A few years ago I attended a public interview with Ennio Morrricone, the renowned Italian film music composer. I am a huge Morricone fan. For me he has composed some of the most beautiful music ever heard. The soundtracks for ‘Once upon a time in America’, ‘The Mission’ and ‘Cinema Paradiso’ are my personal favourites.
When it seemed the interview was over, the great man spoke briefly to his translator. She turned to the audience and said that the Maestro would like to say one more thing: the music is there to take you to a place that is not there. The definitive definition. Music is magic.
I took early retirement from my employment with Dublin City Council some years ago. The first half of my career was office work, the second half involved working with homeless people. I loved my time in Homeless Services; however, I eventually ran out of steam there, started to feel that my fire needed a bit of fresh fuel from a different source and that I needed a new challenge. So I quit.
I exercised my right to retire early on medical grounds due to diminishing eyesight.
I was 46.
A bit young to call it a day, I hear you cry and I too questioned the wisdom of my decision many times. After an initial honeymoon period where everything seemed close to bliss, I then settled down to the stark reality of rebuilding my life without a job at the core.
There were some dark times. Times when motivation levels were less than ideal. I had some ideas for my rebuilding project but nothing set in stone. As things unfolded, there were definitely times when it seemed the stones were rolling a bit too much. All very well for Mick, Keith and the lads. I’m more of a Fab Four man myself.
Then I found music. I had long been a buyer of vinyl albums and then cds, and a regular concert goer; however, I had never made a concerted effort to learn how to play an instrument.
On foot of being a regular attendee at the jazz gigs in JJ Smyths of Aungier Street I decided to try my hand at alto saxophone. With the assistance of my teacher Gavin I made some progress. After a year or so on the sax I decided to try my hand at the clarinet. For a while, I played both but then settled on the softer tone of the clarinet.
One of my favourite pieces of music is a classical guitar ditty called ‘Cavatina’. It features in the film ‘The Deer Hunter’. This prompted me to take a stroll down Guitar Road. Or rather attempt to climb Guitar Everest. Classical guitar is demanding and progress is slow. My teacher Pat is a patient man.
I started attending and organising music sessions in which musicians of all abilities were welcome to play or sing a piece. I began to see the benefits of what I was doing with my time. Music works on many levels. It is therapeutic, it brings people together, it’s a never ending learning curve.
A thought occurred to me – if music works this well for me then surely it can be beneficial to other vision impaired and blind people.
Four years ago, I co-founded a music school for blind and vision impaired people. I am happy to say the school is still in existence, provides tuition in guitar, piano, harmonica, clarinet and tin whistle, and also has a choir.
My involvement with the school prompted me to tinkle the ivories with resident tutor John, and I am now the proud possessor of a full size electronic keyboard. Along with the encouragement of a good friend, the school also got me started on harmonica. Maestro Michael is my harmonica guiding light.
So there you have it. My musical life. A four pronged attack. I’m coming at it from all corners. Slowly but surely I’m climbing the Musical Mountain.
Carnegie Hall gets closer by the day!