Ask any musician, and there will be a few people that were pivotal in their lives. Most of them would be their teachers, but there will be others as well. I have three such people in my life who were hugely influential and made me the musician and performer I am today. I thank them in my head nearly every day.
One was my Australian cello teacher, David Pereira. Another was my teacher when I went to London, Robert Cohen. And the third was the Australian composer, Martin Wesley-Smith. Last Thursday, Martin died after a long battle with cancer.
I knew it was coming. But it still hit me like a punch in my solar plexus. I am remembering him a lot right now – sometimes sadly, sometimes with tears, sometimes with a grin. Vincent Plush wrote the most beautiful piece in Limelight – it is such a wonderful tribute. Read it. It sums up Martin perfectly.
He was such a fabulous man. He taught me so much by his example. He was charming, fiercely intelligent, full of integrity and saw through all the bullshit that goes on in the musical world of this country. He taught me to take myself seriously and follow my artistic convictions, however crazy they might be. He also taught me to not take myself too seriously, and to be the first to laugh at myself. It was because of Martin that I went to Timor and trained teachers. It was because of Martin’s music I learned to sing and play at the same time. (There’s a piece of his, ‘Uluru Song’, that I have played in every country I’ve visited- you have to sing and play at the same time. It’s a wonderful, wonderful piece.) He made me laugh and cry. He made me angry. He made me play better. He made me examine and question. He made me smile. He made me listen.
I heard the news of his death on Friday morning, and had to play on Friday night. I was raw. I tried to play the cello in a way he would have liked – thoughtfully, honestly, lovingly. I did this on Saturday and Sunday too.
Dear Martin, this is one cellist remembering you. One person you have touched. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for all your music. You are so very missed…