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The first woman to conduct the last night of the BBC Proms.

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Unlike the previous movements of Holst’s orchestral suite The Planets, which are static in the sense that each depicts various aspects of a single trait, this one moves through a series of “events” that bring the music to conclusions not envisioned at the beginning. There is a profound hollowness and sense of defeat in the harmony of the opening chords, and an even deeper despair in the motif sounded beneath them by the double basses. But the elderly voice of wisdom is soon heard in the B minor theme for the trombones, and at the end the mood is one of acceptance, reconciliation and consequent serenity.

We are standing beside the coffin of a man beloved. For the last time his life, his battles, his sufferings, and his purpose pass before the mind’s eye. And now, at this solemn and deeply stirring moment, when we are released from the paltry distractions of everyday life, our hearts are gripped by a voice of awe-inspiring solemnity, which we seldom or never hear above the deafening traffic of mundane affairs. What next? it says. What is life – and what is death?

Have we any continuing existence?

Is it all an empty dream, or has this life of ours, and our death, a meaning?

If we are to go on living, we must answer this question.

(Gustav Mahler)

Mahler, brought up in the Jewish faith, had recently converted to Roman Catholicism when he wrote this.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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