I grew up listening to Rock & Roll, Soul and Rhythm & Blues with a hefty dose of Disco and Easy Listening thrown in for good measure. Saturday and Sunday afternoons our house was often full of the strains of Elvis, Nat King Cole, The Blue Notes etc. Every once in a while furniture was pushed against the wall and we danced.
I never sang. My dad was the singer, with a voice to equal that of a choir of angels. My mother sang off key and so did I. Many years ago I was told I’m tone deaf. This put me off singing completely, unless of course I’m totally alone, singing in the car or in the bath. I’m an occasional hummer and a mouther of words but no actual sound makes it out from between my lips.
So I grew up with the firm belief music, for me, was restricted to one thing and one thing only – DANCING.
I didn’t come to classical music till quite late in my life. It wasn’t till I started competitive ice skating around age 12 that I got my first taste of mainly instrumental music. I had a vague idea of what opera was. My thoughts ran mostly to screechy sounding women. Beyond my introduction to classical music through the albums of Richard Clayderman and film scores, I didn’t know my Bach from my Mozart or my Schumann from my Strauss.
My ‘lessons’ in classical music didn’t truly begin until I was about 18 when my mother and I had an almighty row and I moved in at Wilgerspruit Fellowship Centre with The White family to save the sanity of all involved. Mr White was an Anglican priest. He and I shared one thing in common. We were both very early risers. So from time to time we’d drink a cup of tea and chat before he went into his office to start work for the day. Inevitably strains of classical music emanated from his office. I found it incredibly soothing, sitting in a room nearby reading, writing or drawing. One day I became so enthralled by a piece of music I was forced to leave my book, interrupt his work and ask him what the piece of music was called.
It was Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor. And to this day I still find it the most haunting and beautiful of melodies. Now, if you've never heard it before, STOP and listen to this incredible piece of music.
Mr White realised I was hungry for more so he did something rather wonderful. He gave me full access to his office, records and portable player whenever he was not using it. Thus began mornings of incredible delight and wonder as I discovered a new range of music I liked or didn’t like. I also realised that when I wanted to concentrate intensely, there was nothing better than the strains of a classical piece in the background to sink me deep into whichever task I was undertaking. So I began the practise of writing or drawing accompanied by pieces which were settling in my mind as firm favourites.
When I moved to the UK little did I know I was about to meet someone who would take my newly burgeoning love of classical music up a notch further. This person was my wonderful friend Barbara Hartridge who I met on a writing holiday in Skyros. After the holiday Barbara invited me to her house for tea and cake. It transpired she was a music teacher. With her I went to my first ever live classical concert. And I had thought it was great listening to it on scratchy records. I certainly didn’t have a single clue did I?
I don’t listen to classical as regularly as I once did. Music related to my dancing more often than not fills the house as I practice steps. However, during periods of stress, or when I take a long bath, classical is still my number 1 go to. I am forever grateful to Mr White for trusting me with his classical albums and introducing me to this wonderful musical genre which continues to give me the most enormous pleasure.