A Concert of Thoughts

noun [kón sùrt, kónssərt] (plural con·certs)
1.
public musical performance: an event where an individual musician or a group of musicians, e.g. a choir, band, or orchestra, performs in front of an audience
2.
agreement: harmony or accord, e.g. in purpose or action (formal)
  • a concert of criticism
3.
unified pair or group: a combination of people or things in agreement or harmony (formal)
Microsoft® Encarta® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

A few days ago I attended the Easter Term Concert at St Bees school where my children attend and my daughter, Thing I, was performing in the choir. For the purpose of privacy I won’t share photos from that concert nor name names but I wanted to share a little of what went through my head as I enjoyed the even (just a little – you wouldn’t handle most the ADHD-powered thinking which goes on in there).

It was very strange for me sitting in the hall as a parent rather than being up there as the teacher leading the proceedings. I missed the eight years I had at a state school down the road in Whitehaven where I jointly led the Music department and where concerts and events took place, effectively, almost every month. It was a marvellous time and our concerts never failed to please and impress. Attendance was always very good and some events – such as our Blues Night and Opp Knox talent show were always sold out. In fact we had to create quite a complex ticketing system because fake tickets were often made and sold on the ‘black market’! It amazes me to think of that now.

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Several choirs and singing combinations took part in the St Bees singing everything from Schubert to Perry to Elton John and Lloyd-Webber and that reminded me of happy days leading my own choirs.

One of my all-time favourite memories is of taking our choir to London for a few days of sight-seeing, shopping and shows culminating in our choir performing Mozart’s Requiem with 2,000 other choir members in the Albert Hall. We did this for several years performing various requiems and they were such happy times. I miss those girls (and the odd lads who bravely joined us and were unfailingly faithful members!).

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One young man played Debussy’s Syrinx on the flute and did a good job. How this brought back memories! Debussy is one of my very favourite composers and one my father loved too. I can’t help but think of him when I hear or play Debussy and how I miss him. It is still painful that he died while I was out in Bangladesh but I’m grateful that I was given opportunities before that to make sure he knew I loved him. Not everyone is so lucky.

A sixth-former played Led Zeppelin’s Since I’ve Been Loving You as a solo electric guitar piece which was a brave move but one he executed perfectly. This took me right back to university days where I studied Led Zeppelin as part of my degree studies. I’m so rusty on the guitar now that I keep forgetting I studied it as a main instrument back then. Villa-Lobos’ Prelude no 1 is about as good as I can muster these days which isn’t bad actually but I wish I had time to put in the practice I should have done years ago and get my Jazz, Classical and Rock guitaring back up to scratch.

On young lady played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, first movement which is a piece I enjoy trotting off myself on the piano. She aced me, however, by playing it from memory. I’ve played that piece for over 25 years and I can’t play more than a few bars from memory. Despite my love of mnemonics I have yet to find a system for memorising music which works for me. I will research it one day and then I promise you I will publish a book about it. As it is, I hope my book on memory skills for students will come out later this year – but I’m making no promises about that!

The highlight of the night though – despite loving my daughter’s choir pieces (and of course she was the best singer that night 😉 ) – was, without doubt, the Chinese girl who played the fantastic Guzheng instrument from her home country. I didn’t think anything could replace my twenty-year love affair with the Indian Sitar but if anything could it would be this instrument. The young lady plays it perfectly and I’ve since gone on to listen to several albums on Spotify since first hearing her. Utterly divine.

There were many other pieces that night but as I left I realised something which horrified me:

Where were my thoughts about Bangladesh?

England was often called the ‘land without music’ in the near 250-year era between Purcell and Britten’s first works. It’s an unfair insult but not one completely unjustified. By contrast, Bangladesh has a rich unbroken tradition of music spanning centuries. I had heard many performances – often from concerts at LAMB just like this one in St Bees – why had my thoughts not turned to those before now? Where was my Tagore? My Nazrul Islam? My Lalon Shah? Anjan Dutt or Nachiketa?

This thought disturbed me for a while. Was I beginning to lose my love for my Golden Bangla? Surely not?

In the end, I concluded that this concert – in a typical English village – was simply reminding me that I did have a place here once, in this ‘green and pleasant land’, not so long ago. The event triggered off memories from a life pre-Bangladesh but rather than replacing those of the last six years it reminded me that I have a wealth of memories from many, many different places. None is any greater or lesser than the other and all should be treasured. The students I adored in Bangladesh were no more important nor less so than those I left behind in Cumbria. Or left behind wherever I taught, in fact.

Everyone was, and is, important. I think that’s why we’re blessed with memories. To tell us that what was in the past was special and that what we have now will be a special memory of the past too – in years to come. We spend too much time wishing for the future when we’re young and longing for the past when we’re old. We need to make full use of the present.

Easier said than done – but I’m trying.

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About D K Powell

British freelance journalist, author, writer, editor, musician, educational consultant. I lived with Wifey, Thing I (daughter) & Thing II (son) in Bangladesh for 5-6 years working for an NGO called LAMB. Wifey led the Hospital Rehab department and I used to teach O levels at the school before going full-time as a freelance writer in 2013. Now we're back in the UK learning how to be British again. When not writing or editing, I'm busy trying to complete a Masters degree in Intercultural relations in Asian Contexts and reading way too many books at once. I also drink tea - lots of it.
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6 Responses to A Concert of Thoughts

  1. Pingback: A Very English Summer Fete | kenthinksaloud

  2. “None is any greater or lesser than the other and all should be treasured.” Well said!

    “We spend too much time wishing for the future when we’re young and longing for the past when we’re old. We need to make full use of the present.” Profound!!

    Like

  3. Blast from the past! Singing the Mozart Requiem is a moment I will never forget, it was an incredible experience!

    Like

  4. aww.. It gets better.. and as much as you fear.. you really won’t forget Bangladesh.. it will always be there 🙂

    Like

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