In many ways this has been a superb weekend: I have enjoyed a Bach study day and a concert followed to-day by a meal with friends.
Saturday morning is cloudy but dry. There are a number of jobs to do in the flat before making my way to Symphony Hall for the first part of the JS Bach discovery day. We are seated on the stage, along with a grand piano and the movable organ console. Tim and Anne H have kept me a seat on the front row, so seeing is no problem.
The first talk is by David Owen Norris who fascinates us all as he illustrates just what has been done to Bach’s music on the piano keyboard. David produces one or two gems including a March transcribed by a composer and headed “Mysterioso”!
David’s talk is followed by a fascinating illustration of choral practice in Leipzig during Bach’s time there. Ronny Krippner, assistant organist at St George’s Hanover Square – Handel’s church in London – has rehearsed a small choir to sing a hymn in Lutheran style and then gets us all to join in “Now thank we all our God!”. He ends his talk by improvising a fugue on Symphony Hall’s Kleis Organ. It is only the second time in my life I have seen someone improvise a fugue – and I find it thrilling: you just do not know where the subject is going to reappear or what fascinating counterpoint will develop!
Tim, Anne H and myself enjoy lunch in Symphony Hall before gong to Hall 5 where the afternoon session is to take place. Chris de Souza has been to Leipzig and has returned with a fascinating account of what the city was like in Bach’s day. It appears the great man had to put up with a number of difficulties and had neither the choir nor the organ he would have liked.
Hannah French follows with a fascinating lecture on the way Bach’s music is now produced and how this differs from production in his time. Surprisingly, I stay awake throughout the afternoon session, but I am ready for a cup of tea when we have a planned break. During the tea-break, a Radio 4 programme, “Bach Fever” is played: this looks at the way Bach’s music has been changed by Jaques Lousier, Swingle Singers, Wendy Carlos and many other artists.
The afternoon ends with an illustrated lecture by John Scott Whiteley. He has gone around Europe playing individual Bach works on church organs, many of which are little changed since Bach’s time. These programmes have been broadcast on BBC 2 and are now available on DVD. At the end of the day, I take myself quickly back to the flat and find something to eat.
The evening concert is at the Town Hall where Hetti joins me. The Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightenment (OAE) is playing four of Bach’s best loved works:
- Orchestral Suite No 3
- Violin Concerto in E Major
- Brandenburg Concerto No 5 and
- Orchestral Suite No 4
The orchestra is conducted from the harpsichord by Laurence Cummings with Matthew Truscott playing the violin concerto and Lisa Benzosiuk playing the flute in the Brandenburg Concerto. Using period instruments, this little orchestra produces an incredible standard of playing: perhaps is close to what Bach would have wished to hear.
Both Hetti and I thoroughly enjoy the concert and walk slowly together across the city. It is wonderful to enjoy a concert along with someone who plays an instrument and is involved in Baroque music: it is also good not to walk out alone.
Back in the flat, where I am almost always alone, I find a drink and watch one of the day’s rugby union internationals. I stay awake throughout most of it: by the time the recording is finished I am ready for bed.
Sunday dawns bright and blue. There is a load of washing to take out of the machine and hang. I sort out breakfast and spend some time at the computer while listening to The Archers. After a third cup of tea, I watch the second of yesterday’s rugby union internationals before going across to Ju-Ju’s for lunch with Victoria and Nick.
Ju-Ju’s Sunday lunch does not disappoint. We also enjoy a goodly quantity of red wine. I have not drunk much alcohol since Anne died, and would not drink alone. Instead of a sweet, we have a large cheeseboard between the three of us.
On a sunny and warm afternoon, we walk across to Liberty Place, where Victoria and Nick have a furnished flat they are about to let. I am very interested, as letting my own flat is a possibility in the future once I have decided where I want to live. The flat is very well presented and has superb sunny views over the canal.
I say good-bye to Nick and Victoria before going to the shop for milk and some margarine suitable for making a cake. Back in the flat I put dried washing into a pile and sit on the bed – alone. I am feeling sorry for myself – everyone else is part of a couple or a family – when Jane rings. We talk for over an hour, during which some of my grief comes to the surface.
It is time for another cup of tea and to watch this-afternoon’s recorded rugby international. I enjoy the rugby and forget my loneliness when concentrating on what turns out to be a very exciting match.
With the rugby complete, I have no further excuse for not starting on a large episode of The Ironing. Ten shirts, a cotton sweater, and two pairs of trousers, not to mention the underwear almost constitutes an omnibus edition! At last it is done and I return to the computer. There is admin to be done from some of Anne’s accounts. Changing names, bank details and email addresses is supposed to be easy – it all takes time.
An email arrives from Brenda with useful information. I phone her to say thank-you and also send a reply. It is high time I started my blog.
(Grief has a horrible way of creeping up on me, just when I thought I had conquered it. Throughout the weekend I had been happy, doing interesting things with supportive people. It is when those people depart that my difficulties begin. The flat is preferable to the house at Streethay, but it still has many memories and contains things Anne and I brought here.
I do not want to be a burden to others or yet to myself. What really annoys me is the length of time it is taking me to get over this hatred of being alone. There is little I can do but accept the fact that for the foreseeable future I shall return to an empty flat and make drinks and meals for myself alone. Eating out as often as I can has helped me through the winter, but I have to begin to look after myself properly. Other friends do – I need to make a start.
This week should be full of interesting things – I will not have a whole day to myself. This should give me confidence and help me make use of the time when I am here in the flat. There are still places to tidy and clear and I shall have Susan’s help on Tuesday afternoon. I need to make progress, but must try not to do too much too soon.)
Thank-you to Anne H and Tim for helping me during the Bach Study day.
Thank-you to Hetti for joining me on Saturday evening.
Thank-you to Victoria and Nick for joining me for lunch.
Thank-you to everyone who has emailed or phoned me during the weekend.