branche
Music is what life sounds like. ~Eric Olson
|Bramall Hall Photo Gallery
|Photo – a view of the Great HallPrevious | home | Next
The big photo shows the Hall set for dining but on the night there were plush blue chairs laid out in rows. Despite its name it is not a huge room; there were about fifty people present and it felt cosy. The musicians had set up in front of the magnificent fireplace (see small photo above). I was relieved that we had back row seats because I expected to fidget a lot. I have never been to a classical music concert before, unless you count Cliff Richard, and though I love the likes of Vivaldi and the well-known classics, I’m not familiar with much in the way of the good stuff. My expections were massively confounded. The Camerata began with Mozart’s String Quartet No. 18 and followed it with Dvorak’s Romance (listen to me writing as if I know what I’m talking about). The Mozart was nice but the Dvorak – cliché alert! but it’s the only way I can describe it – absolutely blew me away. I had noticed a man sitting with his eyes closed during the Mozart and thought he was asleep at first, before spying his nodding head and deciding he was a poseur, but I offer him an apology right here, right now, because I found myself listening to the Dvorak with my eyes closed and being aware of nothing but the music. There is nothing in the world like live music played by polished professionals at the top of their game in an intimate setting with a thousand years of history behind it. I highly recommend you try it. Even better if you get to do it for free.
As I was carried away on violin strings to another realm of being (or, to give it its technical term, ‘listening’), I wondered how many wandering minstrels, bards, players, Robin Hood rejects and the like had stood in that very spot and entertained people through the ages. It made me feel much less nervous: nobody remembers them so it wouldn’t matter if I messed up because nobody would remember it but me. I stopped worrying about my nervous gut; stopped praying, ‘Please don’t let me break wind up there, please don’t let me break wind.’ I didn’t stop having a glass of wine in the Banqueting Room, of course: it would have been rude; I’m sure I saw an invisible sign saying, ‘Drink Me.’ Trouble is, I had to down it quickly and so I found myself praying while I was waiting to read, ‘Please don’t let me vomit up there; please don’t let me vomit.’
Music is love in search of a word. ~Sidney Lanier
We didn’t have much time in the Banqueting Room because we gathered for another quick run-through and for photographs in front of the fireplace. Fortunately, only one with me in it came out. I know it’s true that the camera adds ten pounds but, to quote Friends, just how many cameras were on me that night?
Terry is second-left; MGFJ is in red; ‘The Blob’ auditionee is second-right.
We were introduced by Frank. I have no idea who he was or in what capacity he was there, but he was lovely. He explained that Terry would explain why we were there, then Terry stood up and explained why we were there. Then we read out our bits and the writing buddy who went first thanked Terry for the opportunity and mgfJ who went last thanked the audience for having us. Then Terry thanked us and thanked the audience and it was all very civilised. The audience just looked bemused. They had come to a concert expecting to hear the Camerata, and found a group of giggly – but extremely polite – poets hogging twelve precious music minutes. However, they charitably clapped the Stockport Art Gallery Writing Group, which was how Frank and Terry introduced us; it surprised us all, because no-one had told us that that’s who we are.
The evening was rounded off by the Camerata’s performance of Janacek’s String Quartet no. 2 (Intimate Letters), the hideous music upon which our poems were based, and the point of us being there. But you know what? The magic worked again and it was wonderful – lots of plinks and plonks and stalking soundtracks, yes; but the passion and the obsession was tangible through the music. I have to say that I will never, ever listen to it on a cd, which is how we first heard it at the gallery; but if someone offers me the chance to hear it played live again, I might just accept.
The evening ended with appreciative applause for the musicians, who took several bows and exited, then came back for more applause, bows, etc. All well and good for the three violinists, but what about the poor cellist? I swear she had a hump.
Music is the poetry of the air. ~ Richter
All quotes from: http://www.quotegarden.com/music.html
*Don’t worry, Tory Boy: it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and you have more money than your brother so you can easily regain your place.