Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Matrilineal Monday: My mother and music

"Toreador, don't spit upon the floor. Use the cuspidor - that's what it's for!" - this is the song that I can hear my mother singing with great gusto; her bravura piece, if there ever was one.  And she didn't even need a glass of sherry to spur her on (although it often helped).  Bizet's Carmen - what an introduction to the opera.

She also sang to me about scarlet ribbons:

I peeked in to say good-night
And there I heard my child in prayer
"And for me, some scarlet ribbons
Scarlet ribbons for my hair"

All our town was closed and shuttered
All the streets were dark and bare
In our town, no scarlet ribbons
Scarlet ribbons for her hair

Through the night my heart was aching
Just before the dawn was breaking
In our town, no scarlet ribbons
Scarlet ribbons for her hair

I peeked in and on her bed
In gay profusion lying there
Lovely ribbons, scarlet ribbons
Scarlet ribbons for her hair

If I live to be a hundred
I will never know from where
Came those lovely scarlet ribbons
Scarlet ribbons for her hair

She introduced me to true pathos in a song.
And she taught me how to sing harmony with "Starlight Serenade".

In our house, there was always music. The radio was on, or the red-and-white Dansette; my parents had LPs by the Ink Spots, Bing Crosby, and Julie Andrews (what a mix!). Just like reading, my mother always encouraged me to listen to anything and everything, so I grew up listening to Johann Sebastian Bach as well as Brook Benton.
What a wonderful start to a life.

Later, when I was 10 and learning the piano, my party piece was Beethoven's "Fur Elise".  I practised that piece over and over until it drove my mother half-crazy.  Then, when I grew up, I bought her a Mother's Day card one year which played "Fur Elise" when you opened it.  I did it just for a sarcastic laugh - but she loved that card and brought it out year after year...

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