Ephemera or Little Alma’s tale
A small middle-aged women, barefoot,wearing a headband, asleep in a big chair, cradling her violin.
You don’t know me!
Little Alma, that's what they called me
Little Alma from Mount Morgan
An accident of birth
I left Australia for good when I was nine
I was famed.
Not famous for being famous.
Famed for this (holds the violin aloft).
I’m the smudge on the page.
All the lost little women
That history likes to bury:
The footnote of footnotes.
Nine when I enrolled:
The Brussels Conservatoire Royal de Musique.
How I thrilled at the sounds of those words.
All I wanted to do was honour holy German art.
I gave my first recital in Berlin.
Nervous little thing I was
But the talent, that was real.
The old German men saw that
And me, the delicate child
With the curly hair and the white dress.
One of god’s miracles they said.
I made them all cry.
All gone in the blink of an eyelid.
Mother and I spent the war in Belgium
The First World War that is.
What a mess
We barely had enough to eat.
In the midst of the war to end all wars
But the Belgians took us in.
I didn't play this for 4 years.
Can you imagine that?
Silent, between the bombs.
Where was I?
I was always nervous.
Talent makes you nervous.
But it forces you on.
Mother died in 1918:
My Irish rose caught the grim reaper of influenza
Death makes you careless.
I was gripped with hunger
A fervour of creativity.
You can’t begin to imagine what Berlin was like
After the end of the war
In 1919 I was premiering new Violin Concertos.
Pfitzner the Nazi and Krenek the Jew dedicated their works to me.
I loved making new music.
Krenek and I made love.
He wrote about me in his Jazz Opera
All so deliciously dated
But what a triumph, performed everywhere.
I toured with little Stravinsky.
We played his Pulcinella Suite together
Like two little marionettes!
The Jew, Walter, took me to London for the Brahms.
I was always on the run.
Endless tours across Europe.
Where was I?
Ah, after death comes marriage.
I married a Nazi.
My very own Bluebeard.
He made me nervous.
The legal footnotes that start to bury a girl.
The cold logic of estrangement settled in.
And then a miracle.
I met Rilke.
Who could not love Rilke?
He and I sang from the same source
His words, my being.
Can you imagine the fire that burns
And consumes two passionate souls.
Such rare purity
Kreisler gave me his precious violin – the Guarneri.
Tommy Beecham charmed me into playing the Busoni
With his London boys.
Australia heard about me when it was an English triumph!
No backwater Berlin success.
I had it all.
The tentacles of an ordained life slowly gripped me.
I had two children.
I did love them so much
But oh what a torture the first one was
Little Alma became a ‘respected Professor’.
All the Jews were chucked out.
I was talented
I didn’t say no
To the kind of Faustian deal
That the life sucking order of the Third Reich
so easily arranged.
I had married a man who didn't understand
Me or music.
And the state now forbad me Mendelssohn.
It crushed the life within.
My hand began to shake
My body rebelling against all that discipline and disruption?
The loathing of the child for the grown women?
Did I ever have a childhood?
Could I guide my own children?
These questions became the insistent pattern of my life
The rubric of unscalable scales
Can you imagine the burden of survival, of talent?
Still falls the rain.
The British bombs fell from on high
On Frankfurt, on Koln.
I was alone.
Music was there at the end:
I played with the lovely Erdmann
three days before my death.
And then the music stopped.
I was cold and soon forgotten.
Like a normal life
My story slowly unwound
No artifacts to mark my time
no biography, no memoir
nothing to podcast.
I am surely dead!
The dead can still tell stories.
There are pictures
I was real!
Me with Rilke
Orpheus and his muse.
Me in the shadows
Me in the limelight
You don’t know me.
Why should you?
Next to you, seated in the dark
Watching this forgotten one
Another life with its own contours is unfolding
another heart beats with its own desires and secrets.
Each life lays down its precious tracks
Like a snail on wet grass
Ephemeral but real.
Don't lose your memories.
Cradles her violin. Curls up in her chair and closes her eyes.