Skip to Content

Arts

Poor old thing

On the Saturday night of Glastonbury festival I wasn’t off my face in a field listening to some banging techno, but at the Museum of Garden History watching the noted harpsichordist William Christie and two marvellous sopranos perform songs by Purcell.

1 July 2009

12:00 AM

1 July 2009

12:00 AM

On the Saturday night of Glastonbury festival I wasn’t off my face in a field listening to some banging techno, but at the Museum of Garden History watching the noted harpsichordist William Christie and two marvellous sopranos perform songs by Purcell.

On the Saturday night of Glastonbury festival I wasn’t off my face in a field listening to some banging techno, but at the Museum of Garden History watching the noted harpsichordist William Christie and two marvellous sopranos perform songs by Purcell. My favourite was a beautiful lament for the late Queen Mary, ‘O Dive Custos Auriacae Domus’.

So that’s me ****ed, then. I am now officially and incontrovertibly an old fart.

And I don’t like it, let me tell you, I really don’t. I’m not saying Purcell doesn’t rock. He does, especially when served in small doses and there’s a really delicious picnic you can eat on William Bligh’s tomb afterwards. But it just isn’t the same as being pilled up in front of the Other Stage waiting for the strobes and the next enormous break before floating off in the vague direction of the Tiny Tea Tent in search of like-minded monged folk with whom to talk amiable drivel.


The thought of what I was missing was so painful I could scarcely even bring myself to watch the BBC’s extensive Glasto TV coverage. ‘That was just the BEST Glastonbury Sunday I think there’s EVER been,’ said Jo Whiley at one point, and I thought, ‘I SO hate you.’ As, of course, I hate this mag’s editor who was there, and Alex James who went one better by being the main entertainment. Bastards!

Anyway, Mendelssohn. Did you know that, despite being one of the Germans’ favourite composers, he was banned by the Nazis from being performed to Aryans lest his vile Jewishness (as noted by Wagner) sully their racially pure ears? This came as a shock to his descendants who considered themselves Christians, Felix having converted to Lutheranism several generations before. Now suddenly they found themselves in severe danger of being transported to concentration camps, unless they could prove themselves sufficiently Gentile to satisfy the Nazi genealogists.

The fascinating story was told by the composer’s great-great-great-great niece Sheila Hayman in Mendelssohn, The Nazis and Me (BBC4 last week, but you can still watch at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00l7rg2). Imagine the anxiety of having to trawl the archives (and the Nazis published lots of helpful books for families in just this situation) not for the pleasure of discovering you are distantly related to the Dukes of Richmond or Mary Queen of Scots, but merely for the privilege of not being carted off to an extermination camp and gassed.

This is just what Hayman’s Berlin relatives had to do. It all swung on an illegitimate great-grandmother: was she or was she not of Jewish ancestry? After months of desperate research they had a brainwave and gave up looking. If they didn’t know the answer, they realised, then neither would the Nazis.

Finally, Wimbledon. I caught the new floodlit roof over centre court being used for the first time in the nailbiting match between Murray and Wawrinka and it occurred to me that future generations are going to laugh at us in much the same way we laugh at previous generations for their creaky, Mr Cholmondley-Warner-style broadcasts or their baggy football shorts or their idiotic failure to have discovered penicillin. ‘What, you mean right up till as late as 2009, they had to stop play at Wimbledon if it got too dark or it, like, rained?’

Murray, I realised, is the perfect British Wimbledon contender. He’s good enough to win, which means you’re not wasting your emotional energy on him like you were on Tim Henman. At the same time he’s so unlikeable (seriously, English fans: if you think your affection is remotely reciprocated you’re living in cloud-cuckoo-land) that if some foreigner beats him you won’t be too upset. So watching Murray really is a case of: ‘May the best man win!’ Which is just as English sport should be, is it not?


Show comments
Close