Rosy Cole

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Rosy Cole was born and educated in the Shires of England. Her writing career started in her teens. Four apprentice works eventually led to publication of two novels. Life intervened, but she returned to authorship in 2004. She has worked as a Press Officer and Publisher's Reader. Among widespread interests, she lists history, opera, musicals, jazz, the arts, drawing and painting, gemmology, homoeopathy and alternative therapies. Theology also is an abiding interest. As a singer, she's performed alongside many renowned musicians and has run a music agency which specialised in themed 'words-and-music' programmes, bringing her two greatest passions together. Rosy's first book of poetry, THE TWAIN, Poems of Earth and Ether, was published in April 2012, National Poetry Month, and two other collections are in preparation. As well as the First and Second Books in the Berkeley Series, she has written several other historical titles and one of literary fiction. She is currently working on the Third Book in the Berkeley Series. All her books are now published under the New Eve imprint. Rosy lives in West Sussex with her son, Chris, and her Springador, Jack, who keeps a firm paw on the work-and-walkies schedule!

Facing The Music

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A recent comment on this site brought to mind my shelved novel ENTERTAINING ANGELS which I've occasionally blogged elsewhere in its unedited state. It's the saga of a dysfunctional family struggling in the aftermath of two world wars and revolves around a mother/daughter conflict, winding up just before the millennium. In this passage, Isabelle (Belle), casualty of a lavender marriage and mother of a growing son, is finally striking out and pursuing her dreams in the world of music.

 

It was a modern studio, airy and spacious, with skylights and halogen spotlights. A waxed pine floor dimly reflected its only functional ornament, a Japanese grand piano, dark as liquorice. This elegant beast dwarfed the flimsy steel stand which had been dauntingly placed in its lee where the singer might address his score fully observed. Lecture chairs were stacked below a notice board announcing entertainments and workshops past and pending. A series of murals enhanced the orchestral theme, examples of student art. They were bold, imagistic creations, smacking of Picasso, Braque and Gauguin, transmitting some dreamlike truth beyond a slavish fidelity to shape and viewpoint. What struck the viewer more than anything else was the intimate relationship of the performers with their chosen instruments - as though they would have been limbless without them - giving off a febrile animal passion to achieve a state of being beyond their bodies.

"Amazing, aren't they?" Gabriel said. It was a throwaway remark. Compared to their first encounter, he was disconcertingly withdrawn.

"So confident!"

"That's youth for you. Treading where angels fear. Give me a committed young ensemble. They're able to tap resources they didn't know they had." He gave her a churlish grin. "That's before life puts the boot in, I expect."

"You mean they become overly aware of pitfalls?"

"Something like that." He was like a watchful tiger in a cage and appeared to have difficulty focusing on the task before him. He slumped down on to the piano stool, absently tinkering with the keyboard in a driven manner. "Wrong key..."

"It's important to learn the rules of perspective. Fundamental."

"Knowing when to break them - when it's justified - that's the stuff of genius."

"It all depends where you fit the frame."

"Quite," Gabriel said. "Now, shall we start at the beginning...wherever that may be? Let's assume you've had no experience at all. Let's make music!"

She stood with her back to the wall as instructed, so that her posture was best aligned to produce unhindered sound. He told her that singing was breathing and that the singer must be prepared to let loose his burdens before launching into song. "Offload the past. Shed all the guilt and resentment. Come freely to the music."

Naturally, it made sense. His voice had a nectarous quality. She began to feel that he was required to be as adept a psychologist as he was a musician. There was an intimate element to the procedure which she had not reckoned upon. Lessons with Joan Sandys had not been like this, just scales and arpeggios, jumps of fourths, fifths, sixths and sevenths, and a few laboured songs within earshot of someone who was benevolently critical and, in the main, undemanding. Belle suspected that Joan had not taken her seriously, perhaps had been too jaded with living and had not seen any potential in her.

There followed a treatise on breathing technique and a series of one and three-note exercises in changing vowel shapes. "You're holding back," Gabriel shouted from the piano. "Why are you holding back? There's a voice and a half in there. A true bel canto. And a top D or E, at a guess."

"I don't know, I don't know," she said, dismayed. "I am trying!"

It was as if she had been catapulted to some high ledge with no safety net and no crevice for sanctuary. The musicians on the walls were demonstrating their skills in a frenzy of ecstacy, or else languid from the vision glimpsed. If their instruments were part of their being, how much more so was her own voice? She stood alone in echoing space wondering why she had submitted to such exposure, why it hurt and why, at that moment, it mattered more than anything else on earth.

