In a more extended 'captivating moment',
PETER DALE discovers one of the truly great living musicians
Persuaded that I 'really ought to see Riverdance. You like Ireland. You'll
love this ...' I duly joined a party of friends for the show at the Hammersmith
Odeon two or three years ago. I'd read about Michael Flatley's ego in all
the newspapers, and that didn't bode well for my enjoyment. Nor did the
press of people on the trains, the noise and the dirt -- all those things
that argue against the country mouse in me whenever I have to go up to London
and make me make those occasions as infrequent as I reasonably can.
The show was good. The astonishing energy of all that dancing,
the cleverness of the lighting, even Michael Flattley's self-importance
-- it was an engaging experience. But somewhere in the middle of it (I can't
recall exactly where or why. There was really no plot or structure to the
evening as far as I could see) almost all the lights went down to reveal
just one seated figure. He began to play his Irish Pipes. It was a lament,
a Slow Air. I don't know which. It seemed as if it wasn't so much a piece
of music (still less a 'performance') as the very essence of music itself.
Like folk music, it was anonymous, but it seemed to be speaking for us all,
and because it was such a timeless instrument and one, moreover, with a
particularly haunting sound, you felt as if it was playing not just in the
here and now, but for everyone: the living, the dead, even the unborn.
It moved me then almost more than I could bear.
The player (I learnt later) was Davy Spillane, but he came and went as
anonymously as his music, and suddenly the show erupted all over again around
him, and that was that.
I know now that we ought to reckon him one of the truly great living
musicians -- whether he is playing flute, pipes or guitar; whether he is
filling a concert hall, making a record, or jamming in a pub, his music
makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
At any rate, for a few minutes and in that pretty unlikely place, I felt
as if I had been reconnected to the very roots of myself, to the atavistic
thrill of music -- its appalling beauty, its dangerous subversion of complacency
and certainty, and then, once again, to why music matters so much.
Copyright © 1 February 2001
Peter Dale, Danbury, Essex, UK
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