Music Lessons with Vera Moore

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Continuing my earlier post “A Woman playing the Piano, and a Child of Art” … I want to say a little more in this one, what the music lessons were like.

Wheels that are close to the core, turn  slow and their arcs are vast.  This is a post for the friends of Vera Moore.

My mother’s piano is tres sympathique.  It was easy to imagine Vera Moore sitting with me, and what she would say about this note or that note, wrapping my fingers round it like a baby in a shawl.   I remembered her way with poetic images, and her LOVE.  That is the magic – her love.  It makes me want to go on playing, and keeps me focused.  I remembered her instruction to play what I am learning, like a chorale, without any inhibitions – sing it inside, with the touch.  

by Benedicte Koudry-Lahlali

by Benedicte Koudry-Lahlali

I am inspired, because the little book Vera Moore, pianiste, de Dunedin a Jouy-en-Josas arrived yesterday, and I began to read it, with the French dictionary.  The book has only one photo in it – of this drawing, which captures her essence in just a line.  I am fired up for another drawing adventure … to explore her youth and beauty.

The website Les amis de Vera Moore has two early photos of her. It is exciting when you have known a person of a certain age, to discover them when they were young, bright and cleanly chiselled:  the spirit.

In my soul she sits at her instrument with an extraordinary stability: a maestro.   I feel the “astral male gender” of a gift behind this woman and her concertizing authority in the 1930s.   I remember now her velvet brown eyes.  I have … what have I? – I forgot what to write …she was born in 1896, 15 August, a year younger than Jim Ede my grandfather. He was one of her close friends.  Vera was 100 when she died in ’96.

Oh yes – in the little book, I have got as far as Occupied France. She and 6 year old John have lost their country cottage and become refugees.  John’s father Brancusi is in his studios in Montparnasse, surrounded by his sculpture, bronze and stone;  she writes to him, just to say they are alright.  They are bundled off to the south, to the unoccupied zone east of Dordogne.

I turned the photo upside down and did this sketch, to begin.

I turned the photo upside down and did this sketch, to begin.

The uprooting and her surviving it and bringing up the child, must have broken her – the dignified beauty of the 1930s in full flower.   The book mentions her carrying Leonard Borwick’s music-scores in her handbag;  I recall her hobbling to the piano to play a concert, with her wrinkled dress, her handbag and her arm in a sling …  and the rapture of her instrument, the way she flows the river, still makes me cry.

Vera when I knew her - in her mid-sixties

Vera when I knew her – in her mid-sixties

Pierre-Alain Volondat calls her his Master.  And I feel her as “Maestro” – the male gift which flows into the woman-vessel and never quite breaks it.

Brancusi’s bright brown eyes shine through the dust that covers him and the light:  the luminosity of his great pebbles, his stones from the sea, the curve of rock and bronze and curtains of white dust from the chisel, in shafts of sunlight;  through the war, he is barricaded safe inside his genesis.  Brancusi the sculptor is an earthenware pot, within which the pianist cradles “the child of art”.  She is loyal to him;  he stays where he is;  she is broken but goes on singing.   Stone has a living emanation when the sun warms it.

Brancusi in Montparnasse

Brancusi in Montparnasse

A Dominican priest, Father Alan Cheales once told me that the man should go to where the woman is, for she bears his child.

Brancusi the genius stayed put;  for that is the way life goes.  His equally gifted woman bore their “child of art” as a travelling minstrel.  In those days, illegitimacy took great courage, and was only tolerated among artists and their helpers.

La Muse by Bancusi

La Muse by Brancusi

I am touched deeper than I can say, for my later situation would have some curious similarities:  a gifted central European, who did nothing for our child, but gave her strength of character.  Like Vera, I believed in him until – in our case – he abandoned his integrity.   I feel a profound and speechless sorrow in this, just now;  but the bird sings and life goes on.

It is poignant also, that Marisa, my “child of art” met the 90 year old Vera, for a moment – Vera was in hospital with a broken hip – we brought her red roses – and she smiled merrily to us both, and welcomed my daughter, and pressed my hand in her strong fingers – the memory.

Brancusi kept his integrity in Vera’s heart till his dying day and beyond, because he was a working sculptor.  For her, nothing must get in the way of Art.  So she carried their child through the Resistance and the mess of life, and providence … protected them.

John Moore photographe

John Moore photographe

Life is rich in the resonances.  At that moment in 1986, meeting Vera again in Yvelines, near Paris, I was not conscious of the threads, the harmonies in the chord;  but I brought my daughter to her proudly, and my heart rejoiced.

