Author Topic: Clem Sunter on age and music  (Read 466 times)

Offline chrisc

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Clem Sunter on age and music
« on: March 20, 2017, 01:36:12 PM »
  Clem Sunter

I saw a beautiful movie last weekend called Quartet featuring four retired opera singers performing together at an old age home for retired musicians. Played by Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Tom Courtney and Pauline Collins (whom I remember as Shirley Valentine talking to the wall), the four sing at an annual gala concert held on Verdi's birthday at the home. Of course, they were only play-acting, but they were accompanied by real musicians who had reached the top of their professions in their previous careers.

            The democracy of ageing

The film really got to me for two reasons. The first one is that as I get older, everybody gets older with me. No matter how rich you are, no matter how healthy a life you lead, you age. Julia Roberts now has lines on her face, Robert Redford's eyes are even more crinkled and Mick Jagger cannot strut his stuff quite as energetically as he did. The memory bank grows as the future shortens and the body grows weary.

I spent 11 years going to a British nursing home in Salisbury, Wiltshire to see my mother. As an only child, I would spend two to three weeks with her every year. I remember one evening in the communal dining room sitting at a round table with my mother and some of her co-residents. We were all sipping our regulation one glass of red wine when an old lady at the table says: "Why are we all here?" Her companion in her late 80s replies: "Because, my dear, we are not all there!" Logical and very funny and all of us nearly laughed ourselves to death.

Just like the home in the movie, there was a lot of fun and mischief and interesting interplay between the residents and the much younger staff. I thoroughly enjoyed those 11 years and when my mother died a few years ago, I said goodbye to all the people at the home with a genuine heaviness of heart. I haven't been back since, thus it has joined all the other memories in my bank. Yet I know, God willing, that one day through the democratic process of ageing I will be joining those ranks. Nothing can put that off.

            The eternity of music

However, there is one thing that does not age and that is the beauty of music and the passion to play it. In their advanced years, those musicians in the film - playing piano, violin, bass and wind instruments - did it with the same gusto as they had done in their prime. Which brings me to the second reason I loved the movie: I was a musician too but not of that elite sort. I played rock music with a friend of mine around the UK in the 1960s and one of my memories (which no one can take away) was playing at the same gig as the Rolling Stones in the summer of 1964. We alternated on the stage all the way through the night and had a big breakfast with all the party-goers in the morning.

The Stones are now celebrating their 50 years together with a concert in Hyde Park. I am sure they will blow the crowd away. In my case, I came out of retirement in the parking lot of the Rosebank shopping mall the other day in Johannesburg. A busker was playing a 1960s song on his guitar at the pay point, so I offered to show him how we played it at the time. I must have been an interesting sight for some of the shoppers who came up to pay, as they did drop coins into his hat.

So I would like to end this article by quoting the magnificent lyrics of Gene Raskin, an American folk singer, in a song made famous by Mary Hopkin in 1968:

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.


Old age is not for sissies, but it is also a privilege bestowed by surviving the slings and arrows of life. Enjoy it while you can.


Offline Family_Dog

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Re: Clem Sunter on age and music
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2017, 05:15:26 PM »
Interesting read, thanks for digging it up Chris.  :thumbs:


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Offline JonnyP

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Re: Clem Sunter on age and music
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2017, 05:29:34 PM »
Well I'm not that old yet, however, I still choose the life I live, still fight on (in the presumed meaning of the original), get my way most of the time (no  :angrywife:) and sing and dance daily.  I guess my version will be giving a busker advice on singing a Nirvana song!

As for nostalgia - Pixies in Joburg were excellent again.  2nd time in a year after not seeing them play for the previous 25 years! IMHO they were better now than back then.
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Offline Eben

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Re: Clem Sunter on age and music
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2017, 06:58:36 PM »
Loved this contribution, thanks Chris. Also loved the movie and the music. The name of the movie is Quartet refers to the greatest quartet of all time from Rigoletto by Verdi. If you are interested get it on YouTube.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2017, 07:00:43 PM by Eben »

Offline Jazzy

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Re: Clem Sunter on age and music
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2017, 07:31:48 PM »
Eben you stole my words ;-) we learn so much from hanging with the older generation. I particularly enjoy the chats on music and hi-fi, so much life's lessons. I've met some here through Alan Hobkirk's crew as an example of a group of friends I wish to have for all my life. Now may I mention two more movies that evoke similar feelings: The Concert and The Bands Visit.
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Offline JonnyP

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Re: Clem Sunter on age and music
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2017, 08:24:33 PM »
Just musing here so please don't take me too seriously, amusingly, 'Heroes' has just turned up on VH1 as if in sync with my thoughts.  The baby boomers (and war babies) had an optimistic outlook almost drilled into them from the post war period as 'everything got better', rationing faded, worldwide economies grew giving them a bit of joy.  Liberation of sex, love, music and thought followed.

Then you have their children......we grew up with the threat of nuclear war (in the late 60s up to the 80s), the Cold War and all its peripheral nightmarisj worries.  We had our music - realist, pessimistic, nihilistic and finally glamorous and scared.  Bowie's paranoid Berlin period being one example, post-punk politics and the growth of new romantic all the waythrough to Indie (and it's associated tribalism mainly based upon trying to find a common ground and goal).  Finally 'grunge' and 'rave' took up our cause and were actually very similar as was hip-hop in terms of politics and outlook.

I'm not sure what the current generations have?
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Offline chrisc

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Re: Clem Sunter on age and music
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2017, 10:01:30 PM »
I am a bona-fide baby boomer,  born just after the war when my Dad, who was a civilian interpreter seconded to the British Army met my Mom who was what was called a "Computer" which in those days had nothing to do with personal computers, she was a linguist at Bletchley Park, translating German OKW instructions

A great time to grow up, in high school we had the start of Elvis, Cliff Richard and the Beatles.  Even Dad thought the Beatles had promise, which for someone of his age-group in 1963 was unusual

My first intro into audio was at 14, baby-sitting for a neighbour.  He played some classical music via his Wharfedale 15" stereo speakers and I was absolutely blown away at the fidelity of the sound

It has never stopped

Offline Des Miles

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Re: Clem Sunter on age and music
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2017, 04:42:52 PM »
Just as an aside, read that Vera Lynn turned 100 y.o. yesterday, Monday the 20th. Isn't that wonderful! How many allied men, I wonder, of what ever nation, are still with us today, that breathed a sigh of relief as they saw those white cliffs approaching from the cockpit of their aircraft.