Since the start of the lock-down we’ve had a special kind of music in our house.
Not special because of its genre or style. Not reliant on well known composers, singers, or instrumentalists. Not emanating from the stages of respected concert halls or clubs. But a type of music that springs effortlessly from the often prosaic realities of everyday life, as they draw you gently towards the numinous.
On a typical morning, I can hear my son’s slightly muffled tenor voice bouncing effortlessly off the walls of his bedroom. He is probably keeping up his commitment to his friends and fans by recording a ‘cover’ a day of a song released at some point over the last 50 years. His musical blog ‘Jaquet in Quarantine’ (https://www.instagram.com/jaquetwilliam/) embraces a disturbingly varied mélange of musical talent from the Kinks and Dylan to the Dixie Chicks, Rachel Stevens, and the Stereophonics. He’s done 50 of them – so patently no slouch! Alternatively he might be creating original songs for his Manchester based band ‘Big Society’ (https://www.facebook.com/thebigsocietyband/). These gems radiate the concerns, dreams, hang-ups and hopes of the scions of the babyboomer generation. I’ve seen him perform in Hyde Park supporting Mr R Zimmerman, so I’ll brook no argument about quality…
Further up the stairs in her attic bedroom at the top of the house (or sometimes downstairs in the family sitting room, whenever her native hegemonic instincts are in the ascendant) you will find my daughter. The give-away is her clear mezzo soprano voice – often wrapped instinctively and effortlessly round a blues number or a Scottish ballad. She is arranging material for the Love Music choir (the largest community choir in the UK https://www.lovemusic.org.uk/ ) where she is completing a year’s internship. Or maybe her talents are being deployed in the creation and planning of a session for her weekly singing group for folk with Parkinson’s and those who care for them. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRrL10FQpHo ). We attended one of her (pre lock-down) sessions in the new town, and were blown away by her skill, sensitivity, and energy.
As the afternoon comes to a balmy close, my wife is sitting in her own sundrenched corner of our bedroom where she is writing either a lock-down poem, story or song. Following the now emerging family tradition, she adopts the discipline of manufacturing one of these every day. While the world outside remains an uncertain environment, she stirs the creative juices every day with a title generated by one of the 26 letters of the alphabet. She has already lapped herself.
Then there’s me …..
I sit in awe at the maelstrom of musical creativity that is my family, and frankly feel a little inadequate. My own musical roots go back to childhood spent in a rambling vicarage in Kent. This very Blyton-esque eyrie was the setting for the launch (and very occasional public performance) of ‘The Challengers’ – a little known musical outfit, formed with my sister when we were eight and ten (and didn’t know any better). It can claim the responsibility, amongst other triumphs, for my lifelong obsession with playing the mandolin.
As the lock-down persists, our church in Leith, like many others, is exploring the delights and dangers of church by Zoom. On the plus side, these include being able to share worship with folk from the other side of the world (Canada and Cambodia in our case). At a slightly more egregious level, there is endless scope for mistimed comments to be broadcast unwittingly to the whole community, when the finer functions of the ‘mute’ button have not been grasped.
This brings me back to the special kind of music currently being brewed in our household.
On a couple of occasions, our family have been asked to lead some of the singing at our Sunday morning virtual service. We have duly dusted down the skills of the Von Jaquet Family (pace Julie Andrews and co), and practically for the first time performed together as a family. It’s been something of a revelation that we could produce four harmony vocal parts with a minimum of internecine warfare. Other church members have been unusually generous in their praise.
I remain unclear where my children sit on the doctrinal map of faith (although I have a pretty good idea). I’m not even sure I could accurately represent my wife’s position (probably heading somewhere towards the intersection of the humanity index with cradle catholicism, with more than a nod to political radicalism and the crochet club).
As for me, I tend to follow my father’s maxim (we don’t know if he coined it or borrowed it): ‘The older I get, the less and less I believe – more and more strongly’. If I’m less than completely sure about much of the infrastructure of faith, I’m enjoying the music, the thinking, and the passion that emanates from my family during these strange days we’re living through.
Maybe the faith and the music aren’t so separate from each other as I once thought.
Simon Jaquet Consultancy Services Ltd