The heart knows, unerringly, like iron-filings to the lode-star.   Providence arranges the sinfonia.  Time passes, and with hindsight, I am an older woman too, and I look back and see.   Providence arranges:  Time delivers.   Time and the understanding, deliver in full, the form.  Then we see.

pebbles

pebbles

There is no possession of such a treasure, because the arms for it are always open.  I can but marvel.  It provides an understanding of my breakages with men.  The theme is ongoing, whatever the face.  It provides a musical note, essential to the piece.  I was magnetized to Vera and her situation through our family ties;  later I would find myself re-enacting some facets of it.   To feel, breathe and understand the flavours, releases them in full.  Then life is almost unbearably satisfying.

Head by Brancusi

Head by Brancusi

Destiny’s abundance, like full fruit, presses in from the world, upon the inner life’s expansion to meet it.  It is like the perfect balance of pressure within and outside the vein;  our own against the deep sea so we don’t implode;  the regulation which harbours our planet in the cosmic skies.  The centrifugal/centripetal equilibrium is fluid and self-regulating.  “Keep practicing”.  This is daily Kabbalah.

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Far beyond the events of my life, I marvel and wish to share the principles behind them, which reveal our human Tapestry, a fragment of the Whole.  That is an artist’s work – to try to reveal the Artist.

Several attempts today, to draw her.  This is an early one.

Several attempts today, to draw her. This is an early one.

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The father of a child of art is the seminal principle, or YOD – the force of life.  Sometimes, when he  has done the job, he is put aside, by the powers that be.  But the woman may tend to cling and cling to hope – as I did – and then there is trouble.  Trouble takes time – many years – to enact and unravel.   Finally when the Karmic flood and flotsam is past, there is philosophy, the force of life:  the alchemical Stone which flows as serpent, river, stone through vessels and the valleys.  My daughter suffered. But she survived.  A picture of her – she zooms by my front door to return a key, she’s on her way to work, by bike.  She wears new boots and a flashing red-light bling bracelet on her ankle – hi-viz, her cheeky smile, glowing, bright.

This is a drawing she did when she was nine – shortly after she met Vera Moore in France.  It took her about a month.

Riss's labyrinth

Marisa tells me the drawing began in the top left-hand corner.  She was inspired by  a friend, Tamara Barschak, a music student in her teens.  Tamara showed her how to draw doodles on grid paper, and they sat and drew labyrinths together.  This one is on plain paper.  It flowed along by itself, incorporating things they looked at, from sanskrit letters to Fungus the Bogey Man – those are the tunnels.   The eye happened along the way.

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I was sixteen when Vera gave me piano lessons.  The first piece I played to her was the slow movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, which I knew by heart.  She heard through this, my soul.  She agreed to have me come and stay with her in Jouy en Josas;  some much needed francs for her tottering household.  Her piano was a French Gaveau, and she also had a Steinway.  The music room was spacious, with exposed timber beams, and the whole house smelled like my grandparents’ pot pourri and sharp ways with art, books and stones.   Jim my grandfather, who introduced Vera and Brancusi to each other – and started all the trouble –  pervades to this day: his penetrating flavour through every part of the world he touched, picked up and put back.

Jim Ede appraises a vessel

Jim Ede appraises a vessel

Jim became John’s godfather.

Vera is sitting to my right… or she may be somewhere behind me, in the fragrant room.  The family legend was that she would fly into a rage and sweep my hands off the keys.  I am enveloped in her silvery voice, and her warm mischief.  She demonstrates the touch, the principles of Tobias Matthay;  I copy her.  Her small silken fingers, a little bent, are full of power.  The distance from key surface to its bed is filled with love, tenderness and authority.  There is no impediment to the composer’s voice when it is loved.   Those same fingertips press my hand firmly, up and down.  We play together, I suppose!   Extraordinary.

The music is not in the digits.  They are supple and they serve.   The music comes from the heart and the base of the spine, flowing seamlessly through the curve of shoulder, elbow, instrument.  When this is clear, and the fingers have the schooled memory,  the music speaks without my “assistance” and astonishes me.

I learned with Vera Moore, to play Chopin’s Berceuse, and Debussy’s Cathedrale Engloutie and Danseuses de Delphe.  She insisted on my learning each piece by heart;  to engrave it in my soul by touch;  reading not the notes on the music-stand, but the inner depth embodied.   It is consigned to the memory.

