It is a rare for a classical orchestra to get a standing ovation, it is a very special event that has three encores, each with a standing ovation, but this was precisely what maestro Phillip Walsh achieved in the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valetta on the 30th march 2014 .
The event was a concert of the Music of Queen, featuring video, images and stories about Freddy Mercury. If you read my book you will know Freddy is my performance icon, his attitude and dedication to the audience, his warm up entrainment sessions, getting everyone aroused and expectant for the music to come is a lesson for all classical musicians !
His magic lives on, because 1000 happy fans stood and clapped and sang the music of Queen for nearly two hours.
Therapy on a massive scale, delivered by a great musician conducting a good orchestra.
Imagine my surprise less than 24 hours later in the Anglican Pro-Cathedral of St Pauls, to hear on the ethereal tones of the newly restored 18th century organ, Haydn’s Concerto in C major for 2 Violins, Cello and Organ, and to see at the organ , the same Phillip Walsh.
Only one thing to say: MUSICIAN a man who loves his music.
Press releases, sales website, author’s first copies of the book, publicity materials, its a lot of stuff, but apart for the e-book version I can say publication day has happened and friends have purchased copies.
I was away in Malta for the last week when the press releases were made but before I left I was interviewed for CARE4MS an MS internet magazine in Netherlands and also for book advert in the May edition of the Dutch Journal of Neurology. Erma van Zanten the journalist was interested in how my active life fits with my MS condition, I put it another way, MS has difficulty getting into my busy life, especially now as I have 2 rehab sessions a week.
Having finished the book and prepared a musical presentation to give for the first time in Malta, I have become aware that much I wrote in the book, has direct application to life. In my rehabilitation I was struggling with exercises until I visualized them, now I get great fun from being one of Matthew Bourne’s Cygnets, yes music and images support the motor system.
The more powerful the association, the more fun the exercises.
I have also realised that my walking and balance difficulties from MS seem to be about different timing of neural messages to left and right legs. This directly relates to my understanding that the real magic of the brain and music is how the brain senses time and how many conditions that have sensory timing malfunctions benefit from rhythmic timing with music.
This is all a bit heavy – I promise the next Blog about Malta and a Queen tribute concert by MPO will be more fun!
I have been convinced for many years that piano performance has changed from the style of its glory days in the early 20th Century, to that of the brilliant perfectionists of the keyboard that so impress us today. When I heard a recording from 1895 of a forgotten pianist called Paul Pabst I realised just how much has changed and how much we have lost..
This realization coincided with my diagnosis of MS and my first reaction was to try an emulate this forgotten genius, I recorded his piano paraphrases of Tchaikovsky Operas, his piano Concerto in E -flat and his beautiful Piano Trio for his lifelong friend Anton Rubinstein. I climbed these mountains of notes just to prove I was not giving in to my MS.
However, I soon found a better way to use my music to fight MS. I started to play for awareness and fundraising and gradually became more involved in the world of the neurological societies and associations, this eventually led to the European Brain Council.
A chance remark that the Council had not featured music in its brain awareness activities resulted in my commitment to “do something”. The “something” is my book, which grew from interest through fascination to obsession! The brain is truly remarkable and my journey of discovery has left me with a new teaching method and a template for performance that gives pleasure to both pianist and the audience.
Trying to classify and connect over one thousand scientific papers into a simple, logical, functional musical pathway through the brain was a huge challenge. Now I have finished, the biggest compliment I get is “Oh I knew that ” or “is it that simple”, because at one level it is hugely complex and it will take years to map the precise location and biochemical processes that allow our brains to function musically, but at another, the functional level we simply witness the effect of music. So by concentrating on the elements and individual attributes of music and the brains identified functions, I have discovered how to Play the Pathways of my Brain.