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This is day 1 in my Dance Inspirations Advent Calendar (II)

I’d only have to play a couple of chords of Georgia on my mind for warm-up and Jackie Barratt would melt. What a great way to start a class. It makes me melt too, and here’s why.

During my student days over 25 years ago, I bought a double LP from the Army & Navy stores in Victoria called And the Bands Played On, released by the BBC, which had a selection of songs from World War II on it. I think I bought it because I didn’t have any records with me in London at the time, and I picked up the first one I saw.

One weekend I decided to rewire the rooms I lived in above an antique shop in Ebury Street. I don’t think the flat had been decorated since the 1930s – quite literally. My landlord who lived downstairs had been a fire warden during the war, and enjoyed telling me how he’d had to go and tell Noël Coward what to do in the event of an air-raid, since Gerald Street where Coward lived was on his beat. When I put that album on, ghosts came out of the walls and danced.

Having only one record, I played it again and again, all weekend, until I’d finished the job. The last song on one of the discs was Georgia on my Mind by Hoagy Carmichael . iPod users, even CD users, won’t know that there’s a whole emotional geography associated with tracks on vinyl. Late at night, wine in hand, you listen to the white noise made by the stylus going round and round in the central blank bit of the record, and that sound becomes part of the song, and in your memory, it’s always the last song.

I can’t remember who sang the song, I’ve lost the album, and I can’t find details of it anywhere, but that version of Georgia on my mind is embedded in my memory together with all of its associations. It’s a beautiful song, the opening melody so simple that it could make you cry. There was a trumpet solo on this version that used to break my heart.

I listened to that album till I could play every song on it by ear from memory without even thinking about it, and Georgia , years later, turned out to be useful as a warm-up for class. And I swear that every time I put my hands on the keyboard to play it, all the associations of the song, including the fact that it’s often the last thing I’d hear before going to bed, go straight to my fingers, and transmit themselves as some vague kind of musical warmth. But now, it’s got the added association that whenever I play it, I also think back to happy times working with Jackie at ENB.

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist