Monday, 27 February 2012

Barbara Thomson and Vivaldi

I've watched a couple of really inspirational films recently (thanks, Peter), both with a strong message from the world of music and both so completely different.  Barbara Thomson is one of the world's best improvising sax. players. Now in her late 60s, I used to hear her perform at the Bull pub in Barnes during the early 70s. Her husband is Jon Hiseman, a superb drummer still working with his old band, "Colosseum", as well as Barbara's outfit, "Paraphernalia". Barbara has Parkinson's disease and is fighting it hard. Seeing her perform under this terrible stress was spine-chillingly motivating. There is something about the sound she makes that would inspire anyone to listen to more and somehow get involved. I also respond to her crossover into rock and contemporary music - she composes for classical combos and choirs as well as working with Colosseum.

Vivaldi, the Red Priest, worked at the "Ospedale de la Pieta" (the Devout Hospital of Mercy) in Venice in the early 18th century.  This was a place for the rescue of unwanted female babies. The Pieta is still functioning today as a refuge for single parents. In those earlier days, mothers who couldn't cope would throw their "fatherless" babies under cover of darkness into the black waters of Venice - or post them anonymously through the Pieta's abandoned baby portal. Vivaldi was employed to teach the growing girls music. He taught them to play and to sing and he wrote music for them to perform. The result was astounding - brilliant soloists and choirs that performed like angels.

These two instances are separated cavernously by time, distance and circumstance but both demonstrate unequivocally how music can penetrate dire circumstances and then implant something good that leads to both pleasure and enlightenment.

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