Monday, June 14, 2004

Yay for the global village

Just back from a long weekend in Denmark, celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary with friends in Aarhus. Tom's first job was in the Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, back in the early 1980s. He still speaks the language fluently (incredible) and loves going back. It's a delightful place, pretty and friendly, gentle and fun to be in - and the northern light is sharp and silvery and marvellous, especially at this time of year. We spent yesterday celebrating with friends who are respectively a nurse (Danish), a microbiologist (Danish) and a radiologist (originally Canadian) - walking by the sea and enjoying a bottle or two of champagne in the afternoon on a deserted beach.

In this laid-back, international context, it was depressing to hear about the strides made by the UK Independence Party in the elections the other day. The world has become such a small place that you really can't turn the clock back and pretend that it's unnecessary to team up with anybody but your own little island and its island mentality. I feel very sorry for people who can't see past the end of their own noses. They don't know what they're missing.

In the musical sphere, we're better placed than most to appreciate the benefits of the increasingly international society. Tom's orchestra has recently appointed a Hungarian, a Chinese girl, a Spaniard, someone from Holland, a French violinist, a South African and several Russians. There are several Germans already, an Italian or two and a particularly charming and infamous Brazilian cellist who seems to get tickets for the finals of every World Cup. For Glyndebourne, take all of this, add singers and stir well. Everyone is pulling together towards the same end. Everyone has concerns in common and friends are made across every boundary. Hence boundaries cease to exist.

I'm losing track of the number of international couples that we know. My brother is about to marry an Italian. Our friend Paul Lewis, hotshot British pianist, has just married the Norwegian cellist of the Vertavo Quartet, Bjorg Vaernes - many congratulations to them!! We know couples who are French and American, Russian and Canadian, Tartar and Welsh. And countless others. That's one of the best things about the modern western world: this cultural exchange is endlessly stimulating.

As it happens, I love England. I am proud of our heritage in cathedrals, great houses, beautiful gardens, pretty villages, literature, certain kinds of music, cricket on the green etc etc. But, being privileged enough to live among music and musicians, I don't see any sign of the threat that so many people in this country think that Europe poses.

When Tom moved to Aarhus, he'd spent the past few years at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, living in a cramped bedsit where he had to put coins into a meter to get any heating. He practised all the time and lived on peanut butter sandwiches and orange juice. Manchester in those days was a pretty vile place, grimy and depressed and gloomy. Then he got his job in Aarhus and suddenly found himself in a clear-aired, friendly, clean environment with a thriving cafe society, an easy-going population, lots of bicycles and thousands of Danish blondes. He thought he'd died and gone to heaven.

ALSO - ARTICLE IN TODAY'S 'INDEPENDENT' by yrs truly, about Beloved Clara and the increasing spate of music & words projects going on. Link on the sidebar.