The three stories that follow were prepared in quite recent years for a Father's Day presentation on one of our Australian radio networks. To my knowledge, they were not used on that occasion. However, Spellbound readers might find them interesting, even though the radio programmers apparently did not. So here they are!
My younger son, Ivor (now known as Iva), has been involved with, absorbed in, and greatly affected by music for the whole of his life. This is illustrated very graphically by the following few stories which range from when he was only a few months old up to recent years.
One of my most used items in those days was the tenor favourite "Come Back To Sorrento," which I endeavoured to render with true Neapolitan feeling and style. During one performance of this, I noticed baby Ivor, then no more than six months old, lying on his tummy on the floor and intently watching and listening to every note. As I moved into the most passionate passages of the chorus I saw the little lips start to quiver uncontrollably until, suddenly, from them emerged an almighty wail which completely overrode my own soulful utterings. As the song continued through climax and finale, the wail descended into a series of sobs which would have been the envy of Gigli, Pavarotti, or any other of the famous exponents of the Neapolitan tenor vocal genre.
My wife kindly described our baby's response to my singing as his response to the strong depth of feeling portrayed in my rendition. At the time, my ego eagerly espoused this interpretation, but the one nagging doubt has always remained. I remember that the infant Mozart's gift of perfect musical pitch is said to have first asserted itself through his howling from the cradle when his uncle played the violin off-key.???
One night, while we were involved in a full-throated performance of the "Gloria" from Mozart's "Twelfth Mass," Ivor, who was just then approaching his second birthday, climbed out of his stroller and came trotting down towards the stage. Unobserved by conductor and pianist who both had their backs to the main body of the hall, but in full view of the rest of the choir, he took up a position just to the left of and slightly behind the choirmaster. Then, taking his lead from the Dutchman's vigorously waving baton, he assumed a most serious mien and started beating time with his right arm in accurate imitation of his mentor.
We in the choir struggled on for a few more bars, valiantly trying to maintain the serious demeanour which the music demanded. Finally, when the choirmaster, reacting to a few giggles among the choristers, glanced down and noticed the source of competition for control of the choir's attention, every adult present collapsed into gales of mirth. Only the tiny apprentice conductor's face remained unsmiling. It wore an expression of complete bafflement at the strange behaviour of his elders in the face of his earnest attempts to assist the music.
I had been telling Ivor about the trip that his mother and I had made to New Guinea some weeks earlier. The journey was to Lae War Cemetery to attend the funeral of four airmen, the crew of a World War II bomber, the wreck of which had been recently found deep in the jungle where it had crashed almost 45 years earlier. The pilot of the plane, Squadron Leader Charles Sage, was my wife's much loved and admired elder brother and I was accompanying her to witness this final ceremony in his honour.
With great difficulty I was trying to convey to Ivor some of the emotional effect this pilgrimage had had on his mother and myself and how the experience had left us feeling that we could never be the same again. He listened sympathetically, but I left the studio feeling that I had quite inadequately expressed it all.
Some hours later, Ivor arrived at our home with a tape of a song he had just written. It was called "Charlie's Sky" and was obviously inspired by the subject of our recent conversation. Ivor could not stay in the room while we listened to it for the first time. He felt such trepidation as to how his mother would react. I am sure if the song had upset her, it would never have been heard or heard of again.
His fears were quite unfounded. The song so completely captured the spirit of what I had been so clumsily trying to explain to him just a short time earlier, that my wife and I both accepted it with gratitude.
"Charlie's Sky" became the inspiration for and the final track of the Code Blue album released in 1990. However, it is not so much because of its beautiful music, sentiment, and atmosphere, that I claim it as the Icehouse song of which I am proudest. It is mostly because of the depth of understanding embodied in it. Parents are often the recipients of accusations of not understanding their children. Much less frequently can a father claim to have been fully understood by his son.