I am Jemma and I am immortal!
Music is my life and my life is music. My heartbeat is written on a stave, with crescendos and diminuendos, tacit bars and heart-stopping glissandos. But my breath is the libretto, with such glorious poetry and anarchic rhyme that I can't make sense of it at all.
My seminal moment came in the guise of a very talented pair of artists Carlo Rizzi and John Caird whose production of Verdi's Don Carlos brought my life to a resounding halt last September. It was like my very existence had been awaiting that meeting and that opera. In one afternoon they had shown me the meaning of life! All the musical forces came together to create an awesome experience just for me.
Music transports me to the court of King Philip, an alley in Verona or the farthest reaches of the universe before returning me to Victorian London, wartime France or my homeland today. Even in the dark of the night my music shines bright and fills the room with light and radiance. No sound is heard but music is blaring from my mind into the void. Daytime can be tiresome with its noisy light disrupting my mind's symphonic pleasures. If I were in St David's Hall I couldn't hear more beautiful music.
Sometimes I lie awake scratching out notes on parchment which only I will ever read or hear. My concerto for bassoon is multi-award winning and the critics raved about my Symphony in G. Perhaps only time will tell whether my Mozartian productivity is kept for posterity or binned by a future archivist. But then, since I am the only judge and jury in my mind, it is probably a foregone conclusion (though not necessarily!).
Written words are for me the glue which keeps my existence held fast in a semblance of stability. Without words, it would all come crashing round my ears, turning bright sunshine into darkest night. Poetry fills my soul with delightful hues of life's momentary escapes into bliss, and torment.
Language is my paint and my keyboard is my brush. With them I paint pictures of life's more interesting times and scenic views of the future. But what is my future?
Many people can't imagine how there could be a brain in this body. They see a broken child like a broken toy, simpler to dispose of than use for the few things it can still do. Some people are happy to be nice to the body assuming that a baby's mind must lie within. Few people suspect a city of people lies inside my fractured casing, with artists, musicians, politicians, teachers, priests and spacemen all vying with each other for airtime on Jemma FM.
How can you, they say in hushed tones, read, write and think like normal people do? Surely that mother of yours is just making it up and should stop telling fibs.
Well, d'you know? I do have a brain and I do have a mind — and the imagination of Dahl, the poetry of Keats, the drama of Shakespeare, the music of Verdi and the passion of them all in one. My body may be broken, but my operas are premiering and my films are winning Oscars every night. Well, in my mind they are anyway!
Carlo and John could see past the wheelchair; they could see into my spirit and gave me permission to try whatever I wanted to, however much people derided my attempts.
I cannot promise to change the world, but perhaps my music and my poetry will. Someday.
I couldn't contain myself, so I posted Jemma's autobiography tonight instead of tomorrow. This essay also won an award. Jemma's family came to the US so her father could work with the opera company in Houston. Along with her glorious writing, she also composes music in her head, which only she can hear. But her teachers and family are trying to devise a way for her to put her musical thoughts into sounds so we can all hear them. I can't wait. Read the complete article by Allen Turner that ran in the Houston Chronicle here: