Traveller's tales

Monday, September 25, 2006




Robert L Fielding

It was a warm summer's evening in August, and I was walking up Lothian Road in the heart of Edinburgh. My destination was the Usher Hall, a superb Victorian building, which on this particular night was the venue for a performance of the aptly named Symphony of a Thousand, The 8th Symphony by Gustav Mahler. As I was walking up towards the Usher Hall I started to think about the composer, Mahler, who had been a hugely sucessful conductor in Vienna many years earlier, before his untimely death. He must, I thought, have walked to many such magnificent halls in Vienna on just such lovely evenings as this one. Thinking about Mahler, and the music I was about to hear, I began to whistle the opening bars of the symphony as my pace quickened.
I whistled away, oblivious to the noise of the traffic, and perhaps my whistling grew louder in response to the hooting of car horns and the revving of engines. Suddenly, I heard a voice, a woman's voice at my side.
"He's whistling our tune," she said to someone behind me. I looked round to discover that I was surrounded by women in long gowns.
"Your tune?" I enquired.
"Yes" said another to my left, "we're singing here tonight," she said, pointing at the grand building in front of us; the Usher Hall.
These were some of the thousand performers about to take part in the musical evening.
They had surrounded me, and they told me that they had all come down from the Granite City, Aberdeen. I asked them if they had rehearsed it up there, the thousand performers.
"Oh no," another woman said, "we rehearsed our bit of it, and other groups in other cities, Perth, Dundee and Glasgow, they did the same, and last night we all rehearsed it together for the first time." The performance I was about to hear was only the second time that they had all sung and played together under one roof. They laughed gaily, and told me how nice it had been to meet the other performers for the first time last night, and they laughed again when I asked them how on Earth they had managed to rehearse only their own part of something so vast, so grand and so long. They couldn't really answer, but one of the women said, "You'll see." They said they had all thoroughly enjoyed taking part in something which had to be built up bit by bit, and put together in one live performance. They asked me where I came from, and I told them that I had travelled two hundred miles to hear the piece. They had travelled down from all over Scotland. We had come from all over Britain to be there, to take part in one glorious evening of live musical entertainment. Music really does bring people together.
Robert Leslie Fielding
I wrote this as an introduction to a booklet on music that I wrote for students listening to tapes and CDs of classical music in Bilkent University's amazing library.

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