The opening of the “Arts Centre for Disadvantaged Children” had been a great success with attendees including the Lord Mayor and several local dignitaries. Among those present, and a significant benefactor to the project, was the apparently revered Mrs Mellidrew, a widow whose husband had died of boredom some years earlier. She had offered,somewhat firmly, to round off the delightful evening with one of her noted pianoforte recitals.
After sitting down and settling the music in front of her , she played excerpts from Rachmaninov’s piano concerto No2, a powerful, emotive and evocative piece of music almost guaranteed to move the emotions of anyone exposed to it’s haunting melodies . Mrs Mellidrew operates the piano with a bravado and faultless efficiency hitting each note with accuracy, but shredding all light and shade from the piece. Her audience nod painfully, they have had this experience before.
Despite this, they warmly applaud after the recital. “Simply wonderful” exclaims an anxious relative from the back of the room, who may or may not be in her Will. “Masterful” concurs some gallant victim sited nearer the subject of their praise. “I’ve never heard it played better” pips up some old gent in a display of heroic falsehood, attracting bewildered looks from people around him: perhaps we have all been a witness at such occasions.
While those inside mingle and congratulate the good lady on her talents, a couple of friends who escaped early hide outside and enjoy a soothing whisky . “My god that was awful” exclaims one. “I’ve had a better time at the dentist” says the other, marking their common agony . Sadly it is not the first time that Mrs Mellidrew has operated the piano in public: possibly her considerable private fortune and charitable donations add weight to the applause, or am I being too cynical.
Her vulnerability to the opinion of the audience is muted by the contempt with which she views them: that they are too primitive to understand great music is something she was fully aware of. We cannot all be blessed with a great sensibility:self knowledge can be a dangerous thing and she restricts her intake of it to the bare minimum.
Finally at the end of the event, she moves towards her waiting car. She hears someone say, “Thank you again;” his voice has an undertone of relief . The event is finally over. . .. As her car is driven away from the new Arts Centre, the remaining throng act like people released from a health and safety lecture and trudge off to soothe their nerves with a mixture of abandon and relief.
Saying what you mean is important, but is it the same as meaning what you say? Perhaps we will have to ask the enlightened Mrs Mellidrew once she has finished her practise of “Air on a C string” or some note quite near it on the keyboard.j