Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Errollyn Wallen, 3: 'Up Mt. Kilimanjaro with a roll-up piano' 'makes you realize that so much else in life is easier!'

[Errollyn Wallen]

AfriClassical interviewed Errollyn Wallen, the composer, pianist and vocal artist, on December 24, 2010. Errollyn was born in Belize City, Belize but has lived in England from the age of 2 and has had all her education there. Part 1 appeared Dec. 27, 2010. Part 2 was posted Dec. 28, 2010. Today we present Part 3:

Apparently you had an idea at one point to involve many people in the U.K., called the “Errollyn Wallen Song Club”?
Yes, that was this year! At the beginning of this year, I decided I think it's important for composers to be able to compose, sit down and play and sing at the piano! I don't know why I feel that's important but I think it's so important for me to be a real person! To be able to do what I write as well. And so, in my travels I would come across people who – it seems to me that it's the song form that we all go back to time and time again! Whether we're professional musicians or not! If we had, if I started a song club where everybody could come, irrespective of whether they were musicians or not, and just present a song. It would keep a little flame burning for song writing basically...
That's very inspirational!
No, it's very simple, a group of us get together and it's just been very moving to see just how much, not just talent but also how in the song form you can express things that you can't quite express in any other way!
That's very perceptive! I'm interested by that!
So hopefully it is something I will continue this year, but at the moment I have quite a lot of commissions on. I consider it my best achievement this year. But I also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and I consider that...
Tell us a little bit about that.
A friend got a group of us together and said this is what we are going to be doing, we are going to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for charity because it will be fun. But it wasn't, it was Hell on Earth!
Now that I've done it, I think to myself whenever anything is difficult, “Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro, Kilimanjaro!” That was so physically grueling that it makes you realize that so much else in life is easier!
How long did it take you to make the ascent?
Well, from base camp and back again, 8 days.
The final ascent is about 12 hours I guess, but it gets harder and harder because of the altitude.
That was some serious climbing!
Yes, it was horrible!
Did you have to carry oxygen?
I had to have oxygen. If I hadn't had the oxygen, I would still be out there now, because I wasn't going to give up! I was walking slower and slower and slower. We had a terrific guide, and he'd also been to the Song Club by the way, and he gave me oxygen so yes, I had to have it.
So that experience represents something that you can compare other things to?
It's some kind of an emblem or symbol?
Well, yes! You know everyday I do music one way or another. Being a composer, lots of your living is in your head and your imagination. And to go on a trip where I was away from music-making, where everything had to do with putting one foot in front of another! That was all you were doing, sometimes 8, 10 hours a day! What helped me was the memory of practicing the piano, and it made me realize that to be a musician you have to be mentally sharp, but also, being strong physically is part of it too.
Did you have to carry the piano yourself, this roll-up piano?
No, I took a little roll-up piano, but then my guide wouldn't let me take it to the very, very top because he felt every extra ounce of weight could be critical. I took it up pretty far up, and I did play it sometimes.
What kind of an experience was that, when you were playing in that scene, at that location?
It was great, I just kept laughing! It was funny!

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