From Blindingham Hall: is music best when it’s live?

From the blog of Blindingham Hall, jointly written by Catherine Rose and me… I recommend reading from the beginning…

Letters the Eleventh and Twelfth:
From Rogers to Lady Effingham; and from Lady Effingham to Rogers

Dear Lady Effingham,

I am sorry to hear of your illness, but I hope I can humbly offer my best wishes as you recover. That’s a nasty thing to happen, I said to myself. I remember when Vauxhall the chauffeur had a nasty happening that put both his wrists in plaster. He got very grumpy, especially because every day Daisy would ask him ‘are you not feeling yourself?’ and then burst out laughing. Daisy has such a strange sense of humour.

Forgive my boldness, but I have taken to asking Helga about your health. You are lucky indeed to have so caring a lady’s-maid. I don’t understand why there is so much leather in her linen basket, and I’ve never known anyone else to squeak when they sit down, but she has a heart of gold.

You will be aware that I and the other gardeners have been rushed off our feet during the recent storms. Some of the ornamental features were submerged after a particularly heavy night! I asked Mr Dawson if he had ever known such a thorough lashing or whether the grotto had ever taken such a battering before, and he was clearly emotional about the whole experience – I think I saw a tear spring to his eye.

We have been so busy that I have not been able to go to any concerts recently, and I really must start again. I did hear a piece of music on the radio that made me eager to get back into the concert hall, a piece that I assume was all about salt, mustard, vinegar and pepper. It also had a female composer, I think, which is rare, isn’t it? The Four Seasonings, I think it was called, by Viv Aldi. I wonder why she chose Viv, and not Vivianne. I like a bit of formality, really, don’t you?

So, Lady Effingham, I’m sure you’ll be really proud of me – I hoisted my dander, screwed up my pluck, took my pride in both hands and… I asked Daisy to go to a concert with me! Are you impressed with my hardihood?

But she said no, there was no point in going to a concert when you could listen to the same music on a CD.

So is she right, Lady Effingham? What’s the point of spending all that time and money when you could sit at home in the warmth with your 12 inch woofers? And can you suggest a piece of music that would convince her that it’s worthwhile?

I must get back to the flooded fields – there is much to do. I told Helga that it was so difficult being a gardener in this weather, not knowing how many inches you were going to get, or how long it was going to last. She said I should try being a woman. That made no sense to me; perhaps it means something different in German.

Yours truly, with best wishes for your recovery,



Dear Rogers,

I’m so glad you value Helga, my faithful Rhinemaiden handmaiden (as I like to call her) as much as I do. Interestingly, she too is a fan of classical music, although she has rather unusual tastes, being particularly keen on Stockhausen. I believe she knew him quite well at one stage but unfortunately they split over artistic differences concerning the dialectic between the experimental, the avant-garde and the directionless temporal field. There was also an altercation involving knicker elastic and Lederhosen which I still haven’t got to the bottom of (and nor, apparently, did he).

Her Teutonic refusal to compromise brought her into conflict at her next job, with the recording company Deutsche Grammophon, where she was a trainee technician. She took rather too literally the producer’s suggestion where to stick the microphone while Julian Lloyd Webber was recording the Archduke Trio, and I understand the matter is still going through the courts. Her skill in all things electrical is a constant source of comfort for me, as many of my leisure pursuits require things technological. Hard-wiring is so much more satisfying than unreliable batteries. I refer, of course, to my audio set-up and my 12 inch woofers.

Viv Aldi, to whom you refer, is no lady, but a flame-haired priest, Antonio Vivaldi. He wrote a lot of music for an orchestra of charming young ladies back in 18th century Venice. The matter of female composers, and why there seem to be so few, is an avenue for future exploration.

But I am delaying addressing the most important point that you raise – that of persuading Daisy of the value of attending a live concert. I have to say I have always felt that one of the thrills of live music is the transmission of passionate energy directly from the musician to the seat of the listener – an effect always enhanced by sitting near the double bass section. The physical involvement of the players is also a visual thrill, and it can be hard to avoid swaying with the violins or hugging the person next to you in the manner of a cellist embracing her instrument.

However, Daisy may well not yet be ready for you to embrace her instrument, so I would confine yourself to taking her to hear a rapturously romantic programme. Emphasise that you are paying, so she is taking no risk with her money – you would be surprised how effective this is as a persuader. I thoroughly recommend a piece of music that ‘tells a story’, to help engage with the music on stage.

Take her, for example, to hear Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherezade – a wild and wonderful journey through the Thousand and One Nights, with plentiful drama and colourful orchestration (by which I mean which instruments play which bits, not how well the concert is organised). The final movement, in which a ship is wrecked upon the rocks, should be persuasive for even the most disinterested, with its strident brass fanfares, its thundering and driving percussion, and tempestuous wind and string writing. As the music calms in the final few moments, all will feel right with the world for a glorious few seconds and Daisy herself might sigh contentedly.

Should you wish to talk about the music, do not press her for an answer; should you find yourself saying ‘Daisy, Daisy, give me an answer, do’, I think the pleasantness of the evening will be brought to a swift halt. Good luck! I trust your passion will overcome her disinclination in whatever field you choose to pursue.

Should you wish for further advice on how to persuade a reluctant woman, please do come and find me in my boudoir at any time. Wednesday afternoons are currently free.

Yours ever, Lady Effingham


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