Monday, October 19, 2009


I love music, or rather I love some music. I like almost all classical music, especially Baroque. I learned to love swing music and jazz in my early teens. I enjoy most folk music, and the protest songs of the sixties. Readers who know me will not be surprised to learn that I actively dislike heavy metal, rap, hip-hop, although I can tolerate "soft rock".
I never had any talent as a performer. The fine music teacher at my prep school, dispaired of my ability on the piano, and only once yielded to my entreaties to be allowed to learn to play the organ. I couldn't even play the recorder with any ability. I used to quip that the only instrument I played was what Brits call "a gramophone", and on this side of the Pond we term "a phonograph."
I have always admired skilled musicians. At that same prep school, one of our students was George Hurst, who became a successful orchestra conductor while still in his twenties. Another friend was Christopher Raeburn, who parlayed a deep appreciation of Mozart into becoming the renowned producer of musical recordings for DECCA, until his death about a year ago. I am lucky enough to have two sons who sing very well, primarily in church choirs, but in the case of the elder, in opera and in symphonic music.
Nowadays, I have become, with Barbara's support and encouragement, a supporter of the San Francisco Early Music Society and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, among others. I have learned to share her love of the works of Mahler.
As some of you will know, my stepdaughter, Laurie Lewis, has for many years been a star in the world of bluegrass, although she enjoys a unique blend of folk music and even some "pop". Laurie is a perennial star at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, the hugely popular annual 3-day program, held at several stages in Golden Gate Park. This is a wonderful gift to the city of San Francisco from the billionaire financier, Warren Hellman, who has become a good friend of Laurie's.
I had met Warren briefly at a San Francisco Foundation function, and Laurie had once introduced me to him. On one of the occasions when I attended Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, I was walking alone on a path someway behind the stage where music was being played. Coming towards me were two men, one of whom I recognized as Warren Hellman. As he approached, I blurted out "Oh, Warren, I didn't expect to see you here". What I really meant was that I hadn't expected to run into him like that.
Warren's response, before he moved on, was a perfect squelch:
"Well, I don't know why not. After all, it is my party"

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