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tchaikovsky, shostakovich …..

ray collins

The entrance of untreated sewage into sea-water produces a well-defined series of biological, chemical and physical changes. The region directly below the intrusion is characterised by a high bacterial population and the water frequently has a cloudy appearance and a strong disagreeable odour. Large schools of small fish congregate in these places and men with leather-lined stomachs and empty pockets reel them in by the dozens.

Tonight, on the bill, we have Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich.

The concert starts at 8:00 pm so a man has an hour to spare after an early dinner, time enough to walk along the sea front and watch three fishermen catching their dinner by the sewage outlet that pours waste out of the toilets that patrons arriving for the concert by ferry from HK Central might use before they take the short walk to the concert hall.

Shostakovich’ s Symphony Number 5. Fifty plus minutes, written in Russia when Stalin was in power.

The stink of sewage is everywhere.

A young bride in a voluminous white wedding gown is having her photo taken a few yards away. The groom fusses about, making things perfect. Further along the walkway a man with imperfect teeth and an unwholesome leer squats, he shares a joke with a giggling, skinny youth who sits hugging his knees.

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto ….. that’s the reason for buying the ticket. Baiba Skride on violin. Written in 1878, this is a piece some claim is too difficult to play because of its many double stops, glissando, trills, leaps and dissonances. But anyone who has a collection of every recording made by Phillip Glass knows how to navigate hard ground.

Sometimes a fisherman will lift one of the heavy iron covers on the pier approaches and drop a handline into the darker murk beneath. Thousands pass these men by during the day, people of all the nations, hardly noticing why a man would crouch by an open man-hole, his gaze fixed on the black water slopping against the piers beneath him.

Somebody is poisoning dogs up at the mid-levels, leaving them writhing on the ground with white spittle oozing from their mouths.

Forty years ago, on the couple of harbour-front acres where the Intercontinental Hotel now stands there was just a tin shack on some waste ground, and every morning a bent-over little man would exit his hovel with a few fat puppies for the meat markets.

Tchaikovsky’s Polonaise. Written in 1878. Love gone wrong.

Who hasn’t been there ….

Header pic by Ray Collins


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