Let’s try to recapture some of the magic of childhood

Congratulations to Evelyn Glennie - awarded the Polar Prize for Music

Congratulations to Evelyn Glennie – awarded the Polar Prize for Music

Dame Evelyn Glennie is a wonderful percussionist. I have been fortunate to see her perform on several occasions. One of the most memorable of these performances was as soloist for James Macmillan’s Veni Veni Emmanuel at the the Derngate Concert Hall in Northampton. She must be amongst the most vibrant and enthusiastic performers to ever grace the concert platform. I was therefore delighted this morning to hear on the radio that she had been awarded the prestigious Polar Music Prize.

Evelyn Glennie has often asserted that she is a musician who does not want to be “pigeon holed” or labelled according to the music she plays. Equally at home with a full orchestra playing pieces written by classical composers, or with a small avant-garde group accompanying the Icelandic performer Bjork, she is an adventurous musician who is always looking for opportunities to do something new.

Just as she does not wish to see perceptions of her musicianship limited, she is equally adamant that she does not want to be labelled as a deaf musician. This despite the fact that she has been profoundly deaf since she was twelve years old. Glennie feels the music at least as well as most of us can hear it.

“There’s no such thing as total deafness,” she told a reporter on BBC radio this morning. “If the body can feel, that is a form of hearing. Sound is vibration, that’s what it is.”

I have heard her make similar suggestions on several occasions before, but it was something else she said this morning that caught my attention. Evelyn Glennie is approaching her fiftieth birthday and was asked by the interviewer to reflect on how she felt about this in the context of her distinguished musical career. Her immediate response was to say that she still felt like a child. When asked to elaborate on this comment, she stated that she felt that she could still view her music and experiences of the world with the same enthusiasm and pleasure that we associate with children.

What a wonderfully life affirming statement I thought. Here is an eminent professional who clearly values the sense of awe and wonder that children experience with each new discovery. Evelyn Glennie in making this claim reinforces the importance of respecting the ways in which children view the world, and the excitement that they gain from learning. Her comment this morning made me smile above my muesli! It also made me wonder whether we all ought to make a little more effort to try and recapture some of the magic of our youth and channel it into the work we do today.

I am not suggesting that we become childish, which I see as being distinctly different from being child like. The first implies a level of immaturity that we should make every effort to leave behind, the second a state that we should perhaps try to recapture.

As I write this I am seated at Heathrow airport awaiting a flight to Brazil. It occurs to me that I have a recording of Evelyn Glennie on my phone and that I have an opportunity to listen to this and celebrate this wonderful musician and her achievements during the long trip ahead. I must also make a note to myself to ensure that I work towards achieving a more childlike state!


You can listen to Evelyn Glennie perform Rhythmic Caprice by Leigh Howard Stevens  by watching the link below



6 thoughts on “Let’s try to recapture some of the magic of childhood

  1. Hi Richard, I recall you introducing me to Dame Evelyn Glennie’s wonderful percussion performance of ‘Caliban’s Dream’ during the closing ceremony of the London Olympics. I wholly agree about channeling child-like wonder into our work. My very best wishes to you and all our colleagues for the ‘Becoming Visible’ workshop on inclusive education in Brazil. I look forward to hearing about the sessions and gleaning lots of knowledge through your blog posts referencing them too.

    • Hi Saneeya,
      Child like wonder is something we all need in our lives. Particularly at the moment after more than 30 hours travelling to get to Sao Carlos!

  2. I hope the 12 hour flight was not too adult an experience. I watched a piece last night about Dame Evelyn Glennie’s triumph on the news. One of the things that struck me was her enthusiasm and lack of acceptance of labelling, both key qualities of being ‘childlike’. Instead of being ‘burdened’ by her ‘deafness’ and being pitied, she has re-interpreted how she interacts with sound. Equally instead of the usual percussionist position of a final crescendo, she has developed a role as a solist. One thing that struck me was her ability to see and use things in new and different ways that is something children have that perhaps adults lose as they ‘grow up’.

    • Hi Carmel,
      I have heard Evelyn Glennie play music on old car exhaust pipes – what child would not wish to do that!

  3. Hope you find the child in you and hold on to it!!

    Thanks for sharing the triumphs of Evelyn Glennie. Amazing abilities…

    Would love to hear about your Brazil experiences..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.