Like most New Years Days of my life when I have been in proximity to a TV, I watched the New Year's concert from the Vienna Philharmonics, conducted this year once more by Riccardo Muti.
It was an eerie affair this time, because the glorious Musikverein concert hall, normally filled with the world's great and good- or at least the richest-was empty. But at the same time there was ZOOM participation from a multitude of nations: a more democratic crowd, representing the 50 million or so spectators world wide. Riccardo Muti ended the concert with some well-chosen words to the world's leaders about the healing power of music and culture.
This event is of course a vortex of unashamedly old fashioned Europe: those glorious Viennese waltzes played normally to all those well-healed white people- the cameras always having trouble seeking out someone to represent all the other races in our diverse world. But nevertheless the message is always a joyful one which rings out to all the world, and no New Year's Day would be complete without it.
The penultimate offering of the orchestra is always an der schonen blauen Donau: the Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss. This particular famous Waltz has particular significance for me because it reminds me of Mali- yes, strangely, it brings a very specific memory of the New Year 2006 when my friends and I was on that holiday which came to change my life. The setting was the Bani river:
We had hired two pirogues and their pirogiers to paddle us between Sanouna by Djenne and Mopti. The journey took three days and two nights, and included New Year's Eve, when we made a fire on the shore after we had pitched our tents. We then sat down to try and entertain ourselves until twelve. That is quite a long time, since the sun sets about six thirty. So we decided that our midnight would arrive an hour earlier...We were an international bunch: Andrew from the UK, Pia and Anna from Sweden and Andreas from Austria. We all now performed whatever we could remember of the songs and poems of our respective languages, we played games etc. At our designated 'midnight', a large casserole was placed on my head, and twelve gongs rang out as the casserole was banged with a large wooden soup ladle. Once I had recovered from this, Andreas started singing An der schonen blauen Donau, as he bowed before me in an old fashioned European way and we began to waltz on the sandy shore of the Bani, the others soon joining us, all humming away with the full moon above us- even the pirogiers joined in as we taught them to waltz!
Therefore that particular waltz, at the beginning of a New Year, brings happy memories of the beginning of a very different year, which brought with it the beginning of my new Malian existence. I am hoping this year might bring something lovely too...?
A Happy New Year!