Friday, August 8, 2014

A Chit and a Chat with David and Gillian Helfgott.

Recently I had the absolute pleasure of meeting and talking with one of the most inspired and 'meant to be together' couples I've ever met - David and Gillian Helfgott!

I won't go into David's background or the impact he's had on the international music scene, though if you have been hiding under that rock you can find him here.

Needless to say our conversation leapt from topic to thought to advice to idea and then on to another subject!

Quiet Time
Music makes you happy don't you think, music makes you happy? Music's one of the most wonderful things in the world, isn't it? Everyone says so. 
It is darling.
Is it the most wonderful? Or is it one of the most? Well, very important, very important. 'Cause Music is, music is, 'cause, well you've got to have music, that's what Dad, wasn't that what Dad had to have music going in the house?
What does music mean to you David? 
Everything music means just about everything doesnt' it? It does to you. Everything music means to me
And do you think people should listen to music more often? 
Course they should! Isn't that what, isn't that the langauge, music the language that everone understands? One of the most, it's the language that everyone understands music's the same, isn't it, for everyone? Girls just want to have fun and don't ignore it all, dont ignore it all and play the game.
Sometimes do you need quiet time away from music? Do you need a balance between music and no music?
Um, um, um yeah I do a balance, bay lines, that's what someone said, bay lines, fay lines, find a level...
Maybe that's why you like swimming? So you can have a balance?
Oh but he has the radio going beside the pool.
On a concert day i have the radio going beside the pool, radio, radio, classical... 
So do you have ANY quiet time?
Um... Well, well when I'm sleeping, when I'm sleeping, sleeping, even when I'm sleeping. 
Oh come on David you want the radio on all night! Classic FM...
Yes I do, I do, it's soothing isn't it, soothing isn't it darling? It's calming, nice to have music, nice to have music...

I Always get a Good Audience
Do you always plan what you're going to play ahead of time, or do you sometimes just come out and play whatever you feel like?
Oh I do what I'm told, I do what I'm told, don't I? 
David! We plan the program together! 
Well it's structured for me, structured for me. It's all planned, its all planned, it's all in the plan. Trust, trust, be different, must be a bit different, everything has a consequence. Emotions, emotions, in the moment in the moment in the moment, very imortant to be aware, very important to stay focused.
We plan well in advance. I mean he knows what he'll be playing in Denmark next May!
Course we do! So that I'm structured, so that i enjoy, that I enjoy, that I'll enjoy you know, you know validation, validation...
Yes validation! When you came out last night and played 'Flight of the Bumble Bee' at the end it validated how excited everyone was - because it's so exciting!
Yes, 'Flight of the bumble Bee' validates people's excitement - and then they're all up and shouting and they feel liberated, like bees buzzing around, and feel then they've got permission to cheer! 
Yeah that's right more liberated, more liberated. The people feel liberated by going and seeing it. I always get a good audience yes, yes that's right!
I believe David's playing blesses all - he makes a living but they get the bonus of the joy and liberation. 

No Snake Would Ever Bite Me
He just has the most amazing communication with nature and animals. A very quick story - he was swimming a couple of months ago and when he came in he said "Darling I've had an amazing experience", he said "I was swimming and this snake came and gave me a cuddle!" And I said "Oh yes what did it do"? And he said, "Oh it wound itself around me", 'cause it was a python, and I said "what'd you do then"? "Well i was a bit concerned it might drown so I just carefully lifted him out and put it on the side". And then he looked at me and said "of course you know, don't you darling, that no snake would ever bite me"! Now that's his whole spiritual awareness! 
Increasing spirituality that's right, increasing spirituality.You have to believe in belief, belief, belief, yes I think so too, spiritual.
And he talks to the horses next door and I love sitting in the bath out on the balcony and David down there chatting with the horses. David! Don't drink that coke pet!

