Out of the Saturday Guardian fell a slim booklet about Keats, the first in a series about Romantic Poets. It fell open at Keats’ ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’. My eye fell on the lines,
‘Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard//Are sweeter’
I read this line aloud to Bob. ‘Do you think that’s true?’ I asked. ‘That unheard melodies are sweeter? I’m not sure I agree with Keats about that. I reckon that the sweet melodies you can actually hear are at least as nice as anything you can imagine.’
Bob considered. ‘Depends what’s not being heard’, he said.
our friendly robin
The winter weather has brought some unusual birds to our garden. A week or so ago we had a little flock of birds about the size of thrushes, but more colourful, with orangey plumage on their necks and chests. At around the same time the Guardian mentioned that its readers were reporting unusual bird sightings, and we learned from a photo that our own visitors were fieldfares. I’m sure I had never seen any in our part of London before.
For the past few days we’ve had an incredibly tame little robin in the garden. He seemed quite unafraid of us, and was happy to let us stand right underneath the tree and converse with him. He let me follow him round the garden with my camera, and he almost seemed to be posing for his photograph (see picture). I tried to communicate in what I thought were robin-like whistles until Bob told me to stop. ‘You’re probably saying something unacceptable.’
I’m supposed to be on a train to the north of England at the moment to perform with the trio at Cockermouth Music Society this evening. But last night our cellist, Richard, phoned to say that he had come down with the winter vomiting bug. There was no way he could travel for hours and then play a concert today.
There never seems to be a blueprint for how to behave in such situations, which fortunately are quite rare. Every concert organiser and every audience seems to react differently. Yesterday the whole evening was spent, with the help of our concert agent, in contacting everyone concerned and trying to decide what to do. We felt dreadful because the poor people of Cockermouth have had so much to contend with recently, and they had already had to re-locate our concert because of flooding in the original venue. Various alternatives having been discussed and pursued via rounds of phone calls, a solution to the concert problem was found very late last night. By a stroke of good luck, the Gould Trio was able to take our place at incredibly short notice. So now I’m at my desk instead of on a train, with my suitcase still packed on the bed beside me, and the imagined landscape of Cumbria receding from my inner eye.
dancing on ice
The cygnets on the lake in our local park have almost grown up. We’ve been watching them for a whole year now, and have realised that the ‘Ugly Duckling’ legend is deeply inappropriate. These young swans never looked anything other than handsome and confident, even when they were the swan equivalent of teenagers, barging into one another and quarrelling. Their feathers were never really ‘all stubby and brown’ as the song claimed, and no ducks ever looked as though they were even considering telling the cygnets to ‘get out of town’. Last spring, we were fascinated to discover the whole family at the side of the lake, gorging on blackberries from bushes that overhang the water. It had never occurred to me that swans would be partial to fruit.
Yesterday the ice on the pond was starting to melt, and the swans were hovering at the place where the water met the ice in the middle of the lake (see photo). The cygnets are gradually losing their mottled feathers, and will soon be as tall and as snowy-white as their parents. For some reason they all kept getting out of the water and waddling clumsily about on the ice, slightly spoiling their image as serene masters of the lake.
seen round the corner from Henry Wood Hall
A very busy week ended with a concert and party for the Friends of the Florestan Trio. What a nice thing a Friends’ Organisation is! So much of a musician’s time, especially a pianist’s time, is spent working alone or with just a few other people. It’s easy to lose the sense that anyone out there is following your progress, or is even aware of your activities. Concerts, of course, bring you suddenly face to face with large numbers of people, but they are, in effect, strangers, perhaps all hearing and seeing you for the first time.
A Friends’ Organisation is different; its members have signed up precisely because they don’t want to lose touch with you. Last night we had about a hundred Friends gathered together for our annual party. It’s really quite touching to see all these people, many of them experts in fields completely unrelated to music, who have come together for the specific purpose of giving us moral support. The atmosphere in the concert is subtly different; there’s a warmth there right away. And it does really help to feel that there are people out there wondering how you’re getting on as you move about the world.