Friday, July 27, 2007

"Gosh! Man, I've Got A Tune In My Head!"

Here is Edward Elgar, British composer and keen cyclist since the age of 5.
And also proud possessor of a Sunbeam bicycle.
( Well, actually 2 Sunbeam bicycles..)

And those words above: " Gosh! Man, I've got a tune in my head!".... they were written by Elgar in a letter dated January 1901, to his music publisher friend, August Jaeger of Novello and Co.

Elgar was excited.
Those words referred to his desire to write the D major march, part of his " Pomp and Circumstance" Marches.
And that May, still excited, Elgar wrote to another friend:" I've got a tune that will knock'em...knock 'em flat!"

AND it did .
And it still does.
It knocked ME flat when played by The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in Chester Cathedral last night.
Even though I've heard it countless times, it Hits The Spot Everytime..

The programme was the closing concert of Chester Summer Music Festival* ( see end of post) featuring the Festival Chorus, with two acclaimed singers, Jane Irwin ( mezzo-soprano) and baritone Marcus Farnsworth.
Also performed was Elgar's " The Music Makers"; this is Arthur O'Shaughnessy's poem set to music. As a child in a misty-moisty primary school classroom, I heard its opening lines:
" We are the music makers.
And we are the dreamer of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams..."

And although hardly world-shattering poetry ( I think I was expected to copy it out in best Marion Richardson handwriting...anyone remember those exercises?!) ...those opening words thrilled me and together with Elgar's music...Mmm. .

Elgar ( once he said: " The trees are singing my music...or have I sung theirs?" ) was born near Worcester 150 years ago this year. His father , a piano tuner, kept a music shop on Worcester High Street. Elgar hid in the dark gloom of the shop amid musical scores and instruments; his father's violins, flutes, trumpets, all were magical. He yearned to play them all.
And so later, some said, Elgar wrote music to make the heart soar.
And his refrains, his patterns; they call us and echo, they call us and echo.......they remind us of our past, yet they take us to our future, move our thoughts on to other places.... where we never expected to be...


** Chester Summer Music Festival ( ) was born 30 years ago this summer.
A good friend/neighbour and her family were main instigators... so I've seen JUST how hard the organisers work; their planning, their skills, their wonderful choice of artists.
BUT distressingly, a major grant is no longer forthcoming; the Arts Council doesn't see fit to award. This, therefore, puts the Summer Music Festival at risk.
AND this is disappointing; it shows lack of vision, it shows lack of appreciation of a thriving event which gives huge pleasure in a small English city.

Some might call it a tragic decision.
Many certainly would.


Blogger Lizzie said...

I think it really poor political insight and foresight to keep diminishing or denying altogether art funding, particularly with tried, tested and clearly popular events.

BTW, I do remember Marion Richardson. It was how we were taught to write. Though I do rather wish it had been copper-plate..

4:54 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Yep, I'm sure.
Just wonder if the coming Olympics have got something to do with this??

8:59 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

And, Lizzie, re Marion Richardson: at school, we wrote out prayers in stark black ink in our handwriting lessons...
we decorated them with borders showing nuns and crosses and stained glass windows..

9:03 pm  
Blogger Stay at home dad said...

I once worked at a milk factory with Elgar's grandson, who was also called Ed. He shared some of those endearingly eccentric qualities too...

1:32 am  
Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

Two fantastic, transporting posts Jan! Thanks so much. Unfortunately the Arts are a poor cousin and will always be for Councils and such like - in our country and yours - maybe there are countries who fully support the Arts - Long Live Them wherever they be.
Pomp and Circumstance is a wonderful piece of music - I'm glad Elgar knew it.
I had some rose on Wedto celebrate the new book - and it didn't seem quite right in the middle of winter somehow ... it is definitely a summery drink - rain or no rain.
Hope the sun shines over there soon.
Expecting some 'sunshine on roses' piccies soon!!! ")

6:12 am  
Blogger dinzie said...

Shame about the chester summer mucic festival ...

Hope you are well and dry over there ....

I love the old picture with that awesome bike

11:30 am  
Blogger Catherine said...

World shattering or not, I've always loved that poem

12:54 pm  
Blogger Jon M said...

I used to have a twenty quid note with Elgar on it but I spent it, shopping in Chester!

It's such a shame when funding dries up because somewhere like Chester (I live close by) doesn't get the same help that maybe bigger cities do.

