I am going to speak about something that is incredibly precious to me. Music! What makes this so exciting is that the music involved is an opera. An opera about my Mother and me!
Let me tell you how it all came about.
Rexleigh Bunyard is a musician-composer and music teacher. Out of blue, I received a e-mail from her in which she expressed the idea of wanting to write an opera about Mum and me. I read that sentence again. Yes, I had read it correctly. She wanted to write an opera about Mum and me! Why did she want to write an opera about….oh, of course, my accident! I spoke to Mum about this e-mail. She was not happy with this idea at all. Making enjoyable entertainment out of a heart shattering piece of life was lunacy, as far as she was concerned, definitely not on! But, she was willing to meet Rexleigh and hear what she had to say. While staying with my sister in Cape Town, Rexleigh came to see us.
On meeting Rexleigh, Mum’s antipathy to her fell away. Here was a woman who was open to our feelings and needs. If we had said that we were not happy with the whole concept, Rexleigh would have cancelled it instantly. We listened intently to Rexleigh’s idea.
In December 1989, Rexleigh had been greeted with the news of my fall when she opened the morning newspaper. Like the rest of South Africa she had followed my progress closely. She had always felt a close affinity for the life of Helen Keller and her amazing teacher, Anne Sullivan. She drew a parallel to the lives of Mum and me. “Both you and Helen Keller suffered extreme losses and emerged with the help of your mentors, as highly enriched human beings with extraordinary perspectives which you have shared with humanity, to our gain. I have the utmost admiration for people who have survived and triumphed over crippling events in their lives. My opera will be a tribute to your efforts and a testimony of your great spirit.”
Rexleigh told us that she would like to have the singers signing in the the production. “Although the signing would be a dramatic enhancement to the text and music, rather than an interpretive device for a deaf audience to be able to follow the whole story of the opera.”
Well, okay, but it would be pretty amazing just the same, I thought. How could one possibly put a stop to such an undertaking!
And so, Rexleigh began composing her opera Lost in a Bluebell Wood. She explained: “I chose opera as my medium because it has all the serious dramatic and musical ingredients to put across such a powerful tale. And, why Lost in a Bluebell Wood you may ask? “Well”, says Rexleigh “that is a long story, but it involves the paradox of loss and beauty.”
The arts journalist, Johan Myburg, asked why she decided on the Greek myth of Persephone and Demeter as a subtext for the opera?
“The profile of Gaynor Young’s story fits the symbolic profile of the Greek myth of Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest (mother) and Persephone (daughter). Persephone was captured by Hades (the Lord of the Underworld) and taken to his realm. Her mother, Demeter searched for her daughter over all the Earth. Upon discovering that she had been kidnapped, Demeter pleaded for her release. This was only partially granted, because the condition of her release was that she should not have eaten anything during her stay in Hades. As she was leaving, myth has it that Hades gave Persephone a pomegranate seed. She ate it and was thus thereafter allowed to live half the year in the world with her mother and half of the year in the Underworld, with Hades.”
This myth is a symbolic story about a seed falling into the ground and growing. Spring and Summer are the seasons of growth, and Autumn and Winter are the seasons of withdrawal when the seed lies in the ground, waiting for the next Spring.
Gaynor fell into the bowels of the earth, literally but also symbolical. She went on a very difficult life journey with extreme injuries as a result of her accident, from which she has emerged as a motivational speaker and inspirational writer. She says that her Mother raised her twice. The journey she took was as much a spiritual one as a physical one. She has been symbolically “reborn” like a seed which “dies” and then grows into a plant as part of its life cycle, to bear fruit and then cast its own seeds into the ground.”
I love the way Rexleigh has kept me updated on her work since she began. This was one of the first pieces she sent me. It is the words for a duet between mother and daughter….
there’s beauty to be found
in every moment
in silence and in sound
It’s in the air
even in our anguish
and our deepest dark,
When we have travelled
near or far
When we’re content to be
just who we are
It doesn’t matter anymore
If we are in the right
What matters most is
if we sing the song
of life and laughter
tears and pain
and if we can forgive and let it go,
and love and lose it all,
to love again,
and love again
My heart sings with the beauty of this!
Rexleigh teaches so could only work on Lost in a Bluebell Wood in her spare time. But, a number of the songs are now complete! Rexleigh is showcasing them in ‘Bouquet’ on October 5th in the Stella Street NG Kerk, Brooklyn, Pretoria at 4pm. As Rexleigh explains:
“Bouquet” is a plant-inspired (flower theme) concert program comprising opera favourites, which will be performed by members of Sempre Opera. The program will also feature excerpts from a new opera about Gaynor Young, called Lost in a Bluebell Wood.
Lost in a Bluebell Wood is a story of great personal courage, loving support and self-acceptance, which has a universal message for all people.The poetic libretto (overlaid with the Greek myth of Persephone and Demeter) and original music of Lost in a Bluebell Wood are totally my work and for this performance I will conduct the chorus, soloists and an instrumental ensemble. The Armonia Chamber Singers will be coached by chorus master, Schalk van der Merwe. A sign language component utilised by soloists and chorus to selective dramatic effect will be choreographed and coached by Avril Cummins, and directed by Karoly Pinter.
Rexleigh is making a video of “my numbers” during this event which she hopes to then use as a marketing tool to get sponsorship and funding for a full operatic production in 2015.
Isn’t this tremendously exciting? Once I have a copy of that days video, I look forward to sharing it with you via my blog. If any of you are in the vicinity on October 5th, please pop in and feast your eyes and ears.
I know that it will be magnificent!
Anyone interested in getting involved with the full 2015 production of Lost in a Bluebell Wood please contact Rexleigh at: firstname.lastname@example.org