Heart cramping notes of melody

Heart cramping notes of melody

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week

If the last three years have taught us anything, it is a greater awareness of our own mental health. Three years ago, by the summer of 2020 I missed singing. We all did. But, as I've said elsewhere, I missed everything else that went with it. The human connection through musical collaboration. I started Quire Memes to fill that gap. I spend time creating things to share that we can appreciate, enjoy and (hopefully) find amusement in. The lighthearted nature of the things shared belie that strain on my, on our, mental health out of which the page was borne. We all struggled in different ways, particularly in those early lockdown weeks and months. Music, by which we find calm, joy, peace, was the very thing we could not do. As a performer, only being able to listen to music that you would ordinarily perform - and as a listener, not being able to hear live music - was a painful realisation of heart cramping notes of melody. 

Mental Health Awareness Week coincides with Ascension Day this year, which is on Thursday. Finzi's anthem "God is gone up" is sure to feature in services across the country. It's a glorious, glittering piece, full of joy and wonder, and praise not only of music - it celebrates music itself as being heavenly - but with music. We offer our praise by singing: it is in music that we recognise God, as heaven's sparkling courtiers mix their music and make every string more to enravish.

Choral musicians are, by our nature, sociable. Even those of us who are introverts find solace in the companionship of choral music. Maybe it's because we are connected in parallel, rather than series, to borrow an electronics phrase. We stand together, all facing the same way (ideally looking at the conductor), communicating adjacent to each other, in a way that is social, but somehow remains individual. We connect through the larger shared experience of creating something more: that a group of friends can make beautiful music. 

As choirs have (largely) returned to pre-Covid levels of singing, we are able to rekindle that connectivity, not only with each other, but with anyone else who hears.

Music, then, is how we nourish our own mental health: both in its creation, but also in the listened enjoyment of it. Music is not just for the performer, but the listener. 

If you are tone deaf, haven't a clue about Clucas, or couldn't give a hoot about Howells, music can still transpose you to another world. You don't have to understand how medicine works for it to be effective. I'm not trying to draw a line between Paracetamol and Purcell, where you take one for a headache, and the other for heartache. But there is magic in music that is beyond our understanding. And that's OK. 

This Mental Health Awareness Week, find comfort in music. Go to Evensong. Find some Finzi on Thursday. 

In the words of the late Jerry Springer, take care of yourselves, and each other.


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1 comment

Spot on! No longer a big secret shared only by singers, I hope…

Susan Beardmore

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