The Healing Power of Mozart

Just over a year ago Svend McEwan-Brown, Director of the East Neuk Festival, was on a high when, together with Emma Dunton from 14-18 Now he stepped up to receive the RPS Music Award for Audiences and Engagement for the  wonderfully imaginative and far reaching Memorial Ground Project commissioned to celebrate The Centenary of the Battle of the Somme.

Svend-Schubert-Elie-BeachBut in planning his next festival he came up against a challenge far harder than any posed in previous years.  In September 2017 he suffered a major stroke.  On the eve of the 2018 festival he writes so movingly about how the magic of a Mozart String Trio brought him back to the world and determined to finish the planning for his festival with the tools he had to hand – a hospital bed, an iPhone and the use of one hand.

Tois to Svend and everyone in East Neuk for a fabulous festival this year – and please do read and share his beautiful piece on how music can make such an unexpected difference in people’s lives.

You might also want to download K568 – just in case…

Monday 4 September 2017 was a sunny, homey kind of a day; I did a little work, baked teacakes, gardened, watched some telly. Around 4.30, my left arm suddenly fell heavy and stiff. I could not lift my left foot from the ground. I knew enough to suspect that I was suffering a stroke. Weirdly, the symptoms abated enough for Roy, my husband, to drive me to A&E and for me to walk in under my own steam. A couple of hours later, things looked not so bad – perhaps it was just a scare. We were joking and persuading the medics not to keep me in overnight when the really serious stroke struck. “It’s happening now” I slurred, and saw the junior doctor’s face switch from jolly banter to urgent concern. Then he ran for support.

‘Stroke’ is such a tender word. The experience is oddly painless – things just suddenly stop working. I’ve never actually known anyone who suffered a stroke, never thought about them, and knowing so little made things all the scarier. Should I be saying goodbye to Roy as best I could? If I survived, what might I lose? Mobility, speech, or other bodily and brain functions? There was no telling how bad it might get.

Read the complete blog

East Neuk is a coastal area of Fife, Scotland and the Festival runs from 27 June – 1 July

Advertisements

Dive into the mind of a composer – Eugene Birman on his ‘Adagio’

Eugene Birman square.jpg

This Thursday, the Philharmonia Orchestra, in partnership with the Royal Philharmonic Society, presents the culmination of the 2017/18 Composers’ Academy. On the programme: three world premieres by outstanding winners of the RPS Composition Prizes: Eugene Birman, Freya Waley-Cohen and Austin Leung.

In the Philharmonia’s blog, composer Eugene Birman introduces his new piece, Adagio, and the inspirations behind his music.

So what is it about? That’s simple. I played the Barber Adagio as a teenager; it stuck with me, and not because it is such a ubiquitous thing. It’s because the music is genuine, it’s so expressive and urgent, and despite my aesthetic being a million miles away from Barber’s, I feel very close to it anyway. My Adagio, despite the sprinkles, has very little of Barber’s in it; it is more about the sensation of remembering something happy from my past. It sounds and feels like the firing of synapses in your brain as you reattach to something you love that you are on the verge of forgetting – and them, like a vivid memory, it comes back. Then the Barber really comes, and just as well, it’s all over. Forgotten!

Much later after I wrote it, I remembered a passage from Kundera’s oft-cited The Book of Laughter and Forgetting: “The young man looks into her eyes, he listens to her, and then tells her what she calls remembering is really something entirely different: Under a spell, she watches her forgetting”. This piece is kind of like that. If it would have had a long title, those extraneous, spare words have burnt off and left me with the most clear, most descriptive name possible. Adagio – what it literally means is (from Latin), something to be said.

Read the full post here.

Watch the free performance on Thursday 7 June at Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall.