Wednesday, 2 September 2015
Then there were sherbet flying saucers. Saucer shaped rice paper confections full of tingles which I would put into my mouth whole and melt the rice paper to reveal the tangy, effervescing contents playing on my tongue. A brown paper bag full of saucers and a packet of sweet cigarettes with sparkly red coloured tips would set me up for a day at school. Life was so simple back then. No iPhone, no intertnetty or InYourFaceBook: just simple pleasures like trying to make the girl next door cry and stealing fruit from the trees of the old age pensioners across the road. Happy days.
In liking sherbet I had very little time, in fact I can say with confidence, no time for Schubert. I hadn't heard of him. He hadn't hoved into view above what, I must admit, was a fairly limited musical horizon. Ask me then about the Laughing Policeman, Three Little Fishes and The Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, and I'd be talking for hours. But Schubert..who he was when he was at home: not a glimmer. He wasn't alone in being excluded from my musical universe. There was Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, Chopin, Debussy and Listz - all dead to me. Well, actually they were dead, but that's not the point. At a young age I was a philistine.
As I grew older, some might say matured and as St Paul might have said had he seen me "For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." Sorry wrong passage - "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." - I developed taste and discernment.
I began to like wine, fast cars and even faster women. I went to the theatre ( Raymond's Review Bar counts doesn't it?). I listened to serious, thoughtful music - Motorhead and Deep Purple, as well as Val Doonican and Frank Ifield. My tastes became refined.
Until one day I happened to turn on the radio, mistune and found myself listening to some rather plummy voiced young lady introducing a concert from some orchestral hall or other. It was the Third Pogramme: you know the one between Radio 2 and Terry Wogan and 4 Extra and "Round the Horne". Anyway I was just about to retune to something more appropriate when this announcer mentioned that the composer whose work we were about to hear had had recurring bouts of syphilis. Well, I had to learn more.
Apparently this guy Shubert was riddled with it. No idea where he got it from but it possibly did for him. That or mercury poisoning - a "cure" for the pox in the early 19th century. And then out of the blue, I'm being told we're about to hear his Ninth Symphony in C Major. My immediate thought was that it might be better if I worked my way up to number 9, starting at 1 and slowly but surely making my way thro' the canon. But no, it was not to be. Straight in at the deep end. Bit like hearing "Sergeant Pepper's", without the benefit of going via 'Love Me Do", "Penny Lane" and 'All You Need Is Love".
Well, you could have knocked me down with a penny whistle. This Schubert boy is something. That Ninth blew me away. God knows what would have happened if he's finished his "Unfinished" and lived a bit longer that his 30 odd years. Magical...
I hadn't heard it for years and it so happened Radio 3 (the old Third prog) was relaying the work from this year's Proms. It rekindled all those tingles of yesteryear. I romp around the house humming it - well the bits I can remember. I have a smile in my soul and as I snuggle up in bed next to the cat and the missus, I plug in my earphones and head for nod land in the company of a piece of sheer heaven in sound.
Then there's that guy called Mozart. I hear he's pretty nifty on the old ivories. Maybe I'll look him up.