Far be it from me to mock musicians. After all, some of them are competent, accomplished, excellent company and masters of their art. Indeed I would swear to this in a court of law, because I’ve worked with all three of them. Of the others that I have worked with, there are still some whom I admire immensely, even though I would not really wish to spend an evening in a pleasant bar drinking wine with them. One such was Offan Valniggle.
I would not hesitate to go and listen to Offan play. If a patron of mine was seriously interested in music I would ensure that Offan was hired to play at one of their functions. If somebody asks me to work with him I will do so, certain that whatever we came up with would be of the highest quality and would stretch both of us to our uttermost. But to sit and drink with him? Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t dislike him, on the contrary, it’s just he is so intense. He is utterly driven, unreservedly passionate about his music. He can be a member of a group sitting at table, you are laughing, joking and enjoying yourselves, and he will suddenly say, “I think that last chord shift needs something within it to act as a bridge.”
As an aside he does have one advantage over other musicians. There are people who assume that a musician is somebody they can hire to provide them with other, less licit pleasures. Poets can meet the same problem. Yet here I admit that guitar players are the worst hit with this. I’m not entirely sure why, is it perhaps the romance of the serenade? Is it the popularity of the instrument with gigolos and similar? I’ve known some guitarists take their spouse along to act as a chaperone. Offan on the other hand, was entirely oblivious to hints, innuendo, or even blatant suggestions. One lady commented that she’d have had more chance of seducing a wardrobe. Certainly she never hired him again.
Still, as you can imagine, he has his patrons. From what I can make out, they are all devoted to him. Many of them will send a chair to collect him, thus ensuring he remembers to attend. They’ll also ensure that it is a two person chair because he will, inevitably, use the time to try something new.
I remember one of his patrons, Tagal Haswig, tried an experiment. He invited Offan to perform and had him sit on a stool in a room where one wall was actually a curtain. Offan was told he’d be summoned when it was time for him to play. They then left him to his own devices. Meanwhile at the other side of the curtain, guests gathered in total silence and listened. Offan was playing his guitar, running through various pieces, trying them in different keys and tempos, interweaving them together and improvising. Then very quietly the curtains were drawn back. Offan never noticed. He had stumbled upon a new guitar riff and was working on it. He tried the chords, he played them faster or slower, he tweaked the order, and he even put in fancy fingering as he played them. Finally, he took the riff and improvised around this theme for perhaps ten minutes. At the end of this he paused briefly, as if thinking. At this point, his audience rose to their feet in a standing ovation, much to Offan’s surprise as he hadn’t noticed them.
You can see why his devotes were so loyal to him. One of his patrons was Classa, youngest daughter of Mistress Bellin Hanchkillian. She was perhaps his best patron, not merely because she supported him so generously, but she also pushed him. She refused to accept second best, she knew what he was capable and she demanded it of him. To be fair, I think he appreciated this. At her house he was always on top form.
Classa married late, to Senas Balweel, a chap who owns a fair stretch of Dilbrook. Thus she came late to child bearing. She and her husband were a devoted couple, and whilst at one point you might have put them down as a couple who would remain childless, in reality they both adored children. Classa had two and was pregnant with the third when she discussed the third child’s naming ceremony with her mother and me. The previous two had been formally presented and named in Mistress Bellin’s Salon. These had been prestigious events, I had provided a verse or two for the child and others had been called in to play their part as well. Classa wanted Offan to play for the third child. Mistress Bellin had agreed and I had been asked to organise things.
Unfortunately, by the time we held the naming ceremony, Classa was dead. She died of complications. Yet perhaps the last thing she’d said to her mother was that she wanted the ceremony to go ahead, and Mistress Bellin had decreed that it would.
It was a grim day. I scrapped the planned programme. The only people I could trust to hit the right note were Offan and myself, and frankly I wasn’t entirely sure about myself.
Finally the guests were gathered, gloomy, some red-eyed. Mistress sat with her grandson on her lap, an empty chair next to her where the mother should have been. I bowed to the empty chair and beckoned Offan. Without a word he stepped forward and started to play. I had assumed he would play for ten minutes or so, and then I would step forward, deliver some verses, before we completed the final ceremony.
Half an hour later, with his audience weeping, Offan was still playing. His music, so beautiful, so accomplished, brought Classa to mind. Somehow he had captured the essence of her in his playing. Yet even as you listened, you realised that whilst this was ‘your’ Classa, Offan was showing you sides of her that you had never been privileged to know. Indeed the better you thought you knew her, the deeper the revelation. Those who knew her best were the most profoundly touched. Mistress Bellin sat, straight backed, holding the baby, with tears flowing unchecked down her cheeks. Even I couldn’t see my notes because of the tears in my eyes.
