The power of music

Image courtesy of Satish Indofunk and Flickr; Creative Commons

I watched a documentary last night on Dame Janet Baker. An hour and a half of memories, insights and emotion. I grew up listening to Janet Baker singing and remember the sense of pride in her as well as the admiration of her voice, her craft and her dedication. She was a Yorkshire lass and therefore one of our own, and she was the best at what she did. Her focus and dedication were clear from the documentary and as she spoke to camera I could see her love of the music, her professionalism and her clear eyed self assessment.

The programme also had much to say, directly and obliquely, about the collaborative nature of music making, with contributions from Jane Glover, Andre Previn, and Raymond Leppard among others. Her relationships with figures from the past also figured, including Sir John Barbirolli, with whom she worked closely, not least on such works as Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, which brought strong memories of a concert at Bradford’s St George’s Hall flooding back. I went to the ‘sub’ concerts there with the Halle for several years in my teens and that one stands out. An emotional experience, topped by a visit backstage to meet Janet. She was so friendly, encouraging and open that this mid teens music fan was bowled over.

So, memories apart, what came out of the programme? The ability of music to speak to our innermost selves; the way music holds you in the present, the ‘now’, and removes for a time the stresses of painful memories or future related anxieties; the way our childhoods shape us; the importance of the arts; the power of a loving relationship; the joy and significance of collaborative working. And the importance of recognising our own worth and applying ourselves to the craft. An hour and a half well spent.

All of this seems timely as we start a new year, with projects in planning, new teams forming, and old friends to work with. I hope to take the lessons to heart!

And what are the projects for 2020? Currently, we have more performances of The Door (next is at the Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford on 7th February – https://www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk/production/the-door); more dinner theatre based on Blessed Assurance; mystery plays; a new treatment of Under Milk Wood; evenings of drama and music; poetry anthologies; talks to groups about Blessed Assurance, and much more. Enough to be going on with!

Tony Earnshaw

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