Monday, 20 August 2012


Playing an air de cour by Etienne Moulinie, I discover  that its words were written by the Spanish Baroque priest-poet, Luis de Gongora who was addicted to cards, gambling and bull-fighting. His bishop told him he didn't attend church enough and his arch-rival Quevedo accused him of sodomy and bought his house just so that he could evict him. During my brief tenure of a freelance position editing the Poetry listings for Time Out magazine, I never wasted an oppoortunity to tell aspiring and established poets that this is how they should behave today. The poetry is fine, I told them, but there is too little hatred between you.  

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The Spanish student hardly needs any tuition from me as he arrives with a near faultless vocabulary. He's a biologist and talks not of mere birds but of crested grebes and lesser black backed gulls when we take him to the London Wetlands Centre. How about you give me some lessons?, I say to him quoting Schoenberg to Gershwin. Or was it Stravinsky to Ravel? He borrows my opera glasses and identifies migrating species at a hundred paces which others can only focus on through metre-long zooms. A cornkrake cries raucously and I am reminded of an air de cour by Etienne Moulinie called Le Concert de Differents Oyseaux which says that birds through their voices are really angels in disguise - even the crow and the owl which are ready for no audition.     
 
The Spaniard  accepts my invitation to come to  I Fagiolini's late night Prom. I tell him to meet me at the box office, but he understands 'telephone box' instead, so is at least 200 yards wide of the target when the time comes. We find each other eventually but he is more tired than I am after walking all afternoon across London so doesn't notice when I nod off during the concert because he is already asleep.

Grandma is upset by the harmonisation of Thomas Arne's God Save the Queen every time Britain wins a gold medal, but I rather like it. It’s like an organist dramatising the last verse of a hymn at an Anglican jamboree service with the bishop or even the archbishop present, I argue. She thinks the interrupted cadence in the middle is too apologetic and prefers the traditional dominant-tonic V-I chords followed by the triumphant bounding scalewise ascent towards Send her Victorious. It’s appropriately modest, I counter, just as it should be for the hosts. Grandpa doesn’t have a view as he is no longer quite the full semibreve. He thinks I’m a policeman which I don’t mind as it’s marginally better than reality. ‘It’s funny how we keep bumping into one another,’ he says to me from the comfort of his automatically reclining armchair. He sang in the choir at the 1948 Olympics but cannot recall whether tenor or treble. I tell him he was 22 years old then so he'd have stuck out if he'd still been singing soprano. 'Yes,' he says as he stares into the mist of his past, 'I would, wouldn't I?'  
        

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