Gather up the brokenness

Voices from the past occasionally serve to prompt new avenues of reflection. I received a link today in an email, from a friend who was forwarding it from another friend, to an article written by someone we all know in varying degrees. (I know him least.) We vary, too, in our degrees of religious belief, from devout atheist to practicing Catholic. It would be hard, though, to argue which one of us was a bigger fan of Leonard Cohen and his music.

cohen2I’ve listened to his songs for years. In my twenties, his music was my first choice when it came to doing the ironing on a Saturday morning, which is probably why I still find ironing so therapeutic. In my thirties, he carried me through my great depression, making sense of the madness in a way that no one else could. In my forties, I got to see him live, in concert, three times – as if in celebration that I’d turned a corner and the future was bright. Unforgettable. So perhaps it’s more than a coincidence that now I’m peeking into my fifties and on the cusp of yet another chapter, that he marks the transition though the voice of another.

Fr Prof. Eamonn Conway is a priest and a theologian who discovered Cohen’s song If it be your will back in 2009, during a particularly dark period in his life. He wrote recently in the Catholic Times about Cohen and his lyrics, in an article that makes for interesting reading – interesting enough to share.

Promises made, broken, unfulfilled; fragility of mind, body and spirit; this is the enduring reality of people’s lives despite all our sophisticated attempts at self-protection and insulation.

Religion aside, Conway’s take certainly set me thinking. Worth a read.

I just can’t get enough of this man

There’s a lot to be said for falling for a younger man (even if he does look older than his years and has crammed more into his life to date than your average person is liable to do in three lifetimes). There’s even more to be said when every time you see him, he transports you to new heights and for a few hours, catapults you into a world where everything is possible. I first met him back in March of this year. And it was love at first sight. But I was just one of many in the audience and while he seemed appreciative of my applause, it didn’t seem to reach the inner recesses of his soul. Havasi Balázs has played in front of 12,000 people in Bejing, 4000 in Bucharest, and last night in front of perhaps a crowd of 2000 people here in Budapest, he received so many standing ovations that you could see he was visibily moved.There’s nothing quite like being appreciated at home and the pride the people felt in their boy was tangible.

The man is not yet 40 and yet has a talent that fuses rock drums with classical piano in a way that seeps to the very marrow of your bones. Partnering with Endi, the dummer from the Hooligans, the pair have just released a new CD and DVD of their piano and drum project. Obviously the best of mates, they make an unlikely style duo – a little like tats and chains meets Armani.

This was the first time I’ve seen Havasi playing with a full orchestra and the sheer variety of instruments pushed me to the pin of my musical collar. Is there such at thing as a miniature cello or was the versatile conductor able to extract extraordinary sound from a simple violin? Perhaps the most impressive piece –The Storm – was utterly beguiling for so many reasons, chief among them that fact the tiny sound of the tin whistle (Ír furulya) stood out above all others. Now, I don’t know much about musical composition but to be able to hear the haunting sound of Szabó Dániel above everything and everyone else, for me, was masterful.

The video backdrops perfectly complemented the music. The video of Unbending Tree (music here) took me back to Africa and disturbed all sorts of hidden memories in my mind. Very, very powerful stuff. He’s also updated his video background for My homeland to scenes of maurading Huns, yurts, and open plains. Completely mindblowing. I think I would have no problem at all sitting through a feature-length video on the history of Hungary set to a Havasi soundtrack.

In fact, it struck me that although Leonard Cohen (the other great music love of my life) was phenomenal in Amsterdam, amazing in Budapest, and great in Zagreb, I’ve seen him now and am happy to have done so three times. With Havasi though, without words, there is so much introspection to his music. This sounds odd coming from someone whose life revolves around words but for once, for two hours on 3 December, I didn’t need any.