It's a beautiful place to go. I've been to some school choral things in the Cathedral and it is an amazing venue.

6:49 pm  
Blogger apprentice said...

It's a lovely piece, my friend sang it recently with the Scottish Opera chior in St Mary's here in Haddington. Those lines you quoted are tyhe best of the piece I feel, very moving and evocative.

On the funding, that is a shame, chasing the money it's so draining for all small charitable trusts.

12:13 pm  
Blogger Carole said...

My daughter and I went to see aproduction of 'Life of Pi' at Poole Arts Centre a few months ago. The lively young group from Bradford were about to lose their funding.

4:33 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Did this grandson play tunes on the milk bottles?
Did he talk much about Elgar?

Brilliant few days:
So very welcome here.
I must check out your new book. How long were you working on it?

Bit smarter than m'old Trent Tourist...

Yes, it's quite something, isn't it?

My lovely city has lots of different faces; its worst face is usually shown on Saturdays when shoppers throng the streets during the day and Clubbers throng the streets during the night..
Other times, it's like being on a different planet...

Yep, I agree.
Did you hear it too?

Wrong priorites in many cases, all very sad.

5:42 pm  
Blogger Lucy said...

So disappointing about the festival.
I like Chanson du Matin, and many more.

6:11 am  
Blogger I Beatrice said...

Lovely post, Jan!

And do you know, the Messiah 'Hallelujah!' always does it for me too. Every time. Best of all when I'm one of the singers...

And that poem is rather lovely too, I thought. Sometimes it's the simplest things that resonate most deeply. I always think the Australian Aboriginal phrase "the dreamtime" especially evocative. It covers the periods both before birth and after death, I believe... How poetic is that?

Also their other memorable phrase "go walkabout". Who would have thought that such a down-trodden, obscure race of people could have contributed two such memorable phrases to the language?

And then there's Huck Finn, with his haunting "lighting out for the territory"....... How I used to yearn to be able to 'light out for the territory', when I was a child!

(Not sure how you got me started on all this.)

9:17 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Thanks for your comment.
The Fstival is " at risk"..but hopefully she will STILL go on to great things.

Some thought provoking examples here....thanks!
It's fantastic JUST how words/phrases stay with us..

9:25 am  
Blogger Stay at home dad said...

Sadly the factory produced only cartons Jan!

He didn't talk much about him, no. he was very tall and had written 'ED' on his factory cap. I went to his house once, near the factory, just outside Oxford, and met his mother. Whether she was Elgar's daughter or not I now have no idea. I seem to remember she was. I was young. There are so many things I'd ask now.

10:34 am  
Blogger Jon M said...

Jan said: My lovely city has lots of different faces; its worst face is usually shown on Saturdays when shoppers throng the streets during the day and Clubbers throng the streets during the night..
Other times, it's like being on a different planet...

I agree, it's such a mix of people. Had to dive off the rows once to avoid drunken fisticuffs! BNot a regular occurence and I do love Chester.

2:42 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

Yes, there's so much stuff I'd liked to have asked, particularly my folks.
It's only as we age( hmm) that we want answers to all sorts of questions.
Love the hat saying ED by the way!
And "Elgar's daughter"...almost a book title??

On Wednesday, I had lunch with a friend of decades standing...won't say how many decades ...but afterwards, we walked along Bridge St to Eastgate and the Cross; the city was sunny and golden and buzzing..
I think we both realised WHY we'd been away yrs ago and then come back to it..

2:50 pm  
Blogger Suffolkmum said...

I have always loved that poem too. And Elgar. Sorry about the funding.

11:59 am  
Blogger Jan said...

Thanks for this...
I listen to Elgar In My Rare Times Of Unbridled Joy ie his music "goes" with something "momentous" happening...
Wonder what choices others make??
For instance, wonderful laid-back Jack Johnson de-stresses, as does I allowed to put these in the same breath?!

4:40 pm  
Blogger Marianne said...

Sorry to hear about the funding problems Jan, but intrigued by your comment about the nuns and crosses etc. Are you by any chance another closet RC? There seem to be a disproportionate number in this corner of blogland.

Nice to see you back.

9:08 pm  
Blogger Jan said...

No, not a closet RC....but at junior school, a teacher played us stuff like "Stabat Mater" and the "St Mathew Passion" and we were enthralled...

8:36 am  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Like that bit about the trees...

3:18 am  

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