angel with trumpets
An angel musician on the Konzerthaus, Berlin.

The Wigmore Hall started concerts with audiences on 13 September 2020 and we put our names down for tickets for two concerts in the first week. We got tickets for the concert on 16 September, and were also phoned and asked if we’d like to come to a trial run concert on 12 September. Christian Gerhaher and accompanist Gerold Huber had agreed to give a cut-down programme and it seemed that Wigmore Hall were taking the opportunity to test their systems. So we went along – it might have only been a 40 minute concert, but it was wonderful to hear live music in a venue that’s familiar. And you know, 56 people can make quite a sound clapping. To be honest, I could listen to Gerhaher singing the telephone directory, so it was a perfect for me. The concert on 16 September was Dame Sarah Connolly accompanied by Malcolm Martineau – it went out on R3. I wasn’t familiar with anything in her programme except the Mahler, and it is good to listen to something new and beautiful.

But this isn’t a review of the concerts, marvellous as they were, it’s more of an explanation of how I get some of the ideas for my writing. I find that listening to music often frees my mind of daily preoccupations (and as someone with advanced cancer, there’s a lot of those, without the added excitement of Covid) and enables me to plan a story line or sparks an idea or teases out a writing problem. I have music playing when I’m cooking or doing the ironing and between the active movements and the soundscape I sometime manage to lose both the action and sound and see my way for the next bit of writing. I’m sure many writers do this – losing self in action or sound to create something. But does it mean that the music is just a white noise, blotting out distraction? Or is it that the music pulls you into a more receptive imaginative state? Either way it works, at least for me.

I must add that I don’t always listen to music as either background or inspiration source. Sometimes I want to hear familiar sound or try a new performer / conductor / interpreter of a familiar piece; sometimes I want a challenge or to listen to something new to me. Music has been a huge part of my life – I started in a church choir at the age of seven, was in amateur stage musicals at twelve, fell in love with Wagner in my teens, have an abiding love of requiems. Pre-covid and cancer I chased esoteric production of Wagner around Europe. Now I only too grateful for my iPod.

Back to Dame Sarah singing Poulenc at the Wigmore Hall. Listening to her singing Poulenc, I worked out the ending for my next tale of the Monsalvat twins. Tentatively called Goodly Company: The Philaeni Brothers, it is the story of the founding of Carthage conflated with that of the establishment of the boundary line between Carthage and Cyrene. I needed to find a way of extricating the boys from being buried alive, and I think I have found it. Now to get writing!

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