The momentum was in no danger of flagging. They progressed to more melodious arpeggios, ascending and descending, rising again to sustain the highest note. "Don't lose the support," Gabriel cried. "Now float it! Fly!"

I can do better than this, Belle thought in a sudden access of determination. But instead of the single thread of silver she was aiming for, the notes issued thin and timorous and died on the air, taking refuge in the place which had given them birth.

"Why are you choking the sound?" demanded Gabriel. Realising his professional methods were in jeopardy, he let go a sigh and tried to suppress his exasperation. "Look, " he said, "you're capable of breath in volumes, your pitch is good. Excellent, even. The transition from head to chest voice is smooth as cream. Why do you expire before you've seen the view from the top of the hill?"

A cloud filtered out the natural brightness from the skylight. The interior lights shone accusingly. Belle was at a loss to know why she was downhearted and unreasonably ashamed. It was only a singing lesson. She was giving it her best shot. Was it because the constraint suggested she was not in control of something as basic as her own voice?

"It's such a personal instrument, the voice," she said.

"Yes," he replied. "It is. Listen, I'm not judging you."

"No."

"My function is not to be some kind of Svengali, either. I'm in the business of ensuring that good voices don't go to waste. There's enough gloom in the world.”

She flicked him a glance of rapier understanding and began to search in the compartments of her bag for Kleenex. She was angry with herself for betraying her own poverty. "It heals," she heard herself snuffle. "The music is so healing, so other..."

"But that, "Gabriel said gently, "is sometimes preceded by a healing crisis. We cannot escape these things. Truth will out." Over the years, he had formed the opinion that the services of a vocal coach were at least equally valid with those of a counsellor, only the tools and the approach were different. "Why don’t we try developing the mezzo range for the time being?” he suggested. “But now, I think it's best if we call it a day. We'll dispense with the fee for this week."

"Oh, but I couldn't..."

"No, I insist." After a moment's hesitation, he said pointedly, catching Belle's eye: "I wouldn't dream of drawing on your account, Mrs Loveless."

She made to leave, bundling a redundant sheaf of scores back into her music case. Though she could bear to have fluffed the grade, she was appalled at proving herself a coward. "I ought not to have taken your time..."

"I'm glad you did. I hope I shall see you next week, Belle. At the same time? We might do some Vaccai exercises. If you don't have a copy, perhaps you could get one? The Schirmer edition is best."

"Thank you." She smiled politely.

"Facing the music can be painful..." As the phrase fell, he caught the heel of her hand in passing. Simultaneously, a shock of electricity seared through them both, its sharp, mercurial pain striking through hands and feet alike. In an automatic gesture, Belle snatched her hand away. Just then, a smart knock on the door heralded Jeremy Kay, the Head of the Music Department, who leaned inside to ask if Gabriel could spare a few moments at the end of the session. "Need to pick your brains, old son," he said.

"Five minutes," Gabriel said, spreading the fingers of one hand and managing to look both startled and sheepish at once. There was a glint of amusement in Kay's eyes as he retreated. He'd no idea who Belle was but thought the pair of them looked exceptionally well matched with their Tudor dynasty colouring.

In a whirlwind, Belle disappeared down the short staircase from the mezzanine floor, turning out of sight.

"Well, well," Kay mumbled, glancing after her. "Tell me it wasn't something you said, dear fellow."

"I couldn't vouch for it," Silk grinned. It was a rueful grin and the Aegean-blue eyes looked haunted.

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Copyright

© ©Rosy Cole 2008,2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 & 2015

Recent Comments
Anonymous
Naturally, without knowing where the story has been or where it's going it's hard to get a feel for the undercurrents. What is Bel... Read More
Saturday, 21 February 2015 00:15
Rosy Cole
In this scene, the relationship is a professional one on academic turf where the protocol is fairly rigorous. That they have run i... Read More
Saturday, 21 February 2015 11:46
Anonymous
Wow! But she was hurt? Or annoyed. Guess I'd have to read the book. I remember telling people, "if that's what you got I guess tha... Read More
Saturday, 21 February 2015 14:23
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Bread Of Heaven And Roses

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'What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.' Ralph Waldo Emerson



If Emerson had asked your mother
'Tell me what you know'
he would have missed her whisper
She could pluck, unpierced,
the thorny rose
disseminate its perfume
discover no invisible worm
She was loving living
and living loving
not buried in getting ready to live
She knew that the substance
of generous giving
was in asking for Grace
and baking the bread of sharing
with the leaven of trust
humour and humility
which, cast on the waters,
did that Galilee thing
and, as Cervantes noted,
helped to drown sorrow
Transcendent skies
weren't the bread of her eyes
but the kindness kindling
warm light in a lonely eye
a gleam and dream
of harmonies long-forgotten
yet just over the horizon
This, this, was Panis Angelicus'
blessed morsels falling freely
from her ample board.

