Green Wizardries: Contagion

Maxine Rogers


Green Wizardries, Contagion by Maxine Rogers

We have heard a lot about contagion in the last couple of years and the oddest things can become contagious. Opiate addiction, alcohol abuse, and even suicide progress in waves as someone has to set the example for it to become popular, but positive things can be contagious too.

Positive actions and happiness are contagious. Haven’t you ever been with a person who was so happy they made you smile?

Kathy Rieder, with her wonderful community choir made singing infectious. Kathy made it easy for people to believe they could sing. She made it easy for them to meet the wonderful Dennis Donnely who every couple of years would come up and give a workshop on singing in a choir.

Druidry is all about self-improvement and cultivating your own talents, however small, especially in the realms of poetry, singing and playing. Especially if you are studying to be a Bard as I am. I asked Kathy if I could be on one of her courses and when she had a place, she called me up and we booked it.

My husband’s daughter was up visiting and we met Kathy by chance at the ferry. I introduced her to our daughter and Kathy complimented us on her and said, “You know what! I will give you a two for one choir school! You can do it as Mother and Daughter.”

So we did. My daughter’s evil ex-spouse had told her she could not sing so we were all pretty surprised when it turned out that she has a beautiful alto voice. We speak once a week by telephone as she lives in Victoria and we will often sing each other the songs that we are working on. We call family and friends and sing them Christmas carols. Gods willing, I hope Kathy’s choir may sing again and soon.

It was at a choir meeting last summer when we were practising songs to bid farewell to Marjo Van Tooren, a long-time choir member, that I mentioned to some singers that in my next life, I hoped to be born into a family that would give me music lessons so I could learn to read music and then I wanted to play the cello. The gentle and generous Andrew Fyson said, “Oh, you can borrow mine.”

I was astonished and said did he really mean it? Yes, he did. He also helped me by finding me a cello teacher. Can you imagine that on our tiny island we have a music teacher who teaches piano, guitar and cello? This paragon of virtue is Scott Knight who advertises in the Grapevine but when I saw his ad with its Vancouver number, I assumed he was teaching by Zoom from Vancouver or something.

Scott agreed to take me on and teach me to read music and to learn to play the cello. He asked me what my musical goals were and I had to admit that anything at all in the way of playing the cello would be the astonishing wonder of the ages.

I thought I would be satisfied if I could learn to play a scale and maybe a little song. I started lessons with Scott at his studio at North Denman in October of last year. Since then, he has taught me to read music up to studying tones and semi tones and I am working on my sixth song as I learn to play the cello.

I had thought it would be fun to be able to play something very well. I was surprised to learn that any time spent with the cello is fun. I do make some horrible noises at times but more and more nice ones. I enjoy my practice hour hugely and I often play in front of a full-length mirror so I can learn to bow straight and stay on the right zone with my bow.

Sometimes I just stop and smile at myself to find I am a person sitting behind a cello and actually playing it! It is something along the lines of having a very friendly pet unicorn.

You see, I didn’t realize ordinary people could aspire to playing the cello. I thought you had to come from a very elevated musical family or be touched by grace in some way. Scott Knight insists that the cello is for everybody who wants to put in the time to learn to play.

Since then, my husband has taken up learning the guitar after a pause of 50 years. My sister has started playing the guitar again and our daughter has just gone out and bought herself a cello. She was breathless with happiness when she told me about it. I have never heard her sounding so in love. So, I suspect that playing a musical instrument may also be contagious. What better entertainment could we ask for in this dull time of lock downs and social distancing?

I was not able to go to my music lesson last week as the roads were very icy but we crept out in our car. When we got to Danes Road, we found the hill to be a sheet of ice with a car stuck sideways in the ditch and some men digging it out. One of them was Scott Knight who had come to dig out a guitar student and a piano student who had slipped on the hill. How is that for a dedicated teacher!

Anyone who is interested in chatting with Scott can find him at An alternate way to begin studying music would be to pick an instrument and look for lessons on Youtube. I found a series of free cello lessons by Kayson Brown on Youtube and find them very helpful.

You don’t have to become a concert pianist or a guitarist on the lines of Estas Tone to be a successful musician. In previous, and more civilized centuries, music was something that everyone did and they appreciated really good playing and singing because they understood music much better than a modern person who only ever listens and does not play or sing.

If I have helped to spread the contagion of studying music, I am well satisfied.