I don’t really need to tell you how important music is in our everyday lives. Each and every one of us would find it hard to pick songs for our Desert Island. Mine would have to include Edvard Greig’s Morning from Peer Gynt which I heard over the rammy my classmates were making and was the first time I heard classical music. I listened as I had never listened before.
There were my late parents’ favourites: mother and her Ella Fitzgerald singing Every time We say Goodbye and dad’s Leave the Dishes in the Sink Ma. When dad died, after his funeral, my brother and I sang it over and over as we danced around for the last time in the family home in Clerry. Speaking of funerals, that is when family is called on to pick that one tune or song. For mum it was Goodnight Sweetheart sung by Al Bowlly (another of her favourite crooners) when we all five of us children and dad held tearful hands. Of course at his funeral we had to have Sunshine on Leith for this proud Leither and not a dry eye in the house as they say. On a cheerier note there’s Stranger on the Shore with Acker Bilk as I watched my lovely American sailor leave from Leith. Ah the romance of youth.
Music can celebrate, mend and also break a heart. Music takes us back to a moment in our lives so poignant that time stands still. So this week, as I stood outside Midlothian Council offices surrounded by people carrying musical instruments of all sorts: guitars, drums, oboes, fiddles – you name it, there could be no-one in doubt that Labour council’s proposal to make cuts to school music had met its musical match.
There were folk of all ages from knee high to pensioner, from solo guitarist to brass band. Inside the councillors could not be deaf to the music making itself heard. Top of the pops for me were the tubas stealing the show and even eclipsing the pipes, for once. We clapped to the rhythm of “We will we willll rock you”, paused for the melancholy of the violins and cheered the lone piper. Banners were raised declaring “Don’t Stop the Music”, “Play a different tune” and “Give us our music Bach”. No politician could have rallied such a motley of musicality. It was the young people of Midlothian who were the force behind the demonstration, using social media to full effect. It was their show and they did themselves and more importantly, music proud. Yes, music in the key of major not minor.
How many of us have entered a room to find a lone piano not to say the words “does anyone play”? How many of us regret not having the opportunity to learn to play an instrument?
In my youth in the council scheme only the children in the bungalows edging the main road had music lessons, let alone a piano or violin. Let’s not go back to those bad old days.
If anything, Midlothian Council has done us all a favour; by threatening to cut music out it has reminded us how important music is in all our lives, reminded us that it is not for the few but the many.
Christine Grahame is the SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale