Blog courtesy of CPO Assistant Principal Bassoon, Michael Hope.
I’ll never forget one day back in 2002. We were in the concert hall and we had a particularly raucous audience of children. They seemed to be liking what we were doing, but they were very loud. Clapping in all the wrong places, etc.
I remember feeling irritated at this, until I noticed one audience member in particular. He was sitting in one of the near loges, and appeared to be a small child. What I remember most was that he had no hands, and was waving his stumps around to show his enthusiasm for the music. I instantly felt like an idiot for feeling irritated at our enthusiastic audience (I’d momentarily forgotten that every audience is a gift to a musician). After all – here was a young person who couldn’t clap at all.
After the concert I went over to say hello to him and his family. Even though his condition (he was born with Cornelia de Lange syndrome) only allowed him to speak in grunts and indistinct sounds, it was clear that he was happy to be there, and I felt honoured to have met him. We both had a new friend.
Over the next 12 years, his family kept bringing him to CPO concerts. They told me that through Geoff’s sophisticated method of signing, he was always able to communicate his excitement at coming to CPO concerts, and that the music had a way of relaxing him and sending him to a happy place. I was particularly flattered when they told me that whenever they would mention the Orchestra, Geoff would run his arm through his hair – indicating his association of the Orchestra with my long ponytail! I always was delighted when Geoff would take the trouble to always come up to me and say hello.
This summer Geoff and his family went through the CPO catalogue and looked at all the pictures and he was very excited they would be buying tickets for him for the new Season. But unfortunately he passed away in late July due a bacterial abscess growing in his brain (very common for someone with his condition). His family told me that right until the end he was listening to music and constantly indicating “more” when each piece ended.
When I was at his memorial service the other day, I was so delighted to see that I was not the only person who was touched by this remarkable man. And though I shall miss seeing him at concerts I will always remember how grateful he made me feel for his presence over the years.
The picture above is a little worn around the edges, because I always carry it around with me to remind me of how lucky I am to be able to make people happy with music.