As far as I know, the composer Felix Mendelssohn never made it to Bonalbo. While this is a damn shame, it is hardly surprising.
Mendelssohn did very little travelling after his death, and by the time the town of Bonalbo was established he would have been fairly dead for over half a century. I like to think that upon finding Bonalbo’s Hidden Mural and contemplating its hidden-ness, he would have been moved to dash off a rip-snorter little tune and perform it that evening in whichever of Bonalbo’s several halls was still standing at the time.
Mendelssohn was a fairly easy man to admire. A dead-set musical genius who could also paint like a demon, he wrote that famous wedding march, THE wedding march. You know, “Diddly dee (two three), diddly dee (two three), diddly dee diddly dee diddly dee diddly dee dee, bum, bum, bumbum, bum bum bum” etc.
But, most of all, he pretty much had his general act together, which is not all that common for your creative genius types.
In so many cases the lubricant that keeps the wheels of creative genius-ism moving is not alcohol, not any drug, not helicopter parenting: it is bipolarism. The up-ness gives you all the necessary focus and energy to do your genius thing. The down-ness is just the price you pay.
If this is coming as a surprise to you it’s probably not the right time to let slip that a significant percentage of the movers and shakers who keep our economy moving and shaking are probably sociopaths.
Tchaikovsky was a genius, no question. Cranked out beautiful music that has stood the test of time. Like Mendelssohn, he never made it to Australia. Never found the Hidden Mural of Bonalbo. Unlike Mendelssohn’s, his mind was a pressure cooker with a tin foil lid, sitting on a volcanic, but wobbly, gas ring.
Heaps of the big names in music, art, politics, and probably swimming pool installation, were/are similarly afflicted.
Admittedly, compared to lots of the big composers, Felix had it pretty easy. He was born rich and didn’t have to struggle. There was no need for bum-jutting, bowing and scraping to kings, dukes, earls, bishops, popes and other fat cats in order to make a buck.
But then again, he was Jewish, and for about a thousand years that was a tricky thing to be in Europe.
His old man, in an effort to avoid racial heat, made the kids add ‘Bartholdy’ after Mendelssohn to their name. Sorry, Bartholdys of the world, but I think it sounds lame. (Bartholdys of the world: “Who is dis Bullgoose to talk?)
And that takes us sideways, but inevitably, to the Nissan Cedric. Do you know where that weird ass name came from? The CEO of Nissan named it after the kid in Little Lord Fauntleroy. As you do.
Cedrics aside, the thing is, Felix worked hard. Damn hard. Next time you declare Kanye (now ‘Ye’) West a genius for tweaky-looping up someone else’s music, you might consider that by the time he was West’s age Mendelssohn had completed 750 musical works, many of them longer than a Kanye West album and written with quill and ink.
Felix wasn’t perfect. Correspondence discovered in 2013 indicates that, although married, he got hot and bothered over The Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind.
It was thought by some that Hugh Jackman was her beau, but apparently, he wasn’t.
It’s not clear whether Jen and Feely got beyond passionate letters but it is worth noting that, upon his death, she established a scholarship, in his name, for up and coming composers. Hmm … interesting.
Also interesting is that the first winner of the scholarship was Arthur Sullivan, of Gilbert and Sullivan fame. So, it’s probably fair to say that without Mendelssohn there would have been no Pirates of Penzance.
In my favourite Mendelssohn story, while visiting Scotland he gets taken by rowboat over a rough sea to check out Fingal’s Cave.
He’s tossed around like adjectives at a wine tasting.
He’s seasick as a sea dog. He’s green as green cheese and he’s already heaved up his kipper breakfast three times, but when he sees the dramatic, ‘organ pipe’ columns of basalt soaring up inside the cave he fumbles around for his quill and inkpot and scratches out not just the melody, but also orchestral parts for what was to become his ‘Hebrides Overture’, before vomiting all over wee ‘Crab Pot Jock’, owner of the rowboat.
So, you can see why I fantasise about Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy coming to Bonalbo. Just imagine if someone had taken him up beyond the Bungdoozle Five Ways on the Richmond Range to see the columnar basalt intrusion in the rainforest. What soaring music might he have created?
A lesson to us all.