To peddle Emerson's lexicon
would have wasted litanies
She knew by instinct
that what lies behind
and what lies before
are tiny matters compared
to what lies within
She could not do a kindness
too soon, for she knew well enough
how soon it might be too late.

Your mother hitched her wagon
to her namesake's crown of stars
her 'Yes!' to life in every breath
gesture and neatly sewn prayer
proclaiming a destiny fulfilled
to the women at the gates
her mortal shoes treading an earth
that weeps and laughs in flowers
her inner child the while
inhabiting the courts of heaven.


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Oleg Trofimoff

Copyright

© © Rosy Cole 2015

Recent Comments
Anonymous
I hope nobody minds this little story but it is relevant to what I have to say: I was on a Philadelphia city bus nearly sixty year... Read More
Monday, 16 February 2015 01:42
Anonymous
Joking and goofy stories aside, you've done it again, Rosy. I'm going to root through my files and find all your poems -- I hope I... Read More
Monday, 16 February 2015 01:52
Anonymous
Sorry, but I just remembered this. Both our poems mention roses. Something on the ether?
Monday, 16 February 2015 01:56
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6 Comments

A Legal Fiction

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This day commemorates the execution of King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1649, who was tried by Parliament and found guilty of High Treason for his style of governance which upheld the Divine Right of Kings. His Catholic wife and his preference for the Roman tradition in matters of religion unnerved a nation seeking liberation from Papal authority.

Since Eden, we have wrestled with the conundrum of power and justice which can never be wholly resolved as we strive instinctively to regain a state of being long lost.

Below are some quotes from noted figures. The opinion of the Radical Tom Paine in the following century echoes with devastating ambiguity:

Kill the king but spare the man.
Thomas Paine

I would rather obey a fine lion, much stronger than myself, than two hundred rats of my own species.
Voltaire

But since we have learned sin, we have found, as Lord Acton says, that 'all power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' The only remedy has been to take away the powers and substitute a legal fiction of equality.
C S Lewis

...the more absolute the ruler, the more absolute the revolution will be which replaces him.
Hannah Arendt

The progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy, is a progress toward a true respect for the individual.
H D Thoreau

I feel anxious for the fate of our monarchy, or democracy, or whatever is to take place. I soon get lost in a labyrinth of perplexities; but,whatever occurs, may justice and righteousness be the stability of our times, and order arise out of confusion. Great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.
Abigail Adams

Why doesn't the United States take over the monarchy and unite with England? England does have important assets. Naturally the lon ger you wait, the more they will dwindle. At least you could use it for a summer resort instead of Maine
W H Auden

The best reason why Monarchy is a strong government is, that it is an intelligible government. The mass of mankind understand it, and they hardly anywhere in the world understand any other.
Walter Bagehot

Remember that life is made up of loyalty: loyalty to your friends; loyalty to things beautiful and good; loyalty to the country in which you live; loyalty to your King; and above all, for this holds all other loyalties together, loyalty to God.
Queen Mary, wife of King George V

Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule...and both commonly succeed, and are right.
H L Mencken

Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes or film stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.
C S Lewis

When Caesar, having extracted what is Caesar's, demands still more insistently that we render unto him what is God's - that is a sacrifice we dare not make!
Alexander Solzhenitsyn

I am not a 'democrat', if only because 'humility' and equality are spiritual principles corrupted by the attempt to mechanize and formalize them, with the result that we get not universal smallness and humility, but universal greatness and pride, till some Orc gets hold of a ring of power--and then we get and are getting slavery.
J R R Tolkien

Better be secure under one king, than exposed to violence from twenty millions of monarchs, though oneself be one of them.
Herman Melville

If you have time, you might like to read today's blog post on this theme at http://www.pilgrimrose.com

