excerpt from 'Over the bridge: an essay in autobiography' pp. 77–78 (316 words)

excerpt from 'Over the bridge: an essay in autobiography' pp. 77–78 (316 words)

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Over the bridge : an essay in autobiography

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It may have been the nervousness resulting from this failure to spell that made me follow my brother with such dog-like devotion.  For he was now eleven, and could read fluently. Moreover, he had begun to take an interest in the pianoforte that stood against the wall in the back parlour, with vases and picture frames on it that rattled and danced during our Sunday evening concerts, when Mother’s overture, Sidney Smith’s ‘Tarantella’, opened the feast, to be followed by a violin or flute solo from Father, or a richly emotional baritone song, ‘Ora Pro Nobis’, ‘The Deathless Army’, ‘The Vagabond’, ‘The Lost Chord’.  The repertoire was small, but melodious.  So was the range of the instrumental pieces, which by constant repetition week after week became lodged irreparably in my mind, like bullets in the flesh of an old campaigner, too deeply embedded for the surgeon to remove.  I have only to hear today the melodies of Raff’s ‘Cavatina’, or Godard’s ‘Berceuse de Jocelyn’, Handel’s ‘Largo’ and ‘Harmonious Blacksmith’, and one or two hackneyed melodies from a Haydn sonata or symphony, to be carried back instantly on the wings of nostalgia to that parlour with the tasselled hangings, the aspidistras, the gas chandelier that gurgled when Father had neglected to fill the cup-like socket at the top with water: and I hear these tunes not as they are being played by a tea-shop ensemble, or on a radio programme, but in the hesitant tones of my father’s violin and flute, with the felted accompaniment of our solid Broadwood-White piano, whose device for producing a pianissimo (what was called an under-damper action) had the effect of removing the whole performance from the parlour to a remote bedroom.



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excerpt from 'Over the bridge: an essay in autobiography' pp. 77–78 (316 words)


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