The Luxury of Sadness
I started thinking about music and happiness, about how it's been 'overdone'. You can't always be happy and you shouldn't always be happy! So then I thought it would be better to write about music and validation.
Validation! That's a good word, validation, validation, valid, valid, yes ...
So it's OK not to always be happy...
Oh it's ok yes, yes...
And sometimes it's OK to be scared, nervous, confused...
It's ok not to always be happy - Oh it's ok yeah!
Can I just give you a quote from Tom Baker, the great Jazz trumpeter? I remember sitting chatting to him one day and he said "You know Gillian, we should all allow ourselves the luxury of sadness, because unless you have those moments of sadness how can there be any contrast?" 
It's like if you lived in the sun every day of your life, you'd be longing for cloud! And there's nothing wrong with sadness! Self pity and victim stuff - that's a different area altogether, and we're too much into that in our society at the moment.
But sadness, would we have any of Tchaikovsky's music without sadness? Oh, his Pathetique Symphony! Goodness! Well, I mean the Russians are full of melancholy, Bless them, but they allow themselves to be, and they've been one of the great producers of dance, literature, music. and if you took that away...
I'm a triple Saggitarian and i'm very optimistic about everything - well, except some politicians, but it's the balance in life,  and what would you ever learn if you never had some sadness! 

What's That Got To Do With The Price Of Tea?
A lot of times emotional and non-tangible outcomes can't really be measured the way "they" want them to be, so they don't always get the credibility they deserve. See this is where happiness is always eluded - how do you define happiness on a graph? Oh, well the child says it feels better, but how do we know that it's really true? I mean WE can see that it is but...
But the scientific bodies and the people who want the empirical evidence...
Don't talk to me about scientific bodies - did you know that they just found out that cholesterol is actually good for the heart! 
And you know what that mayer said? He wanted for, for my immediate needs as well, for to raise the funds for, the money for... Well anyway so that, anyway, there's a history in the future.
So what's that got to do with anything?
What's that got to do with the price of tea? Yes, would you like a cup of tea darling? Can I put some water in the kettle darling?
David, you're not having any more caffeine this morning, now just stop it. And enough kisses, come on!
Oh well, well its all because of me and if it wasn't for you none of this would be, would be possible would it darling, without my darling wife!
Ha, that's why I wanted to talk with both of you, wives are very important!
Yes! Hahaha.
Yes, it's all planned. 

Living in The NOW
You've gotta live in the NOW, and David will tell you this, gotta live in the NOW. 'Cause if you're not living in the NOW you're not gaining the most out of the experience that's around you. 
I'm so lucky, so lucky just to be here, just to hear your voice, aren't we lucky in the NOW? We're so lucky. Right in the moment and right now and stay focused, stay focused and think of the happy times. And think of something different and remember something, try and focus and concentrate, try and focus and concentrate...
And as Jung said NOW spelt backwards is WON - so you've already won because you've made the most of the NOW!
Where are we staying in Launceston? Oh, the Lord Chancellor.
Oh the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chancellor...
And the other thing that i have found - one of the most important things in life - even out of what seems awful challenges, there's always a jewel there, something you can gain. And when you look to see, Why is this here? What lesson can I learn? Then you can go forwards. 
I've found that inevitably in life, whatever challenge comes there's always something that, if you're prepared to have an open mind, there'll be something presented to you! 
Just a little practical example - David's not very good with water - he splashes it everywhere and recently he flooded the bath upstairs and it all came through the air conditioning and over the dining room suite. And the beautiful Turkish Rug was flooded, and you know those dyes aren't - cause they're all hand done - they're not permanent. Well he went to sleep in the bath with the hot water tap on. And then the builder came and said "Gillian, why don't you put the bath out on the verandah? And then if he floods it'll go out on the garden."
Well! We've got this glorious claw footed bath, and our garden has the most glorious views of the mountains and the garden and it's an absolute treasure! Now we wouldn't have that bath if David hadn't flooded!

Heartbreak Hotel
I wondered if there was any other side to your musical identity? If you like a bit of Rock 'n roll? Or...
Well... i suppose well, any music that's good quality if you know what I mean, any composer that's good. Well how about Heart Break Hotel? What about Heart Break hotel? Yes, everyone likes that one. 
And don't you like a couple of the Beatles things? Don't you like 'Yesterday'?
And yes the Beatles they were the best composers in England weren't they? 
But how about your favourite American popular composer? 
Yes, yes... Gershwin! Oh yes, yes Gershwin yes. OK seriously, seriously, can I get back to my movie now? 

