Saturday, July 22, 2006

Gifts and gratitude

On Wednesday I had the enormous pleasure to spend half an hour with my old music teacher, Jack Longstaff. I was visiting the grammar school in Blackburn to hand over a copy of my book for their library, and in chatting to Phil Lloyd there decided to call on Mr Longstaff.

TJL (as he signed himself on all my schoolwork) retired two years after I left school. And that retirement was 20 years ago. So he's in his mid eighties now, but still living in the house where I went as a kid for my piano lessons - a house which remains very much as I remember from that time.

Mr Longstaff was the single most important teacher I ever had. He taught me everything I know musically. He was my piano teacher, and as he taught me to play he taught me to listen and to understand music as I listened. He taught me harmony, and this gave me the practical skills to arrange and to compose. He took all the potential of the boy and enabled me to grow into the musical man I became.

I wanted to see him, because I wanted to say thank you for that gift.

And as I was about to leave he picked up a CD of excerpts from our old school choir and gave it to me. Our school choir under TJL was 250 strong. We did major works. The very first thing I ever sang in any choir was the Verdi Requiem. It remains my all time favourite piece of classical music.

This afternoon I listened to that CD. The sound quality is excellent, and the memories that filled the room were wonderfully tangible. I remember singing in Blackburn Cathedral, and the shock of hearing the orchestra for the first time when we had rehearsed to the piano for so many months. The Verdi Requiem excerpt (from 1979) is the last movement, the Libera Me: right at the end, all of us trebles headed up to a glorious final high C which is really the soloist's domain, and which I have only ever heard one other choir attempt. Absolutely glorious.

Gifts of music, and now gifts of memories. And Mr Longstaff, I am grateful for them all, more than words can say.

1 comment:

chorus girl said...

Hi, again!

(1) A question about your blog's title: I've linked you at both of my blogs (I know, I know; what in the world do I need with two?), but I wasn't sure whether to write it as "SalvationsSong" or "Salvation's Song." Preference?

(2) I enjoyed this post very much. How fortunate to have the experience you did when you were as young as you were! It wasn't till I went to college that I got my taste of doing wonderful, serious music with orchestra, and even then it wasn't the Verdi Requiem! I wonder what those performances would sound like to me now, 20 years (oh, all right, 25 years) on. Somewhere I must have cassette tapes of a few of them...

(3) If you haven't had a chance to look at the newer of my blogs, do. It's the adventures of the author as member of a struggling local choral society. :-)