Old folk at lunch

Sunday, April 20, 1997

A Moment in Time



It is surprising how simple the causes of great pleasures can be. One such occasion for me was when I was listening to a classical music programme -- the Margaret Throsby show -- on ABC radio on the morning of 17.4.97. I normally hate that programme because the music is chosen by an interviewee and there is usually a lot of inane chat interrupting the music.

On this occasion, however, my car radio was tuned to the ABC classical music station when I got into it so I just kept the station on, not really listening. Soon however, she put on Chopin's military Polonaise, which has always been a favourite of mine despite the fact that I am not a big fan of the piano. So I stopped and listened to that. Then she put on Paul Robeson singing "Old Man River" and I defy anyone not to be moved by that.

Then she started talking to her interviewee, who turned out to be Dr. Peter Doherty, 1996 Nobel Prize Winner for Medicine, an Australian and a graduate of my old alma mater -- The University of Queensland: Quite a change from the nonentities she usually interviews.

One of the things she asked him was did he enjoy being a Nobel Prize winner. He replied that he found it a great opportunity to promote the spirit of rational enquiry. That reply practically reduced me to tears. I hear so much from average people of all the so-called "alternative" and "spiritual" nonsense that they believe, that to hear a person speaking up for rationality and serious enquiry was such an enormous pleasure that it almost reduced me to tears.

So when she next put on Cherubino's song from Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro", the tears really started to flow down my cheeks at the beauty of it. Then finally she put on the first movement of Elgar's first symphony. I have always been much moved by Elgar's more wistful music (e.g. "Nimrod" from the "Enigma variations" and "Where Corals lie" from the "Sea Pictures") but I did not at that stage know the first symphony.

Peter Doherty said in introducing the work that classical music was the only sort that moved him deeply and that this Elgar work always "froze" him with its beauty. It didn't quite "freeze" me but it was the wistful sort of Elgar that I greatly like so the beauty certainly did get to me in my own way: The tears of joy flowed again.

I have always however been remarkably responsive to classical music. I sometimes think that my deepest and strongest emotions are reserved for music rather than for human relationships. Jill once said something like that about me too.