Articles for TLS Mag

July 2017 Music Notes

My life seems to be full of uncertainty and distress at the moment, making everything appear topsy-turvy and nonsensical. One of my best friends recently succumbed to cancer…..and too soon after this tragedy I found myself supporting another dear friend at her husband’s funeral. Both people were wonderful musical souls and exceptional artists who were cut off in their prime, with so much still to give.

Needing help to express my feelings, I called on the healing power of music for solace and upliftment, which came to me via a poignant and challenging concert engagement. I was asked to play alto saxophone in place of my friend’s departed husband, performing with the prodigious ensemble they had formed together many years ago. I witnessed his courageous wife confronting the abyss left by his untimely departure, whilst mustering all her strength at the helm on soprano saxophone. Life and its tests – you couldn’t make it up!

The venue was a beautiful Essex church, which provided the perfect acoustic for the sonorous tones of a saxophone quartet. “Hmm” – my mind wandered, desperately searching for light relief as I entered the sacred space: ”How fortunate that we have moved on from the prohibition against the playing of saxophones in churches issued by Pope Pius X back in 1903. He declared that saxophones were ‘devil’s horns’ and could cause scandal and inappropriate behaviour.” We were already metaphorically spilling over from dealing with tough emotions, so I decided to keep this to myself!

Together we took our first breath to play, and sadness gradually gave way to the focus of making music. Each of us now on our own soul-stirring journey, knowing that we could rely on strong support for the ride, however bumpy it became. Enormous generosity flowed between us as we deftly circumnavigated both the demanding emotions of the day and our testing repertoire. The church’s atmosphere was expectant and deeply respectful, with support coming from many of the quartet’s longstanding fans The magical programme was rewarded with rapturous applause – the church was filled to the rafters with a palpable feeling of relaxation and release (fortunately we hadn’t provoked any inappropriate behaviour in reaction to hearing 4 devil’s horns played so expertly in the church!).

We retired to the dressing room and a torrent of deeply suppressed emotions flowed forth, released by the sheer relief of getting through the concert. Focussing on the music had enabled us to express our personal grief through collectively doing what we love and are trained to do as musicians, experiencing first-hand the healing vibrations passing between us and out to the audience….and far beyond.

I pondered on the thought of bringing the quartet to Thorpe, to share the joy and hope that music can bring. To this end I continue to bat ideas back and forth with Tricksy Fiona in Nottingham. We’re plotting some Saint Cecilia * and the Devil’s Horn celebrations for the village in the Autumn – where we will honour the musician friends that can no longer be with us, yet who have influenced, inspired and comforted so many.

* a roman saint and patroness of musicians

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