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Christmas message 2016

Goodness! What a year of momentous change in the world! While some welcome the chance for new voices to be heard and new paths to be followed, others despair of the direction the world seems to be taking. The message of Christmas embraces the idea of light in the world and hope for the future; though many do not align themselves with the tenets of Christianity, the importance that people place on being with family and loved ones at this time suggests where the hope for the future lies. Our world and our lives are lit up by the connection we make and experience with those around us. The hope for the future does not rest with world statesmen or the media who tell us about them, but with all of us and how we manage our dealings with those we encounter.

I’d like to share a unique concert given just before Christmas in 1985 by the pianist/composer Ronald Stevenson who died in 2015. Ronald was our friend for many years and, though a musician and intellectual of huge standing, a more humble, charming man would be hard to find.

Ronald’s widow, Marjorie, writes of this afternoon of music for people with learning difficulties at Oakleigh Centre, Melbourne, Australia: ‘I feel this little home-made film shows Ronald at his best in the art of communication and natural music-making. Never a snob about the short-comings of a piano (which he described here as an old chest of drawers) his skill was such as to be able to overcome the problems producing some amazing effects.’

The concert is on YouTube and is in two parts. The first lasts about 30 minutes and the second part about 18 minutes (if you ignore the after-concert speeches etc). I know that time is the rarest commodity at this time of year, so if you have to choose, go to the second part. I can promise you a few precious moments of restoration and inspiration as Ronald weaves a special magic through his voice, his words, his gracious respect for his audience and, most of all, his music.

As I suggested at the start of this note, the hope for the future rests with all of us and how we manage our dealings with those we encounter. Ronald gives this concert in an unassuming yet masterful way. He embraces the occasion, completely accepting his audience and his fellow performer, ignoring the inadequacies of the instrument, and positively radiating joy.

Within the crises which beset our world we are so aware and so grateful for our good lives and our precious family and friends. We hope that you and your dear ones have a time of relaxation and joy throughout the festive period and that the coming year is rewarding and peaceful.

Esther Cohen