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It was a very good year

June 17, 2013

The lovely Mrs simonsometimes says has just celebrated a birthday. It’s the first, in our extended family, of a flurry of birthdays over the next two months or so. Among the highlights:

  1. Gerard – my best man, responsible for me on many occasions when I was unable to be responsible for myself, and companion on a post-exam holiday which featured long hours in a North Devon pub with such classics as REO Speedwagon’s Keep on Loving You almost continuously on the jukebox. 
  2. Sister-in-law Maura is next up  (since it is now many years since Gran and Maggie died, who would otherwise have had candles to blow out at this time); Maura, who (I hope) cured me of most of my musical snobbery, and at various times introduced me to The Feeling (Sewn), the Zutons and Enrique Iglesias.
  3. Soon after Maura comes Chris – her husband and my brother – whose teenage record collection has had a lasting effect on my own taste, and who, rather out of left field, delighted me a couple of weeks ago by breaking into O’Rafferty’s Motor Car.
  4. Then Mum – half of the outfit responsible for the general pervasion of music in the household. I remember Mum taking part in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury staged by her college when she was training to be a teacher, in commemoration of which here is The Judge’s Song.
  5. And finally, other brother Richard – whose talent is extraordinary and the associations seemingly endless. I don’t need to contrive a connection here as this is the man himself performing a beautiful Haydn song with the mezzo Clare McCaldin.

I could add at least ten more, but hopefully you get the picture by now. They all occur in the next few weeks, and to them should be added one or two more notable occasions, starting with Fathers Day yesterday. OK, this is not unique to the sss’s, and stands accused of being nothing but a cynical commercial construct, but it nevertheless prompts in me a profound gratitude for family and in particular those terrific people of whom I am either father or son.

This merits a quick digression to Cat Stevens, for Father and Son, a skilful portrayal of the poignant relationships that can exist between parent and child. Now that I come to think of it, the device of the songwriter (or poet, or novelist for that matter) adopting the voice of the father  in order to give rueful expression to his own regrets is not particularly rare. Even Elvis managed it – the distraught father singing to his sleeping son in My Boy has always been a favourite of mine, though it is without doubt one of the least emotional songs on my ipod.

This would have been a good moment to link to Son of My Father, an early 70s hit by Chicory Tip, but I would rather give you their follow-up hit Good Grief Christina. Dating myself fairly precisely here, I remember them opening the show on a 1973 edition of Crackerjack – a far cry from the very modest surroundings in which I saw the remnants of the band playing a couple of years ago. It was a little deflating, when I think how much I loved them as pop stars, that the three-piece started their show as a two-piece because the bassist’s car had broken down on the way. When my long-anticipated conversation with them afterwards included giving the drummer directions back to the main road, the anti-climax was complete. I prefer to remember them as of old, rather than as old.

Back to fathers. From a different point on the spectrum is Verdi’s I due Foscari. From a passage in which a ruler wrestles with the judgment he must pass on his son, comes the trio Nel tuo paterno amplesso, helpfully translated by the multilingual god of the web as In a father’s embrace [my sorrow is stilled]. While this is a tremendous ensemble passage, it seems to me that the general level of angst expressed by the son, his father and his wife is played out more in the words than in the music. The son in question doesn’t sound too sorrowful, and the music is not really very stilling (I’m gambling on that as a verb). It’s almost as if Verdi thought to himself “I’ve got a cracking tune here, where shall I squeeze it in?”

Nestling in amongst all these celebrations is our wedding anniversary.

As this year is a milestone anniversary, we are going to have a bit of a gathering, and this has caused some discussion as to the music we would like and – more interestingly – the music that we most emphatically don’t want to hear. Mrs sss has a loathing for The Commodores Three Times a Lady – such that playing it could well have serious consequences. For me, Chris De Burgh’s Lady in Red is a warble too far: why anyone would wish it to be sung to them I cannot imagine. And since that word has arisen, Imagine had better stay off the playlist. You’ll understand that for reasons of self-preservation and personal integrity I have chosen not to link to those…

Ideally proceedings should start with something big. I imagine Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man announcing the arrival of Mr and Mrs sss. I toyed with the idea of using Emerson Lake and Palmer’s version, but when I listened to it again I decided that first, I didn’t like it very much; and secondly, that a 9 minute fanfare would test the patience of the assembled company beyond endurance, even for such an esteemed couple. But that’s about as far as I’ve got with the musical preparations, and it is in truth wool-gathering rather than firm planning as Mrs sss will no doubt have her own further views. Perhaps there will be more on the outcomes of these deliberations in future posts.

All in all, there’s a lot to remember, and I will certainly fall short in that regard. So many celebrations commemorating so many people, and events spreading over more than half a century. That is a lot of good stuff to be thankful for, when I remember to stop and think about it. In honour of them all I can say for certain that It was a Very Good Year.

Whenever it was.

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4 Comments
  1. Mike Truman permalink

    CRACKERJACK!!!

    (Well, someone had to…)

  2. fiona permalink

    this was deep and nice and cat stevens is gr8 xxxxxxxxxxx

  3. I’m being followed by a moon shadow,

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