In Crete, despite the face masks and near deserted streets and beaches, it was possible to shut out a certain awareness of our current situation.
The absence of constant media intrusion determined to present a negative and pessimistic view was thankfully absent.
After all, there were no glaring headlines on the White Mountains visible from our balcony. No fear-spreading in the clear early morning light or in the glorious mid evening sunsets. It was easy to think that other horizons existed, that the word ‘virus’ was not the only one of importance in everyone’s vocabulary.
Yet back in England with TODAY on Radio 4 in the background and I am instantly pulled down again into an existence where fear, suspicion and distrust appear to be considered the only appropriate response. What if? seems to punctuate every question interviewers put to people so that after a few minutes of listening it seems pointless even to get out of bed to attempt a semblance of normal living. Layers and layers of doubt and anxiety are sewn minute by minute by the broadcasters until a morose mood has successfully settled into the seams and very fabric of the house – and even the cats are looking bleak.
But no more!
This morning I reached for the button and slickly removed those foretellers of doom – i.e. the media – from the place and replaced them with the delights of SPOTIFY.
And not just any random SPOTIFY offering, but the tracks I return to again and again.
No, not the heady heights of no doubt worthy classics and concertos nor the esoteric thrills of symphonies and sonatas.
But to the world of musicals.
To feed my incurable obsession, indulgence and addiction to the art form.
In Noel Coward’s Private Lives the character of Amanda remarks on how extraordinarily potent cheap music is. Coward, a prolific composer and lyricist as well as dramatist, of course, was known to despise Mozart, calling his music ‘like piddling on a flannel’ and once had a long conversation with Sibelius thinking he was talking to Delius. Yet he wrote some of the most beautiful melodies and lyrics that have endured for close on a century despite such disregard for ‘serious music.’
And for me, potent is the perfect word to describe both the music and the lyrics of my beloved musicals.
So my Radio 4 replacement for Today began this morning with South Pacific.
And within moments I was hitting the notes – well, maybe not quite ‘hitting’ them, more making a pot-shot that fell far short -alongside the cast of a wonderful Broadway revival production and marvelling at that potent music and soul-searing lyrics.
I mean, who can resist?
Born on the opposite sides of the sea …and yet you want to marry me … I do
You may see a stranger across a crowded room …and somehow you know, you know even then …Who can explain it, who can tell you why
This nearly was mine
Romantic, poetic, poignant and utterly perfect. (at least to me)
I moved on.
Not content with one musical interlude to lighten my morning I found Robert and Elizabeth – a far less well-known or impressive musical in many ways, but nevertheless one that harbours a song that I only start to listen to before weeping copious tears. It means everything to me.
I know now …
why there is music in the air to listen to …when all the world is fine and fair …
why there are ripples in a stream …the dream is you …your shelter from the storm …
…as I love you …
Who can resist?
I can’t. Just as I couldn’t this morning when, leaving Robert Browning behind in Wimpole Street pursuing Elizabeth Barrett, I had to move onto the court of Camelot – or rather back – in order to find Frederick Loewe’s wonderful If Ever I would Leave You.
I mean – No, never could I leave you at all …
how could it be in Springtime …
I am bewitched by you so …
Only in musicals do people say things like that – sadly.
Not yet satiated, I moved on to one of my favourite and possibly less well known songs from The Sound of Music to hear those lyrics with positively Shakespearian echoes.
nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could …
I must have done something good …
There must have been a moment of truth.
And then, just in order to bring things a little up to date, I allowed myself several tracks of the musical I have been playing virtually daily since I saw it for the first time in New York in September 2015 – (2 more visits to the London production have followed since.)
And of all the extraordinary songs covering such a range of styles I always return to the one that, for me, possesses some of the truest yet most succinct of words and lyrics that say it all. In It’s Quiet Uptown I am always overwhelmed by :
There are moments that the words don’t reach …we push away the unimaginable ..Forgiveness, can you imagine?
You hold your child as tight as you can …
the moments when you are in so deep ….
and learn to live with the unimaginable …
And matched, of course, with the most perfect of scores.
For me, the great lyricists are true poets – if you think of poetry as capturing the essence of an emotion and an experience, crystallizing them into a few words, into a precise phrase or image.
So think about it. Because the choice can be yours.
TODAY programme on Radio 4 with acerbic, provocative questioning leading listeners only to a sense of hopelessness as if we are all travelling down a long and very dark tunnel that terminates in an unforgiving brick wall or ….
The world of the musicals.
I know what’s going to sustain my early mornings in future.
If I can’t have Cretan cicadas and soaring buzzards and lemons picked fresh from the lemon tree for my morning tea, I’ll choose Spotify’s consoling and uplifting accompaniment.
Bring it on.
Beats the media any day.