Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Silence Before Dawn

"It is no use speaking in soft, gentle tones if everyone else is shouting."
-Joseph Priestley

It being the very last day of January, I turned my ear to some carefully chosen music on this grey morning: songs with a Winter feel or promise of hopeful renewal were among my selection.

'January comes and the cold winds blow/and the days grow longer/ it's over and done/maybe now, I've learned from my mistakes/
I know that I feel stronger these days.'

I especially enjoy those words from the song 'January' by Dawn Kenny.
Spouse and I met Dawn Kenny at one of her performances in Ireland. When I say 'met' I mean to indicate that, shortly after the performance was supposed to begin she approached our corner table, looked into our blank faces and open mouths, apologised politely for the delay and promised that the show would be starting soon. I lost all power of speech and Spouse forgot where we were.
I do not recollect that we said anything at all to her aside from a guttural grunt of agreement. As a result she never knew of our delight to be at the intimate concert; never suspected that we two crouching in the dark shadow of the club might just be her biggest fans and had been verily looking forward to the evening for weeks.
As we own both of her albums we have come to admire Dawn Kenny for her warm, intelligent, witty lyrics and astounding piano playing. She is a wonderful live entertainer too, as we shortly thereafter found out. To see her performing those beloved tunes in person was enchanting.
It is true that we take our love of music seriously and if ever we have the opportunity to meet some of the faces- and hands- behind our best-loved music, we surely take the chance.
We did not know what at all to reply when she spoke to us; it did not matter much anyhow because the music struck up soon after.
It was a superb display of talent. As the night began to wear on and we sank deeper into the wonders that she played on the piano, Dawn Kenny declared that she would be bringing the show to a close shortly. If anybody had a request, she offered, as she tinkled away on the keys, now would be the time to say so.
Spouse and I looked at one another. We knew without question what our choice would be. We each saw, too, that the other knew it. The question remained, though: which one of us would shout the name? The chords were being struck much like sand trickling through an hourglass. Time was running out. Panic set in. I said that Spouse should call it out; Spouse suggested in a fierce and impassioned whisper that I ought to do it. After all, I had introduced him to the magical Dawn Kenny, and was the very one behind our attending the concert. We bickered as quietly as two people can do without disrespecting the artist.
Finally Spouse agreed to do it. He opened his mouth to call it out, and then froze.
"What is it called?" he gasped and turned to me for assistance.
"It's-" I could go no further.
"What's the name? Quickly!"
I did not know.
He did not know.
We were terror-struck and had forgotten the name of the song that was dearest to our hearts. It was a most beautiful piece and when we first heard it on the album were unsure how any ordinary person could make a piano do that. To have the opportunity to hear it played before us was an astonishing privilege. And neither one of us knew how to tell her.

"'Who Cares'?" I suggested. "That might be the name."
"I think it was 'Who Knows'," Spouse said.
We tried variations such as
'Not Me'
'How long'
'Not You'
'Never Know'
'Know the Price'
'Who Looks So Good'
'How Much'

I wailed, inwardly of course. None of them were correct.
This frenzied battle continued for some time and we were becoming frustrated. We had named almost every lyric in the tune but had not landed upon the very name we needed.
Spouse, at long last, burst out with "'Give Yourself Away'!"
"That's it!" I cried.
Spouse turned to bellow it as Dawn Kenny finished playing. Just before he succeeded, there was a sudden silence. When the moment passed, Spouse and I had frozen again in the face of possible unwarranted attention.
Dawn Kenny then proclaimed that since nobody had any suggestions, she would play 'Blue Without You' as a final piece.
And then she added, as salt in two wounds that she could not see, that she would, as a matter of interest, have chosen 'Give Yourself Away' for herself but nobody requested it so she would play the other.
Tears stung my eyes. I had never wanted to howl the name of a song so loudly in my entire life and I generally refrain, as does Spouse, from any sort of public noise. We had spent minutes attempting to recall the name of the song we loved, only to lose the prospect of seeing it materialise on stage.
I was cross with Spouse, and he with me. Neither of the two of us were worth tuppence when it came to requesting tunes or meeting our favourite singers.
The happy finale to this tale, however, is that Dawn Kenny relented and played our revered song. Perhaps she sensed a deep sadness in the air or detected a mood of melancholy because two people had just come to understand this: that sometimes one needs to ask for things and needs to shout at the top of one's lungs in order to be heard above the noise and bustle of everyday life.

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