Eventually he finished. The music stopped, and he stood up and left the room without a word. I watched him go, stuffed my notes into my pocket and turned to Mistress Bellin.
In the formal words of the naming ceremony I asked, “Who is this child.”
“Classa Offan Balweel.”
I then asked everybody gathered there. “Do you accept him?”
There was a pause and then everybody said, “Yes.” It was like hearing the tide, starting soft in the distance and growing to a crescendo as it grew near. Some people must have spoken several times.
I bowed to Mistress Bellin, turned and left. There was nothing else I could do.
But six months later, I was present with Mistress and her youngest grandson, in the quiet of the afternoon. Mistress Bellin had summoned me, and had told me a specific time to be there. Because it was her, I was there at exactly the time she specified.
I was taken through to the nursey when grandmother and grandchild played happily together. Mistress smiled at me as I entered, and asked, “How is Offan Valniggle keeping?”
“Very well, I saw him yesterday, he seems well and played to his usual standard.”
“Then sit and listen.”
It was a simple enough command and I did just that. I sat in a chair facing Mistress and we sat in silence, watching young Offan crawling round the floor. It was then I became aware of music. Somebody, somewhere, was playing a guitar. I was entranced by the beauty of the music and the skill of the guitarist. It was the tune Offan had played at the naming ceremony.
Softly Mistress Bellin said, “I have had the house searched, I have had Offan watched. Yet even if there is only my grandson and me in the house, and Offan is twenty miles away, the music still plays.”
For more stories from the Gentlemen Behaving Badly Blog Tour visit Tallis’ hosts…
Chris Graham at The Story Reading Ape’s Blog ~ A fine residence. ~14th July
GD Deckard at Writers’ coop ~ A man who doesn’t pay his bills never lacks for correspondence ~ 15th July
Ritu Bhathal at But I Smile Anyway ~ Be careful what you pretend to be ~ 16th July
Willow Willers ~ Call yourself a writer ~ 17th July
Colleen Chesebro ~ Every last penny ~ 18th July
Robbie Cheadle ~ It all comes out in the wash ~ 19th July
Sue Vincent ~ Noteworthy ~20th July
Stevie Turner ~ Oblige ~ 21th July
Annette Rochelle Aben ~ Performance art ~ 22th July
Lynn Hallbrooks ~ The alternative career of Dilkerton Thallawell. ~ 23th July
Jaye Marie ~ The automated caricordia of Darset Dweel. ~ 24th July
Ashlynn Waterstone ~ The dark machinations of Flontwell Direfountain. ~ 25th July
Suzanne Joshi ~ Thoroughly married ~ 26th July
Ken Gierke ~ Water under the bridge ~ 27th July
MT McGuire ~ Who you know, not what you know ~ 28th July
The inimitable Tallis Steelyard has released not one, but two new books. These, and many other books by the author, can be purchased for a trifling sum via Amazon. Visit the Author’s Page by clicking HERE.
More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Not only have we got Gentlemen behaving badly, we see Port Naain by starlight and meet ladies of wit and discernment. There are Philosophical societies, amateur dramatics, the modern woman, revenge, and the advantages of a good education. All human life is here, or at least such of it as Tallis will admit to.
We continue to explore the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. In this invaluable publication Tallis Steelyard discusses the ways in which a writer can bring their work to the attention of the masses and more importantly, sell the book to them. As well as this, we have the importance of getting home under your own steam, music and decorum, brass knuckles for a lady, and of course, a few simple spices.
Surely this is the one essential book that every aspiring novelist should both purchase and study.
About the author
Someone once wrote this about him:
“Jim Webster is probably still fifty something, his tastes in music are eclectic, and his dress sense is rarely discussed in polite society. In spite of this he has a wife and three daughters.
He has managed to make a living from a mixture of agriculture, consultancy, and freelance writing. Previously he has restricted himself to writing about agricultural and rural issues but including enough Ancient Military history to maintain his own sanity. But seemingly he has felt it necessary to branch out into writing fantasy and Sci-Fi novels.”
Now with eight much acclaimed fantasy works and two Sci-Fi to his credit it seems he may be getting into the swing of things.
Find and follow Tallis (and Jim)
For many more books by Jim Webster (and Tallis)…
Click the images to go to Amazon.
Launching a book?
If you are a writer, artist or photographer…If you have a poem, story or memoirs to share… If you have a book to promote, a character to introduce, an exhibition or event to publicise… If you have advice for writers, artists or bloggers…
If you would like to be my guest, please read the guidelines and get in touch!