Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The many tribes of London town, music, water pipes and helpful shoppers...

That reluctant tourist to these shores , the sun, seemed to be sticking around, so we decided to tune up and boogie on down Kensington way, to The Royal College of Music, where members of one of London's strangest tribes were gathering to pay homage to some of their most distinguished.
Classical music lovers have all the characteristics of a contemporary nomadic tribe: common physical traits from adopting the same posture for many years, especially rounded shoulders, that come from following the musical score as you listen to extended pieces; pale skin, from rarely exposing yourself to daylight, as most classical music is listened to indoors; and finally, at least middle age, because it seems to be a fact of life that people younger than fifty do not attend classical concerts. Of course, the tribe has no fixed abode, but roams from venue to venue in search of new musical pastures for its soul.

But why so few younger members?

How do they reproduce themselves?

We asked a startling and delightful exception to our characterisation : Rebecca (Bex) Herman is young, vivacious, and good looking. She seethes with enthusiasm for classical music but it's hard to imagine that this energising force does not often burst its banks and, like the great Nile, leave everything around revitalised and able to thrive again.

But, like us, Bex did not have an answer.
Maybe, she suggested, the Chillingirian Quartet playing Benjamin Britten's string quartet No 3 is a bit forbidding if you don't know it.

But it's also beautiful, it stretches your understanding and tears at your prejudice and complacency, making you a better person, at least for a while, and it's a shame more people couldn't have heard their searing rendition of a very powerful piece of music.

Bex is a cellist herself, a very good one and she played in the Castalian Quartet, a very distinguished group.

Her parents' are not musical, which just goes to show, we are free after all to follow our own tunes.

Maybe classical music needs to go out into the pubs and bars, take itself to the people?

But the people do come, it's just that they're old people, by and large.

Later, we amble back through an Arabian night, up the Edgware Road, where European looking couples and Bedouin tribesmen seemed happy to smoke water pipes outside the same cafes alongside each other. London showing once again how the world can live together, by sharing, not just cafes or water pipes, but schools, hospitals and district nurses and pharmacies and late night food stores.

Talking of these, as we searched around in one for a late night snack, we were fortunate indeed to meet Ismail Ali, the friendliest shopping guide you could ever hope to meet, who with huge bright eyes and a bigger smile recommended the Falafel to us. We bought the wrong one, but it was delicious anyway.

Ismail just happened to be in the shop as we were looking a bit lost, and he briefly told us his story, which started in Kyrenia, Cyprus, from Turkish parents, who came to Crouch End in North London, and now Ismail is travelling with London's huge portfolio living tribe, writing, creating and helping the homeless and lost shoppers like us.

He is about to launch a blog which will fuse coffee and creativity.
We know it will be good because Ismail is good - and he has an indefinable air of originality about him, which we find in all the big hearted people we meet on the marvellous streets of London.

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