Earlier this week we were saying goodbye to my Father and over the days that followed it really struck me how much of a force for bringing people together music is. Read on…it’s not as maudlin as you might think! View_MFA_Spons

Now my Dad was a larger than life character in lots of ways and having managed and owned pubs for over forty years he knew a lot of people, so naturally the crematorium was full…ok, it was standing room only AND they opened a second room where folk could watch proceedings on a live video and audio feed…who knew they did that? So, there we all were gathered to shed a few tears and reflect a little on this man’s life, but also to celebrate his life too… and for both emotional opposites it was music that guided us.

On walking into the crematorium Dad had chosen to have Ronan Keating’s “If Tomorrow Never Comes”

I must confess to never having heard this particular tune, but listening to the lyric it was clear that my Father was addressing my Mother and trying to say the things he perhaps never could whilst he was alive (There’d been that British thing from a bygone age of being emotionally suppressed going on here of course) but Dad was also speaking through the lyric of the tune to the rest of the people gathered and urging them to tell their loved ones what they think of them before it is too late.Views_Music_First

The service continued and the speaker reflected on a life lived to the full and then the final song played as the curtains closed on the coffin for the ultimate time. I’ll need to backtrack here a little and say that whenever one of his pubs had a singer, or as we call them in Yorkshire “a turn”, Dad would wait ‘til the end of the evening, put on the backing track, grab the mic and belt out Roy Orbison’s “Penny Arcade”

He wasn’t a singer as such and never played and instrument, but he loved to belt this particular tune out and everyone would clap along to the chorus. No one really knew why he sang this song, even Mum, but when it played at the funeral there was a ripple of laughter that spread through the people gathered. Again this was Dad’s way of bringing people together, uniting them as one and swinging the emotional pendulum right over to the positive side of things.

I’m not a fan of either pieces of music, as I’m sure many in the audience that day weren’t, but music has this power to speak to us, bring us together and unite us emotionally in a way that little else, if anything, can.

On the way home after the funeral and taking the ferry back to France we camped out in the bar which had a stage, a small dance-floor and a couple of ‘turns’ on. I’m not a huge fan of these kind of acts, but credit where it is due, the first act, a duo going by the name of The Black And White Stripes were really very good indeed and very accomplished – certainly a good step up from the usual. So, they played their set and I watched the audience from the sidelines and it was a wonderful thing to behold. On the dance-floor were an older couple dancing to all the older tunes that they knew and thoroughly getting lost in the music. Of course these two weren’t being brought together in the same way as the rest of the audience, but it was the music and their dancing that bonded them. However, what really caught my eye were two toddlers with their parents. The first child, a young lad, sat in his chair, bopping to the rhythm and pretending to play the guitar…perhaps he’ll be the next Hendrix when he gets older. The second was a young girl who insisted on breaking away from her Mother and heading towards the stage to be nearer the music and again this was a wonderful thing to see. There was sheer joy in both these young people’s faces and it was only after a short while that I noticed the young girl was wearing hearing devices in both ears. Looking round the room everyone was singing to the tunes they knew, or just nodding their heads to the tunes they didn’t…again the whole room being brought together by music. The next act came on, played his set and finished with… yep, the Ronan Keating tune played at Dad’s funeral!

So we’re back at Hifi Pig Towers now and I’ve been quite contemplative over the last couple of days, but there have been four images that have come to the fore time and time again and that has been the two tunes played at the funeral, the joy on the faces of the two young people on the ferry and of course the couple lost in their own little world whilst they danced.

Many people of course love to go see live music and the feeling of being in an audience full of people being moved in the same way by the music they are hearing is a magnificent thing to behold and be part of. But it doesn’t have to be live music to have this effect! If you were part of the rave generation you’ll know the feeling of collective consciousness and the crowd moving as one as the DJ takes you and your fellow ravers on a journey…again a truly glorious thing to behold and take part in. In our home town of Gourin here in North Western France, we have an annual event that celebrates the crèpe (pancakes to you and me) called “Fète De La Crèpe” and of course there is live Breton music throughout the day and night. Sitting on the sidelines and watching the crowd (from toddlers to OAPs) perform their traditional dances is a spectacle that, when I first saw it, moved me a great deal. These people are being brought together by music and dance and this coming together strengthens their Breton identity and in turn helps protect and maintain their culture…and I think this is hugely important and perhaps something other communities who are more removed from “community” in its broader sense could learn a lot from.Fete_de_la_crepe_gourin

So there you have it, again I’ve been more than a bit “ramblesome” (as is my wont) but I think the point I’m getting across is that music, and particularly the coming together of people to listen to music (and perhaps dance), is a hugely important factor in maintaining strong social bonds between individuals, families, groups and communities and it is at our peril if we forget this and allow ourselves to become musically isolated. Whilst of course Hifi Pig is essentially a platform for us to spout on about hifi (which can be a solitary pass-time), I urge you to take yourselves (if able) out into the real world and experience music as it was meant to be heard… and that is amongst friends, loved ones and family, or alternatively why not invite some friends and neighbours round for the evening, open a bottle or two, clear the floor, crank the volume up and have a little dance…you know you want to!

Stuart Smith

Read more View Of Stu Here. 


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