Ben has already covered Russell’s love of music in another post, so I will not be repeating this, however, if you haven’t already read it please scroll back to August; its well worth a read – and listen – it has an attached playlist of some of Russell’s fave music.
So, this is more about how his love of music started, many years ago in the faraway country of Croatia. It was the last day of our holiday; we had spent a week in Slovenia and then flown down the coast to Dubrovnik for a week on the beach. The holiday had not been without incident – we had already succeeded in emptying a village bar of all its locals after an accident involving a glass of cola, tears and two disgruntled children (for which the landlord gave each of them a present because they looked so cute!). And this particular day was to be followed by a night in Dubrovnik General Hospital, with the addition of some head x-rays to our holiday snaps (but that’s another story).
So, there we were in a village called Cilipi, not far from Dubrovnik, buying some last minute presents in the market, when we heard the sound of music and wandered over to the village square to watch a display of folk dancing. Listen here to some croatian folk music
This was hugely entertaining and at the end of the display everyone, villagers and tourists, was invited to join in, however, Russell was only interested in one of the instruments being played by the band. It looked like something halfway between a violin and a lute, it was held upright between the musician’s knees and played with a bow. The instrument turned out to be something called a lijerica, and as they were selling cheap imitations in the market, Russell decided he would spend the last of his holiday money on this precious souvenir. (We still have it in the loft).
When we returned home, Russell had great fun making lots of not particularly musical sounds with his lijerica, and it wasn’t until a couple of years later that he decided it was time to upgrade. We were listening to a recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons played by Nigel Kennedy, when he announced that he “wanted to play like that”! Listen to the four Seasons here – how many of you knew he liked classical music?
This led to weekly violin lessons, and he turned out to be really quite good. He first learned to play by ear, and even played with his music group in a concert at The Purcell room on London’s South Bank. He progressed on to the viola, followed by the cello (that was the limit in size – we didn’t have a car big enough to fit in a double bass!), achieving Grade 1 Cello when he was about 10 years old.
Russell always preferred to play by ear rather than read music; he found this particularly challenging as he was dyslexic, but persevered, and was eventually able to read music written in the treble, alto and bass clefs for each of these instruments. It always intrigued me as to how he interpreted the notes, often putting the right finger on the wrong string (there’s a PhD thesis there for someone). After he left Little Kingshill School, he gave up playing for a while but never gave up his love of music, and a few years later was back playing again – this time it was the guitar and soon after, he added a harmonica. And this time he didn’t give up. He also taught himself to read tablature – not bad for a dyslexic kid who still wrote in anagrams! He played both acoustic and electric guitar, spending hours practicing the same piece over and over again until he got it right. For a short while, he played in a band with three girls, which involved weekly practice sessions at someone’s house in Twyford. They never made the big time!
However, he didn’t play to become famous, pass exams or get Grades, he played through a sheer love of music and the determination to do it as best he could.
Both the guitars, harmonica and a violin are still here in his room, waiting for someone else with a similar love of music to continue playing them.