Sunday, February 04, 2007

Music Hath Charms....

Friday night found me sitting, for the second time in one week, in a church. Faced with the choice of looking at the four walls for the evening, or going to a concert I'd read about in the local rag, I opted for the latter.

The musicians were three:

  • the pianist, a young man whose grandparents attend the church where the concert was held, which was probably the sole reason such accomplished performers found their way to our little rural Florida backwater;
  • the cello player, a young woman from Germany;
  • and the violinist, a young Asian-American woman.

Between them, they had impressive credentials, and had performed all over the world. I can look at the four walls any night of the week.

I have no pretentions about classical music. I either love it, or it makes me yawn. I have neither a trained nor an educated ear. The Radio Eireann Light Orchestra spilled regularly into our kitchen from the radio, when I was young, and the background music on many of the best Disney cartoons is classical. In our earnest, newly married quest for grownup culture, the OC and I bought records of all the popular composers. And who doesn't love Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops?

I do know that, without understanding why, classical music can go in through my garden variety ears and summon a sob from my soul; or, just as unexpectedly, fill me with wild exuberance.

And so it was, Friday night. I'm sure I did not fully appreciate the pieces they played. I know they played them excellently. But a live performance is as much a treat for the eyes as the ears. The constantly changing expression on the cellist's face, as she coaxed heavenly notes from her instrument; her shy smile as she looked out at the audience between pieces, and rapt concentration when the music started again; the graceful curve of the violinist's neck; the delicate and expert movements of her wrist; the pianist's effortlessly flying fingers; the sheer physical energy all three put into making the music...... Sigh. I was in the presence of angels. Talented, hardworking, dedicated and disciplined angels.

How many of us ever develop our talents to this level? Such perfection, such harmony, does not just happen. Our children tried a variety of instruments: french horn, accordian, trombone , saxophone, violin and cello. They all loved music, but music was not their passion.

And passion is what you need to achieve excellence. Passion, and maybe a little bit of deprivation. We are much too comfortable. Maybe we need sparser cupboards and harder chairs.

The nuns did not encourage passion, and warned us against having notions about ourselves, or getting too big for our britches. We were cautioned constantly against the sin of pride. Humility was the virtue to be cultivated. Ireland in the fifties was in tradition's stranglehold. Looking back, I think of all the things I could have been. I was a good student. I would love to have been an architect, but that was unheard of for a woman, and never even entered my head. I would like to have gone to art school. But that would have put me cheek by jowl with beatniks and teddy boys, artsy-fartsy fringe elements, definitely not to be encouraged. Journalism---did I even know the definition of that word? Better to stick with something traditional, something safe. Girls became teachers, nurses, secretaries, joined the civil service, became air hostesses for the national airline [although this, being new, was eyed with suspicion, as possibly bordering on the flighty], or worked in a bank. Inevitably, you'd marry and have children, and all that time and expense [they'd have you believe] would have been for naught.

The final piece was by Mendelssohn, cheerful and lively. The piano, the violin and the cello melded together in one glorious sound. The crowd rose to its feet. The musicians beamed and bowed. There was hootin' and hollerin' from the back [this is rural Florida, not Carnegie Hall!] As people milled about, I slipped out into the dark, and home, humming all the way.


mjd said...

You made a good choice. The music sounds like a sublime choice and much better than four-wall staring. I think that you found a little of that forbidden passion... You know that the nuns could have been wrong about passion.

tracey petersen said...

Classical music should always be enjoyed live. The mood is lost in a recording. Your assessment of the mood created by these three musicians is just beautiful - lyrical and evocative.

Tanya Brown said...

Ah, yes - the implicit assumption that one is being prideful if one dares to use one's talents. Somehow the people delivering that message never pause to think what a waste and a sin it might be if those talents aren't used.

I'm sorry that the message of the nuns, not to mention the mores of the times, kept you from exploring avocations or professions that you might have enjoyed. It's evident that you became someone quite remarkable despite these obstacles, but there must be times that it's a tad bittersweet.

Lukey Barlow said...

Music enters through special gates in our ears which reason knows nothing about. Takes the heart by surprise.

Those nuns handed you lemons, for sure. But I think you're making excellent lemonaid from them. I come here especially to sample it!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I enjoyed your post as well as reading the comments from your 4 earlier visitors and agree wholeheartedly ...especially about how you've made lemonade from lemons (being male, visual description makes it so much more comprehensible). Having come from a Brother's school, I understand what you went through although I didn't have it so bad.

God gave us gifts and talents so that we could use them to honor Him and help and encourage others. We shouldn't hide our lights under the bed. With an attitude of service and constant learning then pride has no opportunity to take root.

Too bad I was too lazy to take up music!!!!!!

My float said...

This was a lovely post. We grew up with classical music an dsome pieces can still bring me to tears.

joyce said...

I so well remember being asked if I wanted to be a teacher, nurse or secretary. I couldn't spell and hated the sight of blood so teacher it was-primary so the words weren't too hard to spell. Lol. Actually it was a great career and I may have chosen it anyway but it would have been nice to know that there were other options.

Anonymous said...

Molly, next time you go to such a wonderful experience, please share it with a lonely neighbor. Even when I'm not alone, I'm alone, if you know what I mean. I miss music in my life, along with everything else I've lost since I moved here to the Dead Zone. You should be a writer with your beautiful prose.

meggie said...

What a lovely post, as usual Molly.
I could almost hear the music.

aunty evil said...

Molly, I love the way you write.

Classical music for me is one of those things I either love or hate.

MDH will say "listen to the undertones in that, the feeling, the emotion", I say "blah". I know what I like and what I don't. I don't like music just because I am told to, or that it is good breeding to like some music above others.

Same with art. I look at some that fetch thousands - millions! at auction, and I think "that's just crap, I could do better" (keep in mind I cannot draw a stick figure). My eyes have to like it for it to come into my house no matter what it's worth!

Molly said...

Now I'm feeling guilty. Though I did a little hootin' and hollerin' of my own at the response to this post! Never meant to demonize the poor nuns. They were very good teachers, and it wasn't really that bad. I'm probably exaggerating a bit for dramatic effect....They did like to keep our egos in check, though.

So glad you like the lemonade LB! Loved your observation about how little reason has to do with how we react to music....

Lonely neighbor--I finally goaded you into delurking! Friday night was kind of a last minute race out the door. Did think of calling, but Friday night?? Figured you'd have dinner plans,or whatever people do who have husbands in residence....You can always crank up the radio, here in the Dead Zone, but Tracey is right. It is better live...I'll call next time.
The whole object of the exercise [blog] is to become a [better] writer. "Hi,I'm Molly and I'm a writer." I can just see the nuns, pursing their lips and shaking their heads, and whispering, one to the other "That Miss Molly is getting a little bit too big for her britches....."

Liz said...

Ah, and now with the guilt. The legacy of the nuns is strong in you young Molly. Wish you were up here to snuff out the good musical experiences. The only "live" shows I get are the dramas staged by your grandsons.