I am in the north in a place where internet access seems non-existent via any of my normal channels… so my apologies for any lack of response, if I can get this online at all! It is quite odd and rather frustrating to be unable to communicate in the way I am used to… and although my phone allows limited access to my inbox, there will, inevitably, be a lot waiting for me when I get back to the south.
However, my communications problems are of far less interest than the communication I came up here to see.
Celebrating the release of The Initiate (now live on Amazon, I have to add… even if I can’t see it… sighs) and as an extended birthday gift, Stuart (co-author, friend, genius…*chokes on laughter…*) took me to see Robin Williamson, once of The Incredible String Band, but now performing solo.
It was one of those odd ‘coincidences’ that we have come to accept as normal and just follow when they occur. There had been an email exchange… Stu sent a verse in response to a message… I looked up the lyrics and finding their source an ad for a gig flashed onto the screen… a mile or two from Stuart’s home that Wednesday. Robin Williamson. We sort of had to go…
I had little idea of what to expect. It is often a difficult transition from band member to solo artist and sometimes they just don’t manage to settle into the new role. We arrived to find a beautiful harp on stage and a room full of people of all ages. It was obvious some knew who Robin was, and others would just have gone to any live music there that night. The room was full of general chatter and the clink of glasses.
The lights dimmed and a round of polite applause greeted the musician.
He spoke of music for a moment then plucked the harp into life. I was entranced by the old Scottish air… and so was the room as he began to sing. Harp, guitar, poetry and laughter… odd tales and the power of a voice and a presence…
Seated as we were at the back of the hall we watched as this one man drew the room into his aura, playing them with the same loving, magical fingers as he plucked the strings of his harp, stroking them to life and wonder.
There were tears as he sang the Ballad of Robin Hood… laughter as the room lit up with his skill and warmth… tears again as he sang the Waltz of the New Moon…
The music is not everyone’s cup of tea, perhaps… the style rather different from the mainstream… yet the response of the audience warmed and grew as he drew them across a timeless landscape of voice and song. He looked like any Bard from an old tale… and we the audience became the watchers around the hearth-fire of the mead hall, dancing through the woven magic of words and music. It was as if, for that time, time itself had taken its leave and the illusion of years and space simply did not exist.
When the evening ended and we left, among a crowd with whom we had shared a few short hours, we watched the faces and listened to the words… builders seemed like warriors, shop assistants like medieval maidens… the magic clung to us all and the sparkle of wonder was in eyes and voices… surprised themselves at how much he had moved them.
We had seen a Bard at work. Glimpsed across the ages, we could understand how they had shared, entertained, taught and woven their magic in another time and place that somehow felt like here and now.
It is hard to put into words… but it will stay in memory for a very long time, I think.