Dear Mum, I’m going to answer your first question on the letter I received this morning by saying ‘I feel on top of the world!’ ˗ in fact I feel so much like my old self that I’m leaping around. I’d forgotten just how energetic and cheery I normally am. Either that or I’m going Mad! ˗ I’m bouncing around like a two-year-old so much and chatting away to myself about the world in general (I’ve done that for years) that suddenly it doesn’t matter that it’s never anything but winter in England. Actually the weather has been improving ˗ it’s been that much milder lately, so I’m finding it quite pleasant. No one else seems to think it’s getting any better, but they’re a pack of moaners, the English, I think, and they’ve got so much to grumble about they naturally put something very important like the weather first! I’m now three times as busy as I’ve been ˗ must stop exaggerating! I’ve still got a touch of the cough that I had, but it seems to be vanishing slowly, and no longer bothers me.
We’re in the middle of our last week, practically, of rehearsals for our end of term double bill. I’ve actually got the day off, until 5.30, when we have a rehearsal, but George Bamford (who kept me busy all day Saturday with parts for a terrible Irish recording that is being made soon) has some more film music up his sleeve, and with a bit of luck, I’ll be able to go in later this morning and get it, and do it before and after the rehearsal.
I spent Sunday transposing two songs down for one of the students (who may pay me!) and then went off to see a film at our local cinema, on the other side of the Heath. It was ‘If...’ which I’d been trying to see in the West End for ages, but which had always been sold out at the price I was willing to pay. As it turned out it was a very disturbing film, but I don’t feel for the reasons the director intended. It’s all about a public school, and especially three of the sixth formers, who finally gun down the parents and teachers on Parents’ Day, with old 2nd World War machine guns and grenades that have been in store under the school! But this wasn’t what was disturbing; quite honestly I found the end rather silly, but it was the way all sorts of perversions and deviations from the norm were casually accepted within the film that annoyed me. Morals had vanished out the window, somewhere, and much of the film was taking up with telling you, in a roundabout way, that they had.
The previous night, I’d had to take the parts back to Bamford (he must owe me about £13 or £14 now), and this meant a trip all the way up to Kings Cross, and rather a waste of time, unless I was going to stay in the town. So I walked along to David Gorringe’s flat in Portland Place, which is only several stone’s throws away (!), on the hope that he might be interested in going out, or even just sitting round talking. I was almost put off by the fact that the front door of the flats was locked, but I could see a light on in the penthouse, and didn’t think his flatmate was back yet from an Opera for All Tour, so I chance it and rang the bell, and was answered by a voice thru the speaker at the door. It’s a most odd feeling talking to a disembodied voice in the street!
Anyway Dave was home and feeling all miserable because he didn’t know what to do with himself, and so after a bite to eat (I felt a bit awful about that, I always seem to be having snacks up there ˗ I’ll buy him lunch one of these days at the Centre) we went to the pictures ˗ even though it was getting very late, we got into a later showing of the most recent Ingmar Bergman film, called Shame, and about apathy ˗ I think! It concerned, mainly, two married people (to each other for once!) who during a war in the late 1970s, had taken up a farm to fill in the time when they couldn’t be musicians, and how in spite of the fact that the most terrible things were going on around them, they concerned themselves with their own troubles purely, and were of course shocked when the war suddenly took them over. The man, till nearly the end, when he was forced by a guerilla mob to shoot a high official of the other side, and did it because he was ashamed of his previous cowardice, and that it had turned him against his wife, or vice versa, was a very weak individual who would cry when things got too much for him, and after the shooting, he suddenly changed completely, and his wife who had been dominant up till then, became the weaker and was forced to see her husband turn into a brute. This makes it sound rather curious, but it was a fascinating film. And yet I was trouble rather less by it than by If... And it should have been the other way round.
Last Friday, John Kentish asked me if I could go down to Eltham (two train stops below Blackheath) and play for a rehearsal that night, and on the Monday. Well, I couldn’t do the Friday, but I did do last night, and it turned out they wanted a conductor, not a pianist! (And they pay over £4 for it!) So with some misgiving, I took them thru parts of Traviata, which fortunately I know reasonably well, and really enjoyed it. It was quite like being back with the old Carmen chorus at home, and just the same as far as the atmosphere went. [I presume I mean that I’d been chorus master for a local production of Carmen in Dunedin, but I don’t remember doing this at all.] Only this time I had principals as well: an Aussie leading lady, and an NZ bass (the place is running with them ˗ Sadlers Wells has little else!) There were even the same types of people there: the woman who didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing, and the men shy of singing, but very hard working. I came home on a cloud! And once I got started they even took my cheek the same as the Dunedin crowd, and took it well, for English [people]! (Sorry to harp on these people, but Londoners can be lacking in a sense of humour ˗ you’re never quite sure if you’re on safe ground!)
Tomorrow I’ve got to get up rather earlier than I have the last few days, and go and get tickets for !! Fabulous. [I presume this was the stage production, but since that began in 1967, I may have been talking about the film version from 1969.] I stayed the night at Dave’s on Sat, and then spent some time getting lost in Soho looking for the Catholic Church in there that Abigail and I had gone to on Ash Wed. Soho is easy to go straight thru, but difficult to track anything down in. I found it though and won’t lose it again! I was coming from the opposite direction this time, which was why it was so difficult. Actually I had been trying to find another street when I ran across it! Lots of love, Mike.Dance of Death ˗ with Olivier