20 September 2008


"John, do you think you could help out with the University Orchestra spring concert this year, as you did last year?"? And the music includes Dvoƙak's 9th (yes, it used to be called the 5th) symphony: "From the New World." Even if we were not going to be playing this at our December concert, I do not think I could have resisted. So here I am again doing seven evening and two week-end rehearsals - well, and here is Susan having to drive up those seven evenings to pick me up :-) It is a little odd, sitting amongst all these persons whose average age must be about 19 or 20 - odd, perhaps, most of all because it does not feel odd. Why are they here? Almost all of these people are majoring in music. Some will, I suppose, hope to work in music one day - but it's not much of a life. In terms of career-savvy, if you wanted to work in music, I wouldn't recommend a music major. Rather, do the 'grades' that my daughters Helen and Adele did; get your licentiate (from Trinity, perhaps, or Royal) - and get a degree in Education. Now you can teach in the schools at full salary. Certainly a select few will make it full-time as performers, but it's a hard go, chancy, poorly paid - and very unfriendly to anyone who wants to marry and have a family. I know quite a few serious musicians in the Manukau Orchestra who, nevertheless, major in Law, or Engineering, or something else that will feed them, and intend to reserve their music as an avocation. Then the break is over and we play again, and I know why they are here. Once you are caught, once you have that - whatever it is! - but that in your soul, you will play. You will play when you can. You will spend money and time that will bring you no worldly profit to play. If you are 66 years old, and not in the best of financial shape by any manner of means, nevertheless, you will spend the money and time necessarily to go to rehearsals; you will sweet-talk your wife into supporting you, though she herself does not play music; you will do quite a lot ... to play. As we thunder through to the tremendous end of the last movement, I am no longer even thinking of the people, even of the music itself. I am just taken up into it. At the best of times the sixty or so of us become the music. That is why we are here.


Triple J said...

My father and I may not see eye to eye on alot of things but one thing I will be forever grateful is that he passed onto me is bottomless passion for life and for the things that you believe in. Having conviction about things is never and will never be as fulfilling as having a passion about that same thing. Easy said but you have to feel in your heart to understand what that means.

John from Canada said...

There is much more to living than earning a living. There are many more worthwhile things to do than will pay well: playing great music in an orchestra is clearly, for you, one of them. We all vary in our circumstances and ability to pursue things that do not pay, but I am glad, John, that you are able to pursue this one. You seem glad too, and that, I think, is as it should be.

John Thayer Jensen said...

I played music from maybe 6 or 7 years old until I finished my second year at University - then had to quit as I never owned my own horn and when I quit the orchestra, they seemed to want theirs back :-)

Over the ensuing 27 years I messed about with classical guitar a bit, but it never really stuck. Orchestral is what does it for me. There is almost something mystical about the unity-in-diversity that orchestral playing sometimes achieves.

In August, 1989 Susan was chatting with the violin tutor at the music school my kids attended, and commented to him that her husband used to play the horn. "Oh!" he said, "well our orchestra has a spare horn and no one to play it. He should come try it."

Yeah, right! About 27 years too late, mate!

But - well - gee, it would certainly be nostalgic fun to have a blow, after all that time.

The first concert I played was in early 1990. I cannot possibly express what it has meant to me, what a gift of joy that God has given me, in letting me play the horn again, after so many years.

John from Canada said...

You stopped playing for lack of a horn, and began playing again on account of an extra one? Evidently you are playing at the behest of Providence. Thank you for sharing that story - an unusual and a happy one.