A few weeks ago, I met Ellen over dinner in the dilapidated barn of a French chateaux. We were part of a Tango week – at least she was – I was supporting my husband who is a total devotee. Over supper she waxed lyrical about her love of tango – and more specifically, the music.
As a young girl, Ellen loved playing the piano and longed to go to the Conservatoire to study. Sadly, her best wasn’t good enough and her dream of being a musician was over. But she wasn’t willing to give up on a deeply felt desire to give something of value to the world, so settled for teaching history and geography.
Fast forward to 2006 and we see Ellen discovering the Tango. There is something in this dance that is Marmite – it’s too salty for me, but for Ellen and John, my husband, it is a pure heaven. Just one lesson and she was hooked on the dance and the challenge of communicating in a different way with another person.
Then came the music of Piazzolla – a very special composer of tango music. As soon as she heard it, she was transported right back to her love of piano: “ If there is a music cupid, I was struck by his arrow when hearing Astor Piazzolla”, she told me. Before long she was dusting off the instrument and recovering her old skills.
“Chances always come your way in life. You have to grab them or they will just pass you by.” Ellen demonstrated by putting a water bottle on the rusty ‘lazy Susan’ in the middle of table and sent it on round to our friends opposite. “I went to the city, distributing posters for a tango event I was organising and met three guys in front of a gallery. One of them saw my poster and told me he was making a CD of Tango music. And…he played the piano!! It turned out he is the international pianist Jeroen van Veen, known for playing an amazing composition ‘ Canto Ostinato’. And – who would have believed it – he lived in my village.”
Ellen was absolutely not going to let this chance go by – this was an amazing opportunity, so she summoned her courage and asked if he would teach her. He took her on and she shared the results with me. Sitting in a dusty old turret room, she played the moving piece that had turned her life around.
Share the experience with me here – link to the music ‘ Ausencias – Astor Piazzolla’
The chances have kept coming and Ellen, now 56, accompanies a Dutch opera singer, performing all over the country. She is writing a book about her teacher and developing a concert programme where she shares her journey and her dream, in the hope it will connect others to their dreams and inspire them to action.
Once, long ago, I auditioned for the Welsh National Opera. I blew the audition – that’s a story for another day – and had to face the horror of failure and letting go of my dream. Occasionally, I think about singing again, but it hasn’t yet come to the top of my list.
But Ellen is a lovely reminder. She shows that nothing is ‘over till it’s over’. Until they nail down the lid of that final box, it’s all up for grabs – if we want it enough and if we’re willing to take that chance as it goes by.
So I’m thinking:
• What chance is in front of me right now?
• Will I take it?
• And if I don’t, will I regret?
If I won’t regret, then this wasn’t the right chance. If there is any way that I might focus on ‘what if…’ then I need to blow up the box and have a go.
What about you? Any chances on your horizon today?