When Vera played, I witnessed a fusion.  There is nothing quite like the intimacy of teacher and pupil.   Then she sent me outside with the shopping list for l’epicerie at Les Metz or down the flights of steps to Jouy en Josas, to improve my French.  She spoke French fluently like a brook, with an outrageous English accent – “tray bonn”, like my irreverent grandfather’s.   As she came to study in London when very young, there remained no trace of New Zealand in her speech.  I hear her to this day.

Not quite a likeness;  but the sketch has a simplicity I aim towards ...

Not quite a likeness; but the sketch has a simplicity I aim towards …

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Vera Moore adored her gifted pupils – particularly (in 1965) a fiery young pianist called Philippe Ganter.  He lifted Beethoven’s dark wings in her salon-a-musique, one passionate evening.  From her hospital bed in 1986, she spoke joyously of a young talent who called her his “Maitre”.  I think this must be Pierre-Alain Volondat.

As in the ashrams of the Inner School, the students develop their own measure from the “hand-me-down”, or Lineage, and pass it on.  This is fascinating, for we are dealing not with personalities, but with method:  the transmission.

Leonard Borwick

Leonard Borwick

Vera took the baton from Tobias Matthay, and from Borwick, her teacher, who studied with Clara Schumann.  He heard, and carried the young Vera off, when she was  yet unknown and unproven, and astonished the music world.  She “jumped the queue.”   Where there is love for the craft, is the depth to carry the flame.

Vlado Perlemutter

Vlado Perlemutter

In Vera’s teaching, I learned to “hold onto” the keys – a pressure which is a caress.

She admired Vlado Perlemutter’s exquisite precision, and knew him well.  She called him “Pearly”.

Vera Moore 4

Vera Moore 5

I can no longer play the pieces she taught me.  But the Berceuse has a deep rocking motion, which prevails through right-hand arabesques and waterfalls.  I could not imagine being able to play those, and she showed me precisely how:  the fingering, the tool.  Every piece I learned, I first practiced very slowly, each phrase and giving each note its full touch and space like a chorale on an organ … fortissimo, full voice.  For Vera it was a sacred communion.  If I have forgotten the pieces, I have not forgotten the “musicianship” of this principle, to Life.

The secret of a great teacher, is that music is only the means.

I have written of Robert Adams.  He lost the muscular ability of speech, but never the Music.  Ramana’s silence – his dark eyes –  emanates the pure, living stone, water, serpent.  Ramesh explains “the understanding”.  All three are in my music teacher too.

Is it surprising? – just now, my fingers tingle a little.  And I’m a bit shaky, because now I must draw the young Vera.  I knew her in her late sixties, grown plump and faded.

Slowly getting there ...

Slowly getting there … a drawing of the painting by Winifred Nicholson.

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I was scared when I began to draw today – of the aesthetic titans of my grandfather’s world, and the extraordinary persons whom he knew – and so I drew him too, from a photo I found in “Kettles Yard and its Artists”.  I haven’t drawn Jim since his death in 1990.  It felt strange and rather bold, to step into the sanctuary of my childhood gods.

Vera moore 9

In this Vera sketch – not a good drawing – I detect a Botticelli angel.   She must have had this quality, as well as the Leonardo look through her eyelashes:

“The arts” – she said, quoting Brancusi – “have never existed by themselves (outside of folklore); they have always been a prerogative of the religious, and every time religion has been in decline, art has fallen into virtuousity.  To make art which is truly independent, one must be God to create it, a king to order it, and a slave to realize it.”

 

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Finally, this old drawing hangs in my house near the front door:

My daughter with her great-grandfather, circa 1983

Marisa with her great-grandfather, circa 1983

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My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote also my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books). Watch this space.

All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address https://janeadamsart.wordpress.com/

9 thoughts on “Music Lessons with Vera Moore

  1. A wonderful description of Vera Moore presented in a style that is lively , interestinig and intriguing .Personally , I find it fascinating . The drawings are superb , my favourite being ,Jane`s grandfather and her daughter ! They are portals into the world of a gifted pianist .

  2. Pingback: A Woman playing a Piano; and a Child of art | janeadamsart

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  4. I am overjoyed and my heart is warmed to find a reference to the late Philippe Ganter in your beautiful book. I was Philippe’s closest friend and accomplice for 23 years and, over all that time, he would talk about Vera Moore in admiration but also with joy and laughter. He played to her shortly before her death. I would love to learn more.

    • How wonderful to hear from you, David. I can’t tell you any more about Philippe except that he played a private concert at her house in 1966 and I was overwhelmed by his passionate interpretation of Beethoven’s Moonlight – the fourth movement in particular. She loved to talk of him – her eyes shone. I would love to hear from you some of his memories of her. I will email you. I’m glad he played to her before she died.

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