Articles for TLS Mag

February 2017 Music Notes

Brrrr….it’s chilly out there! With the English winter really biting down now and the wind whipping around my hair, causing all manner of mayhem, my thoughts turned to escaping the dismally dark days. As if by instant connection, my mobile text alert chimed with a new message: “Ciao bella….February in England is too cold and grey for anyone to have good health…and the flights to Rome are cheap now…so why not visit?! Baci, Francesca. ps…extra temptation (as if I needed any further nudging!)….we can stay in my sister’s apartment – next door to your favourite musician saint

My lively Italian friend knows me well, tempting me with the prospect of a bijou adventure to jolt me out of my post Christmas slump. With my New Year health challenges instantly starting to fade, it was time for the ‘tough to get going’, and to pull myself together. It took no time at all to book a budget flight to the eternal city, and then I set out in a celebratory mood to buy prosecco and panettone. Accompanying me on my jolly journey along the High Street was a piece of text by W H Auden that came to mind: Blessed Cecilia…appear in visions to all musicians….appear and inspire“.

Francesca was beckoning me not only to the perfect location in the heart of Rome, but also to the stunning 6th century church and convent of Saint Cecilia, the famous patroness of music and musicians. I felt at one with a sense of attachment to Cecilia’s cause and benevolence. Additionally, I had studied Benjamin Britten’s choral triumph “Hymn to Saint Cecilia” extensively for my “A “ levels, a million years ago – set to the aforementioned text by Auden, his friend and revered poet. Since then I have discovered other Cecilia related works by luminaries such as Purcell, Parry and Handel, to name but a few….oh, and Simon and Garfunkel of course!  As I reached for a bottle of prosecco on the shop’s highest shelf, an illuminating idea shone down on me..….now it was my time to write music inspired by Saint Cecilia! Her “saints day” doesn’t fall on my birthday (as it did for Britten), and I am clearly not quite as famous as he…..however, Saint Cecilia is there to appear and inspire ALL musicians, should we choose to invoke her – and I surmised that it was at least worth a try, given the opportunity that was unfolding.

The jaunty step I had set off with earlier was now replaced with a more sedate gait as I hit the High Street again to return home. My bothersome left knee had buckled a little as I reached the war memorial, however a sense of calm had come over me…. In just two weeks time I would be staying in a beautiful apartment in Rome only steps from my muse’s manor. The spirit of Saint Cecilia would be my inspirational neighbour and companion…..this really was a fantastic dream opening up before me. However, it did also occur to me that I now needed to come up with an uplifting British holiday for the delightful, but nevertheless openly calculating Francesca…(any ideas for this will be gratefully received dear readers!)

Arriving home and feeling it too early to indulge in the prosecco, I swiftly made a cup of strong yorkshire tea and ripped open the family sized panettone, in preparation to call my trusty, tricksy colleague Fiona. I needed to share my news with someone who would understand my passion for a martyred saint.  “Ciao bella – guess what?! – I’m on a journey towards creative visions and inspirations from our muse… to honour her mythic power, and to be guided to use music to soothe the pain in our world”. There was an intake of breath: “Ah, you’re off to Rome then?!” she quickly surmised….and we launched into a duet of hysterical whooping down the phone. Perhaps it wasn’t too early to open the prosecco after all!

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