Do not let me hear
Of the wisdom of old men, but rather of their folly,
Their fear of fear and frenzy, their fear of possession,
Of belonging to another, or to others, or to God.
The only wisdom we can hope to acquire
Is the wisdom of humility: humility is endless.
I was introduced to Brendan some years ago. He lived on his own. Quickly a friendship formed and I visited him regularly. Usually all I would have to do was pose a question and sit back for quite a long time while Brendan expounded the answer. He could talk for hours about acting and his stage successes. He became an engineer when he left school but hated it. By chance he got a job in stage management, then his first speaking part. The rest, as they say, is history. He toured the United States, and appeared in many films and television programmes but his first love was being on the stage performing Shakespeare. Having worked with many of the great British actors he had a mean line in character description and many an afternoon was spent in his one room apartment listening to the juicy gossip of the past.
|Brendan (R) with Sir Ian McKellen and the cast of Arsenic and Old Lace 1963|
Brendan lived a full and long life. He died peacefully at the end of his journey. This week a few of us will assemble to say the final farewell. He spoke about his funeral and asked me to play some Beethoven for him. I can think of nothing better than the Ode to Joy from the 9th Symphony as we say goodbye. He also hooted with laughter when I said that there would be applause but this time no encore.
He always thanked me effusively when I visited. He never ever understood that I got more out of the friendship than I ever put in.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow
Macbeth, Act V, Sc. V
Brendan was avidly interested in my walking trips in Spain and when I was away I telephoned him from time to time. He used to interrogate me for every detail. He thought moving there was a wonderful idea. “Everyone should pursue their dream if they can” was his wise counsel. “Will you be able to play the organ there?” was one of his more penetrating questions. Whilst I glossed over the answer in truth that has slightly worried me because most Spanish churches have never had organs since they are allergic to the high temperatures of summer and cold of winter and those that do have fallen into serious disrepair. There is also no tradition of singing in Spain except in the major Cathedrals where they have choirs. Indeed even in Santiago the Cathedral choir only assembles on High Days and Holidays. As I have gazed around my study trying to think of what music books and so on to take with me I was starting to wonder how much use they would get.
Time for another Camino Miracle. Remember Piotr, the polish pilgrim whose Compostela I wrote, who appeared in London one day and who has been playing the violin with me? Well Piotr spent 7 years in Santiago teaching music. “We have to find you somewhere to play the organ” he said a few weeks ago with a twinkle in his eye. “Yes, but where?” I said explaining my anxieties. Piotr looked around the church in Clapham where music is a strong feature, where the people sing with gusto and the priests are very appreciative. “Oh I think we can find you a place, just like this” he said. “Errrr, in Galicia? in Spain? “ “Oh yes,” was the reply.
I had decided to arrive early and check out the Masses and what the priest was like. As I opened the door a wave of sound hit me. Singing. Loud singing. The voices of several hundred people. Astonished I squeezed into the standing room only against the back wall. Accompanied by a few guitars the Family Mass was well underway. The priest was very nice and encouraging. He spoke warmly to the congregation and it was clear they were enjoying themselves. There was a real feeling of joy.