SUNDRY TALENTS ...
... or the importance of laughter.
Celebrating his ninetieth birthday today,
Wilfrid Mellers talks to KEITH BRAMICH
Despite what must be an irritating loss of short-term memory and some problems walking, neither of which you would probably notice if you met him, Emeritus Professor Wilfrid Mellers, ninety today, is essentially fit and well, retains an active mind, a gloriously undiminished sense of fun, and, above all, is an endearingly nice person.
Curious to meet the man who might just possibly be the greatest living writer on classical music -- apparently my Editor, Basil Ramsey, another of today's birthday boys, is not alone in thinking this -- and wanting to give something back to the writer who devoted hours of his time to produce many tens of fascinating articles in the early days of Music & Vision, I visited York (UK) to meet the man whose all-embracing view of music predicted its current multiculturalism.
The city of York. Photo © 2004 Keith Bramich
First of all, I asked him: why music? What was it about his childhood that made him launch into a dual career as creator of both sounds and words?
'Oh, absolutely nothing. I'm a lower middle class lad with nothing cultural
or whatever in my background. My father was an elementary schoolteacher, but that doesn't imply
culture with a capital C, as you know.
My mother was an orphan who had no education at all, but was a most
remarkable woman. I say that now, but I was very fond of her. I was an only
son, perhaps that's it?
And we laughed a great deal, and I think that's the most important thing in human
relationships. And she was intelligent enough to laugh at my jokes, which,
as I got older, became more sophisticated.
'I suppose it could only be "God" that started me off ...
I had musical talents, and yes, I began to compose about the age of eight.
It couldn't have been my parents or anything to do with them.
'It was a history teacher at my school who discovered me, and it was
through him that I began to take myself seriously.
So really he was responsible for my entire life.
Copyright © 26 April 2004
Keith Bramich, Worcestershire UK