Recent Comments
Anonymous
A lot to digest, Rosy. Much of it dealt with my current major preoccupations. Current but also old. Somewhere in my later years I'... Read More
Saturday, 31 January 2015 02:05
Rosy Cole
Thanks for ploughing through it all, Charlie, and for your comments. I do appreciate them. Yes, I think all those sayings are hi... Read More
Saturday, 31 January 2015 16:13
Anonymous
I'm always afraid I'll seem to be "buttering you up" but I have to say that you amaze me. If there's such a thing as a living, bre... Read More
Saturday, 31 January 2015 17:20
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I Hear The Music Now

 

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a young student of seventeen

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His study in Berlin

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His arrest in Berlin

 

On this day, I offer a poem as a tribute to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. His family believed this gifted and 'lovable' man was destined to be a musician. But the Cosmos had other plans.

On April 9th, 1945, he was executed at Flossenburg Concentration Camp in Bavaria for his stance against the abomination of Hitler's Jewish policies. Bonhoeffer's tremendous energy in the cause of justice and peace knew no bounds, even after his arrest. He inspired and gathered about him so many of like mind prepared to do the distance.

Exactly two weeks later, on April 23rd, liberation came, at Flossenburg via the 90th US Infantry. The Third Reich fell as surely as the walls of Jericho.

On that spring dawn, a tidal power was released into the universe that has carried subsequent generations. And those born into a traumatised world within an ace of his passing were touched by his shadow and have best ridden the current of that Life he set free.

 

'There is a meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveller.' Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

I am breaking in two
Hell opens its mouth wide
bidding Heaven fill it

Am I a whited sepulchre?
pacific as Christ
before my warden
when a heart of anger
rages under the ribs
at living blasphemy?

Pictures from the past
assail the mind
taunting and tantalising
a Beethoven sonata at dusk
my fingers dabbling harmonies
from liquid keys

preternatural chords
that could transform
a disordered world

Vintage values, vintage leather
a timeworn oaken table
rye bread, schnitzel, sauerkraut
blessed conversation
the family as one dipping
its hand into the dish

my sister's merriment
her sparkling wit, she with whom
I shared a sacred womb

Tubingen, the Neckar's sheen
willow-teased and placid
ancient gables pinked against sky
the halls of learning
prescriptive ink, mottled parchment
a smell of dust and destiny

Embattled senses piqued
drunk on heroic visions
Wagner, Schiller, Goethe
donning the mental shoes
of Luther, Hegel, Kepler
confabulating new fire

The zeal of youth!
The rampant certainty
Good systems of belief
might slay hubris and heresy
Christians foiled, resisted, banned
the torque tightening

But no cheap Grace,
Grace the other side of pain
and prayer, Grace prodigal
and purposeful, power-releasing
stone-breaking Grace
of Heaven's radiant geode!

Orgies of cleansing
God's Chosen hounded, trampled
the burning and the broken glass
the Prince of Darkness
determined to exterminate
his own reflection

The hiding, oh, the hiding
the labyrinthine whispers
earthquaking jackboots
persecution by a buckled cross
the leading where I had no wish to go
like the Lord's disciple

I ask the warden how
his diphtherious daughter does
footsteps clatter in concrete corridors
echoing against the mindless walls
It is Time, O Lord. I am Thine,
You bid me come and die

O perfect irony! O Spring!
A round, rose-tinted dawn!
Birds fly upward like broadcast seed
I see the outlined noose, the narrow way
the gallows way, a doorway framing light
This, this is where it begins...


I hear the music now...

 

from Mysteries of Light (collection in preparation)

preview

 

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Flossenburg Concentration Camp - courtesy of the Holocaust History Archive

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Flossenburg Castle

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 Shared from www.pilgrimrose.com

Copyright

© © Rosy Cole 2015

Recent Comments
Anonymous
I HEAR THE MUSIC NOW: I was excited just to see you had done something on Bonhoeffer. I've just read through it once and I'm sur... Read More
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 01:30
Rosy Cole
Thank you so much, Charlie. I am touched that you found personal treasure in this poem and deeply appreciate your enthusiasm and i... Read More
Thursday, 29 January 2015 15:47
Virginia M Macasaet
Beautiful! Love this post!
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 07:32
2301 Hits
4 Comments

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Latest Comments

Rosy Cole So May We All
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I intend to try with the cap locks on, but in a quiet, subtle kind of way :-)
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It's true, you can see more of them, and if paintings, details at closer and clearer quarters, at yo...
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I agree, Stephen. It's the simple things.
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