Colin Firth's eloquent tribute to Maureen Forrester captures great Canadian's love of life
Everyone who attended the tribute concert to Maureen Forrester in Stratford yesterday received a lavish coffee table-worthy programme filled with background, anecdotes, written tributes and pictures commemorating a particularly generous life.
I didn't have a chance to look at it until I got home last night.
Among the many beautiful tributes inside is one from Colin Firth. I hope no one minds that I'm going to reproduce it here, in its entirety:
Maureen's son, Daniel, and I were roommates while studying acting at the Drama Centre in London in the early 1980s. When he first came to stay at my family home in Winchester, I decided to force a piece of music on him -- a piece by Frederick Delius that had enthralled me since I was a child. To my surprise, Danny recognized it immediately. Not the piece, but the voice. It turned out to be that of his own mother. He then checked the record sleeve and discovered that at the time of the recording his mother was pregnant -- with him. I'd spent years in love with the voice of the woman who was singing with my future friend inside her!
Daniel was subsequently adopted by my family and was in frequent demand as a holiday guest. This became a reciprocal arrangement and I came to experience Maureen's hospitality, her generosity, her formidable intelligence, her trust, her eccentricity, her candour, her experience and her wisdom. I stayed in her home on Lake Muskoka and to my delight the adoption exchange continued for some years. All that was missing in this wonderful new relationship was that I had never heard Maureen sing live.
That changed in 1986 when I was visiting some old friends in Missouri, and one of them excitedly mentioned that Maureen Forrester was singing Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde that evening in the university auditorium at the end of the street. That night, Maureen sang magnificently -- thrilling her audience, not only with her voice, but also with her wit, warmth and her mighty energy. Following the performance, I proudly took my friends backstage where she was surrounded by adoring fans. As I approached, I became somewhat concerned that -- out of context -- she might not recognize me immediately and there would be an awkward moment. I needn't have worried as the howl of delight and surprise, which she let out from across the room when she saw me, would have filled the Royal Albert Hall.
That may have been the last time we met. That cry of welcoming recognition is my abiding memory. From the same voice that had camptivated me onstage a few moments before and in my home as a child. All those things, as well as her words of advice and encouragement, are gifts I will always carry: her friendship, her acceptance, her voice, her family and my cherished lifelong friendhip with Daniel.
What could possibly go better with this than "One Charming Night," from Henry Purcell's Fairy Queen, as recorded by Forrester with the Vienna Radio Orchestra and conductor Brian Priestman:
One charming night
Gives more delight
Than a hundred lucky days:
Night and I improve the taste,
Make the pleasure longer last
A thousand, thousand several ways.