If ever peace can be brought to this troubled planet, it is to be hoped that some excuse can be found for continuing MANA (Musicians Against Nuclear Arms) concerts. From time to time, at various venues, notably at St James church in Piccadilly, devotees of peace gather to enjoy mutual company and beautiful music prepared for them by professional musicians, who give their services free, that the ticket money may be used to further the cause of peace and justice.  They are remarkable concerts.  If their true worth is ever discovered by the general public, there will be such a fight for tickets that few peace campaigners, who by their nature are unaggressive, will manage to obtain them.

The latest concert, on 5th November, was quite brilliant.  Those concerned to bring peace to the world might be expected to be both intelligent and sensitive, qualities needed by musicians, so it should come as no surprise to find great virtuosi among those volunteering their services for concerts.  The list of MANA patrons reads like a list of the great and the good in the musical world.  President is John Williams, and Michael Berkeley, Colin Davis, Mark Elder, Jane Glover, Emanuel Horowitz, Simon Rattle and many more outstanding musicians are patrons.

To describe the music would be presumptuous.  But I can say that the pleasure of hearing the work of the masters so well realised is increased by being there to watch its production at such close hand.  The biologist Richard Dawkins was once asked to list his ‘seven wonders of the world’, and near the top he put pianists.  He explained that the need to strike so many notes so accurately and in split-second sequence, with one hand playing one melodic line while the other supplied a different bass accompaniment, made absurdly difficult demands on brain and muscular coordination.  Dawkins’ assessment came to mind watching the violin section.  There are no frets on the violin, no indication of where to put the flying fingers of the left hand to produce the wanted note, and there are, I think, four strings to cover, and the precision is just awe-inspiring.  Add to that the different work given to the right hand.  Add to that the range of expression required in the production of each note, and the meticulous use of vibrato to improve the quality of even momentary notes.  Add to that the marvellous unison of the whole section. Producing music ought to be impossible, but no one has told musicians.

If there were any sort of justice in the handing out of honours, we would be addressing Joan Horrocks, who together with a small committee has done such amazing work in organising these wonderful concerts, as Your Ladyship.  Guest speakers address the audience before the second half  (this time we had Tony Benn, and recently it was Kate Hudson).  And large amounts of money are raised for peace. 

It is worth joining MANA.  You don’t have to be a professional musician, just someone who enjoys good music.  You will also enjoy the quarterly MANA newsletter, written by Joan, which not only gives details of coming concerts, but also will keep you up to date on peace matters. Individual membership is Ł7.50.  Send your sub to: Joan Horrocks, 71 Greenfield Gardens, London NW2 1HU.