I feel absolutely devastated upon learning of the death of Nevill Marriner. If I may indulge, I have a story about his music that probably saved me at a critical time of my life.
Back in the early 1970s, I was still a relatively young man and should have been insulated from the unfortunate burdens of life. However, that wasn’t the case, as my recollection of my childhood started with overhearing my parents talking about the diagnosis of breast cancer and the tearful conversation about “what are we going to do??” Although the conversation around my mother’s cancer always remained positive and upbeat, I never forgot the conversation and that there was probably something that they weren’t telling “the kids.” I believe that this event shaped many of the choices I made for myself for decades to come – I know, your childhood shapes many of the decisions that you make for decades, but this was a dark side of life that I was exposed to much too early, and in a way that left me to deal with it on my own. It’s not the subject matter for a little by to ponder upon. Nevertheless, that’s what I had, and however lacking in communication skills my family was, things rapidly closed down even further when news of the cancer arose. I was, essentially, alone. I was left to deal with being the youngest [and least informed] in a large family that didn’t communicate, especially when things weren’t going well. In my family culture, if it wasn’t funny or gross, you didn’t speak of it and it would go away. This included many important conversation that can definitely help a kid get along in life. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t educated in some of the more important things. I sew, do laundry (without destroying things), cook, clean, organize, show up on time, and can run a household. These are skills I realized, in college, that most people don’t get growing up. I could have used some advice on how to manage a friendship, how to talk to girls, and it would have helped if my sex education didn’t come from schoolyard gossip. I was pretty sure by the time I was in high school that having sex would turn you into a homeless pothead. I mean, respectable people talk of such things and babies “just happened.” I mean, I understood the mechanics, no thanks to “Our Bodies, Our Selves.” I have five older sisters. I can tell you that no boy, EVER should learn about women and sex from that book. Yup!!! I read it cover to cover because one of my sisters told me to. I knew about things that no man should know. Well, no boy should know. I didn’t ask a lot of questions, because my family didn’t talk about such things. You read a book filled with black and white pictures of things that are beyond the reach of a 10,000,000 color palette! The “mirror photo,” for lack of a better description, is permanently burned into my brain – 45 years later. So what does this have to do with Neville Marriner? You thought I got lost, but there needed to be some background.
I was a frightened, lonely little boy. Honestly, I think I was very well on the road to some healthy PTSD and a predisposition to anxiety disorder. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t ponder “what will we do?” I didn’t know what that meant. Like, will we be sent away like the kids in WWII England. Yes, I did see “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” – might have been in the theater. Until my mother was gravely ill, she worked at the local theater and would let me in to watch movies for free until she got off of work. As an aside, I saw my first car chase in 1973 watching “The 7-Ups” for free. Nope, bet you never saw that one. It was a real piece of crap, but I liked it!!! With all of this stuff going on and nobody to talk to, things started to get, for lack of a better description from the perspective of a kid, weird. I was having dreams when I could sleep. I was afraid to sleep, and I had to share a bedroom with my father because I was the only other boy in the house and none of the girls would share a room with a boy. My room had a folding victrola on the bureau that was rarely used. I was in “my room” playing one evening when I decided to use it. I was adept at playing records. We had tons of records and my family were all involved in music in one way or another. I had heard LOTS of recordings of many different genres of music, but what was lying around was a new box set that was new and looked pretty. It just happened to be the first edition of the Neville Marriner recording of the complete Bach Brandenburg Concerto, with St. Martin in the Fields Orchestra. To this day, I don’t know who bought it or why it was brand new and just lying around my room. So, I stacked the records. It was a 2 LP boxed set with a long winded insert. And pushed the spring-loaded button to start the loading process, and then, something happened. I had never heard anything like it in my life. I didn’t know what I was hearing, but it took my mind away from what was “weird” in my life. I didn’t listen for long, as it put my directly to sleep. From that day on, when I didn’t feel right, I put on the records – didn’t matter where I dropped the needle. I tried to mix it up as to wear the record evenly. I played this set every night when I went to bed – for over 20 years! I wore out multiple sets, and no, only that particular recording did it. I tried others, but the period instruments made it sound “right.” I bought any recording with Neville Marriner and St. Martin in the Fields. I studied them and I don’t know why. I just loved the work that Marriner did with St. Martin in the Fields. When CDs came out, I would listen to the recordings with the sound turned all the way up so I could hear Marriner breathing his phrases with the orchestra. I don’t think I knew what he looked like until years after I had discovered his recordings. It didn’t matter, I just knew that the music took me from my life and made things make sense. I didn’t know Sir Neville Marriner, but I really felt like he did me a great favor in a time in my life where I needed a break. So, when I heard that Sir Neville Marriner passed away, I really did feel that I lost a mentor, friend, and companion who helped me through a rough time.