London Fantasia – Clive Richardson
This piece of music carries a lot of personal meaning for me. The photocopy on the opposite page is my grandfather’s copy from 1945. We called my grandfather ‘Umpah’, because he was a brilliant musician, composer and conductor, and he often conducted to the rhythm of ‘Um-pah-pah, Um-pah-pah’, hence he adopted the name Umpah. He played this piece every time we went to visit from as young as I can remember. I think it was his favourite piece to play, and it is becoming mine too. He was the best pianist I have ever met, and he was always a big encouragement with my piano-playing. Always critical, which at the time I wasn’t sure I appreciated, but looking back, it taught me to take criticism constructively and use it to improve. He was the reason I was exposed to piano music from such a young age – we have family videos of me running around our old living room in circles to Umpah’s compositions – he used to write his own music for this very purpose because he knew how much we loved it. I hope he wrote them down, because I would love to be able to play them to my kids in the future. That’s a good point, I should ask my grandma if she has a copy of them.
This piece of music is magnificent. It’s majestic, grand, exciting and complexly beautiful. I wish I had a recording of Umpah playing it, but sadly he passed away before I had the chance. And so I have set myself the task of learning it myself. I am still in the process of learning it, hence why there is no recording on the online blog because it is definitely not up to scratch yet! But someday soon, I will record it.
Writing this journal has taught me to look for things and meanings that I don’t initially see. So, I opened up the sheet music to this piece, like I have done hundreds of times, and actually took notice of the first page, before the music starts. It said this:
‘LONDON FANTASIA was conceived by Clive Richardson during the height of the Air Blitz on London in 1940 and is a musical picture of a representative day in the life of that great city at that time. This Theme symbolises the eternal romance and dauntless spirit of London.’
I did not realise, until reading this, that this piece not only means a lot because it was played so beautifully by Umpah, but it tells a story of my home-town. It has made me think in a very different way when playing this piece of music. I think this is what the Medical Humanities does – it makes you think in a very different way than you would have before, opening up new perspectives.