Monday, 28 June 2010


Fuel for the travelling teacher

I am sitting in a Costa Coffee House in the borders of Scotland. I suspect that I could win at least a regional round of Mastermind, taking as my specialist subject 'The Free Wi Fi Coffee Houses on the Motorways of the UK'

This one is a favourite. It overlooks a small pond with a plethora of mallards each of whom are greatly enjoying the mutual admiration and attention from the coffee slurping and junk consuming public. One young male bird was palpitating with excitement when a small boy approached with a half eaten Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffin, and proceeded to hand feed him. It was a beak shakingly blissful moment for the glossy feathered sugar junkie.

Do ducks who live so close to us 'muffineers' suffer from obesity problems do you think ? Can a middle aged duck who adores Costa Cuisine have a Gastric Band fitted ? Some of these lesser known points of interest and inquiry may never be solved this side of the next few generations of Donald the Diabetic Duck and family !

I still have 250 miles to go, but it is all the pleasant driving up through the mountains and villages which mark my journey back to Paradise. I have cancelled all my teaching for today and tomorrow, so in the great scheme of things it was an expensive festival! However, I will teach on wednesday and then set off once more for my journey to the further most South of England coastline for my final festival of the year.

This year I have allowed myself 4 weeks off in the summer, which will be wonderful! Our Gilbert and Sullivan opera will be done and dusted by July 24th, and then I can stop feeling as if music fills my head, heart and ears 25 hours of every 24 hour day - back to blessed silence again!

One song has been going through my head since saturday, non stop, relentlessly, unendingly, (how many more words for infinity can I find!!), and that is is 'Das Verlassene Magdlein', by Hugo Wolf. It is a small gem, just two pages long, very slow and detailed - thus very hard to sustain. It means The Forlorn/Abandoned Maiden, and this is what Wolf himself had to say about it:

Three days after setting Eduard Mörike's Das verlassene Mägdlein (The Abandoned Maiden) on March 24, 1888, Hugo Wolf wrote to a friend in Vienna, "On Saturday I composed, without intending to do so, Das verlassene Mägdlein, already set to music by Schumann in a heavenly way. In spite of that I set to music the same poem, it happened almost against my will; but perhaps just because I allowed myself to be captured suddenly by the magic of this poem, something outstanding arose, and I believe that my composition may show itself beside Schumann's." It may indeed. The 26th setting of Mörike in five weeks, Das verlassene Mägdlein captures every nuance of the poem from the pre-dawn quiet and palpable sense of melancholy in the piano accompaniment to the aching grief of the soprano's melody that expresses all the sorrow of a woman foresaken by a faithless lover.

The reason it goes through my mind is not only the beauty of the music, but just how hard the young singer worked to achieve the sense of stillness and loss. What an enormous task, but my goodness she brought her own special brand of pathos to the song, and the hall was hauntingly hushed.

Well the coffee is drunk, the cake is eaten, the lbs are comfortably ensconced on some unsuspecting part of my anatomy, so I must depart. Thankfully the sun is now a memory and the rain is here !

I love rain, I love going home, I love Costa Coffee Free Wi Fi!

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