While the object of Arcana is to share music and thoughts, it is also to acknowledge some influential people in the world of music. For many people the most influential people in this field are their parents or grandparents – so I hope you will forgive me for sharing a personal inspiration on all of my work here.
Very sadly my mother Coralie passed away two weeks ago (May 2015). Mum was many things for me, but what I want to praise here is her encouragement of my musical exploits, because without that I would not be writing this piece.
I am fortunate to have grown up in a happy household with brothers Nick and Jonathan and sister Clare, all of us at close quarters in a terraced house in Thetford, Norfolk. Gradually, at the age of four, I was drawn to Mum’s record collection, enjoying the delights of Dvořák’s New World Symphony, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade, Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Romeo and Juliet and especially Holst’s The Planets. To her credit, though nerves were tested with the frequent repetition of these pieces, Mum encouraged me to keep on listening to them with a patient smile.
Then, at the age of eleven, I started to learn the cello. As anyone that age knows, one of the least attractive things about learning a musical instrument is the practice. Mum nagged me to do scales, arpeggios, proper warm ups, sight-reading and the interminable repetition of the exam pieces themselves, though they must have been driving her crazy. At the time I wasn’t grateful – but I certainly am now!
My cello playing helped get me on to the Music ‘A’ Level course at Norwich City College, where I made it my mission to discover classical music in all its forms – and where Mum and Dad generously invested in a restored cello for me. Then I went on to the University of Surrey at Guildford, where I furthered that education but also discovered a love of dance and electronic music. Then I was fortunate to move on to the jobs I have had since, leading to PPL where I have been for thirteen years – and of course to start with writing about music, which is what I love to do here.
At all these points Mum has been a constant source of encouragement, and we had many long chats about classical music she had heard on Radio 3. If I was reviewing a lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall I knew she would be there, on the other end of the radio – which, in a sense, she always will be.
When in Finland recently I was lucky enough to visit the house of Jean Sibelius at Ainola, 20km from Helsinki. Sibelius was Mum’s favourite composer – and is one of mine too. Into this year I hope to start listening to all his works – and at every turn Mum’s smiling face will be there, enjoying the music with me.
So thanks, Mum, from the bottom of my heart. I owe you so much for all you have done for me, and I just hope I can provide similar inspiration for others. I leave below the music played at her funeral service, Farewell to Stromness by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. It sums up her gentle nature beautifully, and also the sparkle that never left her eyes.