A Hundred Thousand Times a Day
The maid just gave me some milk if you'd like a cup of tea now?
Oh well would you like a cup of tea?
No thanks, It makes me feel a bit funny when I'm pregnant...
Oh how wonderful, wonderful, how wonderful, is that why you're eating for two? Eating for you?
Yes, yes I'm eating for two!
David perhaps come and just answer a few questions??
Oh no, no no I'm fine, I'm fine, are you monitoring everything, monitoring it all?
But darling you're the musician! You're the musician, I'm just the administrator!
Oh no, no I'm just enjoying my movie so much,
Oh you are just so self centred! 
I'm very selfish, very selfish but you're my darling wife, you're my darling wife. Gillian tells me she loves me every a hundred thousand times a day, isn't that nice? isn't that nice? Validation it's a good word.
Well I don't quite love you at this minute - I think you're being a bit piggy! 
Well as long as you do, I know, it's a bit greedy a bit greedy, it's not fair, is it!

The Mouse and the Lion
When I watch you perform, it's like it's an absolute truth of who you are, a real expression of you, is that right or am I just assuming that?
David what's your favourite saying about the mouse and the lion?
I feel like a mouse and Rachmaninov needs a lion? 
No, no about you David! 
No, what do I say about the mouse and the lion? Away from the piano I'm a mouse and as soon as I sit down at the keys I'm a leaping lion. When you touch the keys, yes yes that's right, a change, a change is good. So a rather rambling and shambling person becomes more. 
David where do you feel most fulfilled as a person?
What? What, I'm trying to think. Well playing the piano of course, playing well, when you're playing well then you feel fulfilled as a person. I'm lucky I'm lucky in that way, I'm lucky that i can play.

The Tax payers dollars
It's quite intimate sharing your musical identity with people - because it's such an important part of who you are - do you ever feel like you just want to keep it just to yourself? 
Oh you have to share it, you have to share, you've got to, isn't that a bit selfish? To keep it to yourself? You shouldn't be selfish should you? Should you be selfish? 'Cause you have to look after yourself in all of this, you do sometimes.
David you love to share your music more than anything don't you? 
Course I do, course I do, 'cause you gotta sort of protect, you've got to like sweety pie. Yeah, and isn't that what Amazing Grace said too? Yeah, yeah you can't be selfish you've got to share it with the world, share it with the world.
And the other lovely thing about him, he'd have no idea whether he's being paid or not, it doesn't even come into it.
Oh yeah Money money money, but well there was that one time.Well the tax payers don't earn much money...
The tax payers don't give you a bloody dollar David!
I know, I know, I know the tax payers, I just whispered, i was hoping hoping you wouldn't hear...
Well I'm so proud of the fact, David, that..
Well but there was, there was, there was a long time ago...
Oh when you were 16 you got a couple of thousand dollars for goodness sake.
And they gave me 25 pounds in London, that's a lot of money, at that time that's a lot of money.
But David since you've made your comeback the government hasn't given you 1 cent!
Well anyway, but the people, the people the audience, don't they spend money on all the videos? And all the...
Yeah but they're getting something back for it! Come on, you can't go into a bookshop and take a book without paying for it!
Oh I have to pay for it pay for it pay for it..
Yeah but that's not tax payers money darling! No you should be very proud...
Proud, you should you should take some pride.
That you've been self sufficient - and I'm very proud of you for that David!

Well you've seen him socially, i don't need to say anything about that - he knows how to work a room better than anyone i've ever seen!
Yeah well you've got to be a bit social occassionaly. Just be a bit social, just occassionaly, be resonable, cause after all we are social and spiritual, spiritual, spiritual...
At times I think "Oh is he annoying that person?" But last night after the show I thought "Just let him go, he can talk to whoever he likes!" And he was just Mr Charming to everybody. He met them all and hugged them all... 
And I'm sure some of those people normally have very closed boundaries and probably don't like touching and hugging, especially strangers! But for some reason it's ok with David.
No they don't! Last night I couldn't see anyone reacting stand offish - but we are in the country. In London it's not the best, that's where we've had the most problems, they're frightened a lot of them. You know? I mean here he can hug everybody and they hug him back and think he's great. And anyone with a disability, like that lady last night in the wheel chair, well he loves...
Oh darling, could you get me? Oh yes that lady in the wheelchair! Oh yes I gave her lots of cuddles, lots of cuddles. Darling, darling could you get me a different shirt at some point? This ones a bit, you know what I mean? 
It's a bit what?
Yes it's a nice colour, it's just that it's a bit, it's just a bit rough on my skin. I'd like to do something a bit different.
Gosh it's like suede David! 
I know it's suede but it's a bit...
Alright, when we get home, but I haven't got any more with me! 
Oh ok... 
We'll be home Sunday. 
Oh ok well we can't...
You can't change it today.
Oh we can't change it today?
No, absolutely not! 

