The food of love

For 70 years my life has played out to a background of music and now just a few bars of a song or an instrumental can bring memories flooding back.

Today’s unfortunate news does mean that for a while certain songs will not have the same happy memories that others do.

Of course I’m talking about the death of Little Richard. You may not approve of his morals but at the end of the day you have to admit he could shake the house when he rattled the ivories.

RIP Little Richard.

Back on track the musical link came to mind recently when I watched a BBC recording from Glyndebourne of Mozart’s Magic Flute.

My mother was a fan of classical music and I had been raised on Mozart, Saint-Saens, Debussy, Bach and more. Those were not the memories evoked by this production, however.

Instead I was taken back to a performance of the opera at Rhyl Grammar School in the 1960s and the entrance of Papageno, the bird-catcher, as played by my friend Louis Parker.

Nathan Gunn as Papageno in a Met Opera production if Wolfgang Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

The part suited Louis down to the ground, for Papageno was a wily, merry soul whose spirit longed to be as free as the birds – even though he took that freedom from them.

Louis was also a free spirit who was unfortunately taken too soon.

Most of the music in my early days at home consisted of classical music on 78s along with the occasional big band sounds of the 30s and 40s played on our radiogram, a large piece of furniture which housed the radio and a gramophone and had been part of the household since before I was born.

The day came, however, when my parents decided to embrace the new form of music in vinyl instead of shellac.

Out went the radiogram, with its special smell of hot valves, and in came the Dansette. A portable record player which could play 45s and LPs.

The first record mum bought to go with it was the Beatles Love Me Do and every time I hear it I am whisked back to the living room in in our Water Street home – dancing to the Liverpool Sound with my mum.

Of course it wasn’t long before my brother and sister also started buying records which meant my repertoire of music took in The Walker Brothers courtesy of Nigel and The Animals courtesy of Jacqueline.

Maybe it was the variety of music I was subjected to made my own taste eclectic.

I can just as happily listen to Buddy Holly and Elvis as I can to Benny Goodman or Bix Beiderbecke.

The first record I bought, however, was Wild Thing by the Troggs and they have always held a special place in my pantheon of music.

From that time on I bought every record of this Andover band and although some of the albums were lost on our travels I still have those singles.

The Troggs who formulated their sound in a garage in Andover in the 60s – an early exponent of what is now called garage music or even garage punk.

A completely different experience comes to my mind when I hear the Swans theme from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. The difference here is that it transports me not to one place but two – both in Russia.

Almost 20 years ago I accompanied my daughter Jacqueline to Russia. A place I had long wanted to visit. At the time I really just wanted to stand in Red Square and see Lenin in his tomb.

As it happens my two favourite places are now The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg.

We had the thrill of watching the two most famous ballet companies in the world in two different interpretations of the tale of Odette and Odille the white swan and the black.

The music had always been of interest but that trip gave me my enduring love of the ballet. Since then Jacqueline and I have seen other performances by some of the UK’s finest companies. Including Ballet Cymru.

Another piece of music can whisk me to a completely different theatrical experience.

“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight
We’re happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland

Yes, it’s pantomime time again because that will always bring up a vision of the Rhyl Little Theatre stage as the lights go up for the transformation scene from a dark wood or a desert island to a fairyland winter grotto.

This is where the principal boy and girl are no longer the stars as the chorus and principal dancers whisk us off to a wonderland of snowball fights, Santa Claus and good fairies.

Then there is the song that no matter where I have been in the world will take me back to my favourite place.

The song is Myfanwy.

The place is Wales.

Next time: During the lockdown my mind is skipping around all over the place so we could find ourselves on Rhyl promenade or on top of Snowdon.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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