Saturday, 8 July 2017

The Linden Tree

There's one in nearly every German village. The "Winterreise" poems by Wilhelm Müller and immortalized by Franz Schubert, is one of the foremost collections of German Lieder - a translation of the texts can be found HERE  - and song No.5  Der Lindenbaum is probably the most famous song in the cycle - it has been taken into German folksong literature and there are chorus arrangements (as if it were a traditional folksong!), one of which I actually wrote for my chorus (I left them at the end of 2016) and which they loved to sing. I tried to reproduce the middle part that was ignored by other arrangers because there it ceases to be a folksong and becomes an art song. For me it was always an art song. For many Germans who do not know the classical song literature, it remains a nice folksong.

But no, I'm not going to talk about the tree; I'm going to talk about "The Linden Tree" as a drama. I have just heard a production on the radio. It was written by an outstanding and much loved  British author, J. B. Priestley, whose book "Angel Pavement" I read countless times before I went on the stage myself, and which made a lasting impression on me. The play has just had that effect. It's about a history professor who reaches the age of 65 and does not want to retire. His wife even leaves him for that reason. She hates Birmingham, where he has the chair of history at the university. At the end of the play, after he has been offered a parttime retirement post at the university, his grandchild begs him to read more of a book he has been writing and tried out on her. The text of the book is very philosophical and boring enough to send the little girl to sleep, but it opens a new door for Prof. Linden  It opens for him a world of retirement that is a world in which he continues to write (even if it is only for himself and his grandchild) and we leave him actually correcting his old text.

Sometimes listening to words or music has a stirring effect and that is the reason I am documenting this on my blog. I retired from some occupations at 63, including most teaching, which I never liked, and have had a bit of a struggle with heart problems, but I only retired from my musical career (if you can call it that) at th end of 2016, at - and I'm horrified when I think of my age - 75.

But I haven't really retired. I decided to exchange painting for drawing as paper takes less room than canvases, and I am  only taking time off from poetry composition and composing or arranging music, though I am thinking of tackling some new poems and arranging new songs after the summer break. After my mother's death in 1990 I returned to the craft of writing, starting with an homage to her in the form of a short story called "Little Brown Jug". I am still writing, so I don't really feel I have retired at all and hope I can continue to colour my life with the fictional characters I create for as long as possible.

I'm encouraged by the artist Georgia O'Keeffe, who lived until she was nearly a century old. When painting became difficult due to macular degeneration she turned to sculpture. The creative urge never left her. I'd like that to be in my biography. A list of my books can be found in the right column on this page. At the moment I do not have a blog showing my paintings, but I hope to rectify that soon.  And now I'll get back to the draft of my newest book ....

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