No Silly Nonsense
David what do you think about living in the NOW? 
NOW! That's what i say! To be in the moment, everything in the moment, in the moment, just be in the moment.
An expression of truth in the moment. That's how I feel your performance is, but I didn't want to assume I wanted to ask you, because some people just put on a show!  
Yes, yes. Liszt was like that he always had to show off, he always had to have the audience applaud and to put on a show.
But I think the people love seeing you just as you are. 
It's his honesty. And there's no silly nonsense of walking off after each piece and coming back on all  dressed up in tails and looking so formal and very black at the piano. He's non threatening.
Yes, watching David gives people a sense of "it's ok to be themselves", and that's why people love to see him. It's not just the music itself but everything that his performance represents.
Yes, also as a person David has an amazing effect on people. We were standing at the airport once, waiting in a cue and he was with talking to a girl...
Would you like some coke? it says uplifting, uplifting, uplifting...
And I could see that she was absorbed with what he was saying and when we got off the plane
she handed me a note  - she was obsessive compulsive and all her life she'd been told she couldn't do this and shouldn't do that and had all these restrictions. And she'd written that 'Just talking to david for those few minutes gave me the knowledge that i CAN be me'. 

The Emperor of Japan's Brother
His psychological influence - well he just understands people - like the lady at the airport. Another quick reference, he was playing at the Lincoln centre in New York and during the performance a woman got backstage, a beautiful young Indian woman, and she said "I want to kill myself". Anyway she told me she was studying music at The Juilliard and she was missing her Indian teacher and her family, she said "I've only got 2 or 3 months to go and I've got my degree. But I can't stand it any longer". I said why don't you come around to the hotel in the morning and have a chat with David and myself, and she did, she came the next morning. And I hadn't said anything to David about it, or about her mental state or anything.  Well she walked in and he looked at her, went over to her and put his arms around her and said "Oh you think you're walking on a tightrope and your'e going to fall off, don't you! But you're not! You're fine!" And she finished her degree and went back to India. 
But HOW did he know!? Because David is disinhibited, and very few people are disinhibited. I mean, he's incredibly intelligent, but he's not blocking the communication with intellectual assessments. So this is why the spirit, the soul, just flows through David and why he can relate to people. 
I mean he's kissed the emperor of Japan's brother! Now, no one even touches the Emperor's brother let alone kisses him! There's just no barrier for David - everybody's equal.

I've Just Had a Swim
Of course it requires a lot of energy to perform as he does, but then when we're home he swims for about 4 hours a day. And he finds that swimming is the best release. And also that you have to stay fit physically, you can't give of your most to life if you aren't phycially fit. And it allows the energies to all flow.
The pool is a very rhythmic place so there are a lot of similarities there.
Yes, and oh I'll tell you anther story - we were in Adelaide and I took him to a public pool and I said well why don't you play the Liszt B Sonata while you're swimming?, 'cause he'd say to me "Oh I've just had a swim and I played the Campanella", or something like that. Anyway off he went, and the Sonata's nearly half an hour long,  and when he finished I said "Well how did you play that"? And he said "Oh I have played it better"! So, I mean you can't help but love him when he come's out with things like that! You see he's able to live in that musical world while he's swimming - playing Liszt B minor sonta - one of the hardest pieces ever written!

Rambling Shambling
You see, when I'm playing the piano I'm talking to you, when i play the piano i'm talking to you in my notes, it's sort of like speech isnt' it? Well music's like talking isn't it? talking to you?
And one of the great things about your performance is that, because you talk along with it, it's a verbal AND and non-verbal expression!
Talk along with it, yes! Yes, well you can't have any more, because you can't have more, if anything you only get less! Well lesser of course, lesser of course...
What on earth is that little... 
Yes, homily, about sweet? What do you mean you can't have any more...
Well it's very important to be aware, to be aware.Well you can have more of some things can't you? you can have more of some things?
Yes, but I lost the train of thought pet. 
Train of thought, yes, train of thought...
What do you mean? You can't have more of what?
More of what, i'm trying to think... Um...
I think you're rambling.
I'm just rambling shambling rambling...
But we get such lovely things out of  your rambles! 

Thankyou so very much to David for your Energy and Charisma and to Gillian for your Wisdom and Fabulousness! I think I could have chitted and chatted to you all day... 

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