Arise O sun God and Greet thy People: A week in Annamaghkerrig.
Arise O sun God and Greet thy People. (Garrison Keillor) According to a composer I met in Annamaghkerrig these are the only words an artist wants to hear when he/she has unveiled a new work. He was staying in Annamaghkerrig for five weeks and had gone off for a few days to conduct an orchestra rehearsal of a new piece he had written. He was really funny when he was dramatically explaining in his lovely northern accent that what you want is everyone to jump up and say how wonderful it is and instead what you get is- here he mimes someone playing a violin with a completely blank expression.
I particularly enjoyed meeting the musicians because the creative world of the musician is so far outside my own experience. We also had a concert pianist- who must be the most dedicated and hard working artist I have ever met. All day long the strains of piano music could be heard around the house and over coffee it was fascinating to have her explain the difficulties some composers put in the way of performers.
There were two artists, one a conceptual artist and the other a painter- apparently it was an unusual week as there are usually more artists (there are three or four studios as well as a print studio). I envied the painter her huge canvases- it’s been a long time since I did any painting other than the freshen up the wall or the slap a new skin on a door variety. Perhaps next summer when the novel is finished…
Then we had a lovely French translator and a screenwriter who lives in Hollywood, an artist writing a professorial speech, and a few poets and ordinary writers like myself.
I worked hard there- everything is set up so that you have nothing to think of only your work if that is what you want to do. I spent some time thinking and planning and developing the ideas for my novel and I wrote a bit over 7000 words. Another writer recommended me to her agent and I sent off my samples, as you do. She told me that four years ago she was ready to give up, then suddenly she had an agent, and now she has three books published and translated into several languages. She was excited as she had just received the cover design for her latest novel. In the words of the Lotto ads – ‘it could be you’.
The staff in the house are really welcoming and friendly and always ready to chat. The food- oh dear the food…home-made cake and biscuits, a fridge full of delicious salads for lunch or snacks, home-made soup at lunchtime too, superb vegetarian food which of course everyone else ate as well as the meat dishes. Help yourself during the day and then all together for a sit down meal at seven every evening. During the day quiet chats with whoever is at the round table for coffee/lunch/breakfast, in the evening all together at the long dining table to relax and unwind after a hard day’s work and of course there was wine to be consumed. I put on about six pounds in one week so if I visit you over the next few weeks please do not offer me cake!
The beautiful house was the former home of Tyrone Guthrie, it has ten large ensuite bedrooms with lovely old furniture and writing desks. Lady Guthrie’s room has a big brass bed and a writing desk in front of the window which looks out over the grounds. Miss Worby’s room is the home of the resident ghost, who regularly tweets people before they arrive about how much she is looking forward to haunting them. I was in the carer’s apartment at the side of the house so I had a spare bedroom and a kitchen as well with a fridge, which was useful for storing my wine. And cake.
The trip switch kept going at odd times and an emergency light would come on in my bedroom, so on one of the first days when I had a furtive snooze in the afternoon without pulling the blinds I woke to find the room in a blaze of light making the bed with me in it visible to anyone passing by. Grr! I blamed it on Miss Worby but she tweeted me that she’s always getting blamed for stuff she doesn’t do!. Poor sad ghost- I was disappointed not to see any other sign of her while I was there, but perhaps she was having an off week.
On some of the afternoons I went in to the main part of the house as I needed internet access and I had the beautiful drawing room all to myself. I definitely could get used to it! There’s a grand piano there and on the Friday night we had readings and performances around the dining room table after dinner and then repaired to the drawing room where our concert pianist played two pieces. She played Debussy’s ‘Evening in Grenada’ and a Chopin Nocturne- and it was incredibly beautiful and a privilege to be there listening to such wonderful music in such a setting. I am definitely a convert to classical piano. On another night after dinner we had a film supplied by the screenwriter and projected by one of the artists in her studio.
You could walk around the lake and explore and there were woods which I never got around to investigating. Every so often from my desk I’d see a resident passing by- deep in thought and out for the daily constitutional. My souvenirs are several pieces of interesting shaped wood from the lake- one will make a perfect hat stand whenever I get to mounting it properly. Meanwhile it graces a piece of my hall furniture.
I am definitely going back there…
I wrote this just after getting back from the Tyrone Guthrie centre, its just taken me this long to upload photos and finish it off…