Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Musical Interlude

I am quite excited this morning as later today I am going to Macau to listen to a concert to be given by Angela Hewitt. Angela Hewitt is a well-known pianist who, at present, is on a world tour playing Bach. Her playing of Bach has met with great critical acclaim. She is back in Hong Kong in the Autumn, so I am hoping to catch her again then!

When I came here in 2000, Macau was a relatively small, quiet community, which had formerly been a Portuguese colony. Its transformation in recent years has been incredible. It is often described as an ‘Asian Las Vegas’. This description itself shows how people in the West still have not woken up to what is happening out here and in India. Last year, Macau took more money in gambling than did Las Vegas. Perhaps the time is coming when Las Vegas will be described as an American Macau!

Hotel and Casino building has been phenomenal. As in Las Vegas, the big hotels all invite well-known performers. Celine Dion has been here and many others will follow. Thankfully, Angela Hewitt’s concert will be in the Government’s Cultural Centre not as grand, admittedly, but with perhaps some more integrity. She certainly has more talent than most of the celebrities that will pass through Macau as bait to punters to throw away their money with each throw of the dice!

One famous Las Vegas performer was Frank Sinatra who famously sang of how he did it ‘my way’. In his song, he sang, ‘regrets I’ve had a few, but there again, too few to mention’. I often think of this line. I’ve heard many people quote it of themselves. Personally, as I get older, the more regrets I find I have: some serious, some less so. (Perhaps they may make a blog series in the future or would that be too depressing?)

One regret I certainly have, one of the less serious ones, is that I never learnt to play a musical instrument. I have to say that I have no-one to blame for this, but myself, but looking back I wish I had made the effort to learn even if I might never have been that good.

Growing up, I had little interest in classical music. That I think is probably typical of most young people. However, as I became a teenager I was ambivalent in my attitude to popular music as well. As a Christian with a certain theological outlook, pop music seemed worldly, if not of the Devil himself, and I listened to little of it. (Anyone interested in knowing more should see the blogs under Personal Journey). As I studied more, however, I moved away from this attitude and began to enjoy popular music.

I remember, though, the first classical concert I went to. I would have been in my early twenties. A friend had invited me to go with him. It was held at the Royal Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool. The orchestra was playing Elgar. I can clearly remember thinking how superior the music and playing were to all the bands and popular music Liverpool was so famous for. It was not that the bands weren’t enjoyable in their way just that they could not compare to this. Since then I have listened to classical music for pleasure without understanding it greatly (in a theoretical sense) and enjoy classical concerts very much.

As I see people walking round with wires dangling from their ears, bombarding themselves with the endless noise of mass manufactured, talentless bands, I remember this moment in Liverpool and wish that more people could share the joy of truly great music. Tonight Angela Hewitt will be playing the first book of Bach’s, The Well-Tempered Clavier. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos were amongst the first pieces that I used to listen to for pleasure after discovering the joy of classical music. And I have recently been listening to and appreciating his music more.

Listening to Angela Hewitt play Bach tonight in Macau with its bright new casinos, I will think how her playing and his music illustrate how we were originally created in the image of God, capable of great beauty and creativity, and of how far we have fallen into ugliness and greed.

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