How does one say farewell to someone across an ocean? To someone you have known for a decade?
Someone who taught you such a lot about music, and in the course of his own life, such a lot about dealing with life, dealing with death.
I remember telling a close associate that the one most precious thing that I cherished about my life in the UK, was my stint with the Corinthian Chamber Orchestra. Even now, it’s the one thing I miss the very most.
And Alan Hazeldine WAS the CCO. He helped found it, shape it, nurture it, and nourish it.
A visit to the Corinthian Chamber Orchestra website will tell you about his life and career. But I am convinced that he would regard his years with the CCO as the best years of his life. With the orchestra, he was home. He was with family.
Alan often spoke of death; often it was in relation to a work we were studying (eg Elgar Cello Concerto), and after his diagnosis, in personal terms. My impression is that he wasn’t intimidated by it, but he would not give in to it without a fight.
And he fought it every inch of the way. It’s significant that he should have passed away a day before Remembrance Day, a day when we remember and salute all his compatriots, all people who fought with that very same fortitude as they laid down their lives.
I’m trying to remember the work Alan was referring to when he was comparing the tempo of the piece to a funeral dirge he had seen in Scotland. A slow, but steady, solemn, relentless step as the pallbearers walked to the resting place.
It was in retrospect a metaphor for what he himself was feeling, about the inevitability of his own end.
And how he fought! He took the trip to Calcutta, to take alternative forms of treatment, as it offered a glimmer of hope.
He arranged concerts in aid of Cancer Research UK. He even got a doctor from the hospital he was admitted to, in the initial stages of his illness, to play in the orchestra!
Despite any fatigue he was feeling, either due to the illness itself, or its treatment, despite the arrhythmia, he never lost his unique sense of humour and wit, his ability to convey so clearly what he wanted the orchestra to do, what sound or effect he wanted to hear.
I’m trying now frantically to jot down every memory in relation to him, every throw-away comment at rehearsal
(e.g. “That was very good. In fact you’ve never played it better. HOWEVER….”,
“Rhythm is an exact science, it is NOT an approximation”
“This is NOT a democracy, folks”),
the constant banter back and forth between the French horn section and him:
(“Never look at the horns, it only encourages them”) ,
and such a lot about the musicality in making music, e.g the difference in the way Beethoven would orchestrate compared to Mozart, the way a Mozartean phrase should be completed as opposed to Brahms, etc.
At his last concert, he spoke to the audience about his first experience with a professional orchestra, after having conducted student and amateur orchestras previously, and compared it with suddenly being given a Formula 1 car after driving a Morris Minor.
He didn’t mention what car or model he would consider the CCO to be, to use the same analogy.
But as part of that “car”, I sure enjoyed the ride with him at the wheel. And I think Alan was happiest when he was taking us for a spin.
Rest in peace, Alan.