The Oldie - - CONTENTS - Va­lerie Grove

Be­fore writ­ing this col­umn, I do a lot of lis­ten­ing again. But things have changed: when I press ‘Lis­ten again’, I now get linked to some­thing called BBC Sounds. So now I’m writ­ing about nei­ther Wire­less nor Ra­dio: I am Grove of Sounds.

By chance, I’m now lis­ten­ing (live) to a rather nice ‘col­lage of sound’ on Ra­dio 3; a pro­gramme called Hear and Now – crick­ets, bird­song, si­lence and dis­tant thun­der rolling near.

On the same sta­tion, I’ve just heard an­other Slow Ra­dio slot – recorded at Up­ton Hall, Not­ting­hamshire, which stores the coun­try’s largest col­lec­tion of clocks. The sounds went like this… ‘Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock’… for quite a long time. I re­alised I don’t after all much care for the sound of clocks tick­ing; es­pe­cially not when alone, imag­in­ing a long, silent cor­ri­dor in a large coun­try house.

Chez nous, no clocks tick: of the two that did, one is de­funct and one un­wound. Who wants to be chron­i­cally

re­minded of time’s winged char­iot and the draw­ing down of blinds? Stop all the clocks!

The sounds I want to write about are heart­en­ing, uplift­ing, di­vert­ing, non­po­lit­i­cal sounds – which mean mu­sic; which, es­sen­tially, for me, means Ra­dio 3’s Pri­vate Pas­sions. Out walk­ing on Hampstead Heath with head­phones on two blis­ter­ingly hot, golden Sun­days this au­tumn, I’ve heard some sub­lime mu­sic on PP.

Bel Mooney’s choice in­cluded: Sta­bat Mater (‘which is what moth­ers do: stand and watch and deal with pain’); and Nigel Kennedy play­ing the Bach Par­tita No 3 and Beethoven’s Spring Sonata (‘which I rec­om­mend to any­one go­ing through a hard time’). She fin­ished with Kiri Te Kanawa singing Mozart’s Lau­date Dominum. Her words were equally in­spir­ing: she told the story of her still­born son, Tom, and the piece she wrote in 1976 for the Guardian, open­ing a flood­gate, in­flu­enc­ing for ever the way moth­ers of dead ba­bies are treated.

I was moved too, to hear Barenboim play­ing Mozart’s Sonata in A ma­jor. In 1967, this is the piece Jonathan Dim­bleby would play on his mother’s piano, when woo­ing his fu­ture wife.

Beryl, as she was then, was a toothy girl in specs; 50 years on, as an agony aunt, she draws from a fount of wis­dom that can be dis­tilled into two vi­tal prin­ci­ples: ‘Com­mu­ni­cate’ (‘lis­ten to Beethoven’s Spring, and hear how the in­stru­ments talk to each other’); and ‘Never say your mar­riage “failed”. Mar­riages just hit the buf­fers some­times.’

Weeks later, Michael Berke­ley’s guest was Richard Pow­ers, an Amer­i­can nov­el­ist who lives in the Smoky Moun­tains of Ten­nessee. New to me, but, my good­ness, what a good talker and thinker. I defy any­one not to be ‘knocked back in your chair’ as he said he was, on hear­ing Caro­line Shaw’s Par­tita for Eight Voices, ‘per­formed by Room­ful of Teeth’. (A first time on PP for this com­poser, said MB.) And there was also Dow­land, Bar­tok, Mahler, Bach’s Can­tata No 100 (‘Bach is God’ to MB) and, best of all, the tra­di­tional The Parting Glass, sung in im­mac­u­late har­mony by the Cana­dian folk group the Wailin’ Jen­nys. So much to dis­cover. Thank you, Richard Pow­ers.

Thanks, too, to Lyse Doucet who rem­i­nisced about the late Marie Colvin on Ar­chive on 4: Wit­ness­ing the Worst.

Most women jour­nal­ists live in a kind of clover, scrib­bling away in do­mes­tic com­fort. But war cor­re­spon­dents are an­other breed – into a flak jacket and desert boots at the first whiff of a con­flict in some dis­tant and hos­tile ter­rain.

Clare Holling­worth (1911-2017), who got the scoop of the 20th cen­tury in re­port­ing the out­break of the Sec­ond World War, scorned women who write soft stuff: the front line is what mat­ters. Doucet said emo­tion was not wanted in dis­patches: em­pa­thy was, and that knows no gen­der bound­aries. A great pro­gramme.

‘Hatchet jobs?’

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