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Wednesday 29 September 2010

Mária Hári

"My favourite photo"
A big step forward in my life
June 1993, PAI,

Dr Mária Hári with ten of her "Birmingham conductors"
On the steps of PAI
June 1993

Thinking about or remembering

I think a lot about András Petö, I wonder about him and his life, I have read some of the plays that he wrote and I write about him too. Only yesterday he got a mention over on my Offspring Blog:

But what about Mária Hári? I do not write about her enough.

Being influenced by

Andrew Sutton is right in his posting today. Too little is said about her, although she was the person at the PAI who had the greatest influence, directly and indirectly, on my conductor training. And what is more I knew her, whereas András Petö is like a mythical image to me.

I had very little personal contact with Mária Hári. She gave lectures in the first years of our training to all the Hungarian and foreign students together. There were a couple of hundred of us in the lecture hall listening to her voice, some like me hanging on to her every word. Although at the beginning I listened to a sometimes-good-sometimes-bad translation, later I abandoned the earphones and listened to her Hungarian and even later still we got her to ourselves. Just ten British students and Mária. For a whole year of Friday mornings she taught us, spoke with us and questioned us in English. It was a delight and a privilege.

It was a really interesting time with her. I would sit there engrossed, enjoying every minute. Watching her, observing her bird-like movements and listening to her words. Often I would make little sketches of her on the corner of my note books.

Coming to an understanding

Over the past few years I have begun to realise how much of what Dr Mária Hári told us actually sunk in, although at the time I had believed that I had not understood very much at all. I think it was often the case with Mária Hári that she could only be understood if you already knew what she was talking about. As students this was rarely the case, how could we know know what she was talking about. We were there to learn from her and from others. Now sometimes I do know, and now-a-days I often recall what she said. I ask myself whether she knew that one day I would understand and discover uses for what she told us.

Over the last few years there have been many moments when the "penny has dropped" . Moments when I realise why it was that I had understood but had not really understood at the time, what Mária had said to us.

Special treats: coffee and time

The most personal contact I had with Dr Hári was at exam time. I loved this time despite the nerves, and always wished desperately to get it right and do well for her. I found it extremely important to do well for her, she thought a lot of us and really wanted us to succeed. She was very sad on her last-ever lecture day with us. We were her last ever "Birmingham students", as she called us. She was so happy to be able to give us a special treat! Coffee, strong hungarian coffee, served in her office, that she had made for us herself.

At my very last conductive pedagogy exam we spoke for what seemed like hours. My fellow students, who were in same the room, madly writing notes for their exam answers, were as delighted as I was that my exam took so long. They had more time to prepare their answers or even better had more time to listen in to gather a few tips and I got almost a full hour of Dr Hári's time, just for me.

I knew of one subject that was dear to Mária Hári's heart and I wanted to discuss it with her so I twisted the question I had picked for my exam so I could include this in my answer. We hit it off for a short time, but lonf enough that she remembered it when she presented me with my diploma. That was another moment that I will never forget; when she acknowledged the tears of joy in my eyes, and heard the words of gratitude as I thanked her, before she wished me well for my future life as a conductor.

Her well wishes have always been with me and in some ways also that wish to succeed

Wondering, imagining, sometimes even feeling, what she might have said

There were very few, very special moments with her. But since 1993, when I said my goodbyes, there have been many more very special moments for me when I have remembered Mária Hári.
There have been times of doubt when I have thought about her and been reassured by my memories and been convinced that she would have liked what I am doing. There have been many moments when I am at a loss and have imagined what she would have advised me to do.

The best help of all that I have received from my memories was quite recently. This was when couple of years ago I was asked to speak to a group of fifty people with Parkinson's disease. I was so nervous with my funny accent, my not very loud voice and my over prepared presentation that I was very near to stumbling over my own feet. That was until I thought about Mária Hári and decided to do what she did in similar situations. I had seen her do it and heard about her doing it too. She had even told us herself about why she did it. So I kicked of my shoes as she had often done and demonstrated what I was talking about. I have heard that it always went down a treat with Dr Hári, it went down a treat for me too.

Andrew, you write at the top of your posting:
"Remember Mária"

I think that those who knew her can not avoid doing so. She pops up in my life on almost every working day and often on holi-days too. I still often have that feeling of wanting to do well for her because she wanted so much for us to succeed. She would want me to say I wish to do well for myself and I do but she is there, somewhere in the background, hoping.

For those who did not know her it is more difficult but I think it is possible for them to get a feel of who she was and what she was like by reading what she has written and what has been written about her, there are many people around still to tell stroeis about her of their own personal expereinces.

Those who did not know her can, just like me, look forward to reading those written up notes of Andrew Sutton's this time next year.


Susie Mallett:

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