Monday, 2 July 2007

Farewell Cricklade

I am a nostalgic creature at the best of times (though this is combined with an almost ruthless insouciance when it suits) so this weekend's concert was a moving one.

Cricklade College, Andover, looked after me some of the time in my GAP year, and provided a stimulating musical environment that has been very significant in subsequent years. I grew up after a fashion while I was there and learned a little about about commuting, chamber music and the opposite sex (with hindsight, more than I wanted but not enough to make me wise). I also played quite a bit of badminton, and it was nice to catch up with the retired physics teacher who, back in 1997, inspired my rarely-seen sporting side!

On Saturday a few dozen past students gathered for what will possibly be the last 'Past & Present' concert. The college theatre has been taken over by the local authority and the college itself is due to be amalgamated in the autumn with institutions miles away...

Back in February 2003, the last P&P concert, I performed Rachmaninov's Suite No. 2 for Two Pianos with Mark Ray, and this concert was partly dedicated to his memory.
So, I had to play Rachmaninov, and the Prelude in B minor seemed the most fitting work (not to mention one of the few Rach Preludes that I can play).
This went with Brahms' late E flat major Intermezzo, a less ruffled work, but no less moving.

The other performers did a great job, too. Beautiful, haunting composition aranged for piano and sax by Helen Stanley, which really transported me. A piano tribute to Mark by composer Robert Steadman, who has kindly sent me the scores of several works (sadly, I heard them too late to incorporate them in my upcoming celebration of Britich Piano Music, but I look forward to airing them soon). The big band were tremendous - I almost wish I hapd been on the ivories, but the view from the audience was pretty good (and when I was at Cricklade the Band wasn't too keen on my style and I only played for them once - too much Rachmaninov came out at the wrong times, they said!) Two singers and an amusing piano duet by Constant Lambert finished it off. Thanks are due to Lawrence Holden, former Head of Drama at Cricklade, for his untiring efforts in organising, chivying and arranging excellent B&B for me and Kate!

What struck me was that 'psychological crutch' could have been coined for irreligious funerals, tributes to the dead. Readings of poems by Christina Rosetti and Dylan Thomas do not actually bring hope to anyone, though their sentiments are powerful. What comfort they do bring is quite literally a psychological crutch - not even offering anything beyond the effect on the listener. Whereas the Christian texts familiar from times of mourning actually point beyond. Their claims demand actual scrutiny and some sort of response. To call them a psychological crutch is to beg the question.