Thursday, March 13, 2008

All the Lonely People

"Eleanor Rigby" has to be one of my all-time favorite songs. It is on a Beatles album in my Cadillac's CD-changer and I must have listened to it hundreds of times in the car alone. Not many pieces of music keep on growing with each listening but this one does. I have even forgotten it is a "pop" song. I can listen to Kreisler the next minute and feel equally at home. Even the lyrics are incredibly potent and their message hasn't grown old in all these decades I've listened to the song. I even feel like I know Father Mackenzie, or a person just like him. I also love the "Yellow Submarine" which I have as a DVD, and "Eleanor Rigby" is the first real song in it. Our society and politicians would be wise to listen to the opening verse of "All the lonely people, where do they come from?" Our country is full of people like Eleanor, pictured here as a statue that the city of Liverpool put up. The denizens of that city seem to know when they have something culturally valuable, and also have the bravery of getting rid of parasitic people threatening their unique culture.

The loneliness of people brings to mind my wife Marjorie's sister Karen. She chose to become sort of a hermit and take care of her adopted son who at times had been at odds with law and society. A life-long smoker, she had been in poor health with COPD for some time. In January, soon after I posted my "Finale" essay, her son found her dead on the floor upon returning home after midnight. Among other hardships, losing both parents and two out of three siblings in a short time span would be a lot to take even for the strongest of us. Against my advice, my wife went to work feeling obligated to fulfill her duty for the pit band, and played a wrong note in a solo while tears were still flowing from her eyes. A couple weeks later a registered letter arrived from the pit band's conductor, pointing out the wrong note and accusing her of various other things, such as playing every solo in the 2,500+ hall "too loudly" and her standards not being up to the level of his "excellent orchestra". Now, we are talking about the same conductor who also directs a community orchestra and sorely lacks an ability to fix intonation in the winds and brass. At times the pitch can be hair-raising, at least during the few occasions I have agreed to sub in the pit. Dying can be dangerous to your family's health indeed. Needless to say my wife, a violinist of renown, has decided to put an end to dealing with such donkey's orifices. More details will follow on my blog in June. As I can testify from my own experience, there is life with nice people out there, but perhaps not in the place you are working.

The mail just brought a recording of the Jules Conus Violin Concerto among other great performances by Jascha Heifetz. Officially the disc is nowhere to be found and someone was asking over $100 for it on the web, probably thinking of cashing in on a hard-to-find item. To my delight, the reproduction of the recording had been reauthorized to and I had to pay only a tenth of the aforementioned greedy request. We do have the work on a LP vinyl, but I am not about to let a student borrow that. Interestingly, these also were two lonely people towards the end of their lives, both Conus and Heifetz. The composer couldn't hear his music performed in his native Soviet Union as he was Jewish and Stalin would have none of that; neither would many other Slavic anti-Semites, the Polish included. More on that will be discussed in a future entry. Heifetz was a victim of his own fame and also having the wrong kind of people around him. Like a lottery winner suddenly finding zillions of new friends, not to mention previously unknown relatives, the old master of the violin was also surrounded by people who wanted something out of the "friendship" for themselves. When Mr. Heifetz grew older and was no longer performing, or even teaching, there wasn't much anyone could benefit from. Those who stayed true to him did so because they cared and loved the man in spite of his less-than-perfect people skills.

I was up in the wee hours last night composing a letter to a dear student who is facing probably an imminent life-and-death issue in her family. I reminded her that her grandfather will be surrounded by a loving family and friends and that he will be remembered and cherished as long as these people live. Likewise, I know that if I were to die tomorrow, I have done well as a father and a husband, and that there even are numerous students that will remember me with kind and loving thoughts. It must be scary to be old and know that the Grim Reaper will soon call and have no one to turn to for comfort. That just might be the case for a Mr. Kerfuffle: he will drop dead kerplunk! Not even Kermit the Frog will take out his kerchief to wipe his non-existent amphibian tears.