I am not a serious Rufus Wainwright fan. Unlike true devotees, I have not followed his tours around the UK, securing tickets for each performance and waiting to meet him afterwards. I have not donated £100 to his pledge campaign in order to sing Hallelujah on stage with scores of other drooling groupies. I have not spent hours analysing his song lyrics with reference to the musical output of his parents. Compared to true disciples, my commitment is unexceptional.
It began suddenly when, aged 19, I acquired the Want albums. This music was my music, with literary, orchestral, operatic and popular influences that spanned genres; a fusion that matched my own musical interests and developed my understanding of the singer-songwriter format. My reaction was that of a 12-year-old girl to a boy band. I bought albums, saved up for gig tickets that required ridiculous journeys on public transport and even tried learning to play his (often fiendish) music. His albums were the soundtrack to leaving home and becoming musically independent.
When Rufus announced a performance at this year’s International Eisteddfod, I immediately bought a ticket. How wonderful to see him play in the area where I grew up, at an event I had visited and participated in as a child! Yet the experience was surprisingly unsettling: I had associated Rufus Wainwright with new adventures, glamour, diversity, my own freedom and anonymity in the big wide world. Now I was back sitting on a plastic chair in a tent with the sensibly-clad, largely grey-haired concert-goers of North Wales, their accents and conversations representing the security and limitations of childhood. For the first time, I considered the possibility of meeting my idol and realised that it would not be wise. Over the years I have created my own image of Rufus Wainwright, the caring virtuoso who greatly appreciates the backing vocals I contribute to his in-car performances. Talking to the real Rufus Wainwright would almost certainly shatter that illusion. I have made a considerable investment in my relationship with him, but he has never heard of me: Such in-balance could only end in disappointment.
Dorothy said that there is no place like home, and the choirs and folk dancers that I saw at Llangollen were a reminder of my own musical home (far more colourful than Kansas!). But we should also value our musical yellow brick roads, the artists and songs that give us courage to move in new directions. The Wizard was not what Dorothy had expected, but searching for him provided her with many new experiences. I do not need to meet the real Rufus to recognise how much I’ve learnt since leaving home. So thank you, my-version-of-Rufus-Wainwright, for providing musical stimulation and emotional support. Here’s to many more years of singing together in the car!
Oh, and for those of you who read my first blog and have noticed that this entry is not specifically about new challenges, here’s a collage from my day out at the Eisteddfod. I’m building up to taking selfies and reckoned that getting to grips with a photo-editing app would be a good start.