29th January

All Will be Well

for Alice Marra

A man of quiet genius passed this way last night. He didn’t want his name in lights, he wanted it in brackets, that’s what he said. He wanted others to sing the songs he wrote – in their own way because nobody could sing them his way. And this happened, in a big hall in a big city (not his) for which he once wrote a big non-anthem. (Trust Michael to give the place something it didn’t bargain for. Listen – that’s the sound of high-heid-yins sucking in their cheeks.) So the stage was set, and onto it came wonderful musicians, singers – among them his son and daughter, his brother, others who had been his oldest friends and cronies, and none untouched by his special craft and gift – to play and sing his songs in their own ways. And two thousand of us there to listen, and we were (the ones) in brackets.

What left me high and dry and stranded came at the end. After his daughter had stood centre-stage, alone but not really alone, and sung the song he’d told her was his finest – and she did it with such bravery and love, you could hear him give his proudest affirmation, ‘Good girl!’ – they came back on, those compañeros of his music world, and finished the night with the only song they could. And all his wise humanity came flooding in, and pouring out, and nothing to stop the tears from falling. Two thousand rose, to applaud the one who wasn’t there, and that provoked another, final song, and I felt a lightness where just before there’d been such heavy weight. I thought of the osprey nest he used to watch, his solicitude for the chick, his pleasure seeing it lift from the nest for the first time, learning flight, its sudden knowledge that it could be done. And Michael – gone yet with us still, as long as we have ears to hear and breath to sing.

To rise above his loss is fitting tribute. No houseroom for the notion that we can’t. To rise like the bird that lives, and flies, and knows itself alive.

All will be well, they sang. And it will.

Reader: Marianne Mitchelson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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