Monday, 14 May 2012

The Musician and his Soul

Play. Play. Play.
Play like your life depends on it.

Sometimes in life you just meet people. They could be anybody. These people inspire you. Or touch you. Tony Alridge is one such person. I met him last week on my way back home on friday evening. I was tired, having travelled back from Wales and then onto a tube, so I was listening to music and ignoring everything around me. Then Tony got on. And he began to play. At first I tried to ignore him as his playing was interfering with my music (Bon Iver), and so I paid him attention and took out my headphones.
He played, then spoke with such wild abandon and joy about his music, then played the Scottish anthem on the violin, then played a song he had written. I initially fished out a pound, then two, then a fiver. Then I caught up with him after he leapt off and we went for dinner.

We spoke about film, music, how he had ended up where he was, and he corrected my grammar whilst I offered to buy him some dinner, which he graciously accepted. Tony Aldridge, or Anthony if you will, has studied in the Conservatoire in Germany, played with Chet Baker when he was playing street music around Europe as part of a group of artists who in Tony's words "knew more about music than those studying it in the Conservatoire because they understood how to communicate the music".

We agreed to meet again and I would take photos and make a film about him, and maybe move on to another project. I don't want to explain too much about Tony until the short is up, which I will use to launch my website (next week hopefully), because he is quite the performer, and there is something beautiful, yet sad about his plight: he broke his glasses a few months ago and so can't see properly at the moment. But he is so positive and upbeat and I couldn't fail to be inspired by his energy and life affirming ideology. It must be mentioned that Tony is essentially homeless, living in a hostel and from day to day.

I wrote a poem immediately after filming him, and decided to try fit it into one of the songs that I recorded of him. The result is the short video below with the poem inside, whether it works alongside the music and imagery is debatable in my own head as of yet, they may both work better alone. The poem I wrote in a fashion to tie into the structure of the music, stumbling, free flowing, then verse and rhyme. I just hope it conveys what I aim to show of Tony in the film. The poem is below the video is you want to read it free of the imagery and music.

These are some portraits of Tony, which for me, capture the essence of his personality, proud but full of life and humour.
(I shot the images on the Canon 5-d, not film unfortunately, with a 50mm nikon lens, but with no photoshop- I don't like PS).

The Poem:

'The Musician and his Soul'

'ladies & gentlemen,
I'm going to play
a tune
for your today,
and if you don't like it,
then I'll leave'

He smiled a big
gap toothed grin,
cheeks creasing
from constant laughter thinned
by all that life
makes one grieve.

His violin case was
old and battered,
held together
with love, and tape in tatters.
Tenderly he took her up
proudly for all to see.

Closing his eyes
And wetting his lips
He somehow found
the balance in his hips,
and plucked at the strings
with a gaudy gaeity.

The tube rocked under
his feet
but he moved with
his own beat,
finding his rhythm
from the music within,

His hands jumped off the
strings like
an eager dancer,
and his bow
hummed along merrily
to the tune of his grin

It took a few moments.
In fact it took
a few stops
before they actually watched.
And when they did,
they were enraptured with him

'thank you, thank you
ladies and germs'
He guffawed when he
had finished his turn,
proud of remembering
the chords on a whim.

'if you can spare some coppers
for a poor old busker
that would be wonderful'
he giggled, quite lusty,
traipsing down the carriage
searching for those that related.

'I'm rich beyond my dreams!'
He announced,
all receiving a smile
through his hands
His goodwill, spirit & music
his gifts to be taken.

Those who spared some
change were greeted
with such warmth
it made them appreciated
and left them
feeling elated,

but they misunderstood
what they felt;
feeling pride
for helping a tumbling vagrant
get through the day.
They were mistaken.

For he had helped them
To believe
And he gave more
Than the little he received,
for he gave them
a part of his soul.

He left with a nod,
case clutched
under one arm
lest he lost her,
for then he would know
sadness greater than cost.

Where did he go when
he left their lives?
Where he sleep
or eat or shit or sigh?
That didn't matter
just then, he was whole.

For in those moments
he was a beautiful part
of their lives
and they were in his deeply caught,
and you hope it stayed
with each and was never lost.

Even after he left the tube
and disappeared.
Back to his life,
and they to theirs,
leaving each other
in memorial arrears.


  1. I love how you can find beauty in everything and everyone you see, it's really inspiring.

    Tony is amazing, I was taught to play violin when I was younger, and I can only dream of being even half as good as him.
    He looks so happy, despite his circumstances; I'm glad to have found out about him and his music.

  2. What a beautiful poem. You often forget with the homeless that they all aren't crackheads and alcoholics. And sometimes a random act of kindness and companionship does so much for them. I don't know if I'd be able to do the same, but this is inspiring.

  3. I haven't read the poem yet, I just put on the video in the background and listened to the music and smiled. It dances and it swings but most of all it's full of happiness and life.

    I wonder what you'll do with the short movie. I just know it's the kind of persona that lives where and when they live, day by day and often they have the richest lives of all.

    If you ever get the time to wander in Paris for a while, go to the subway stations, or in the RER or at some special spots in the streets (I can think of several I go to on purpose to listen to the music), where there are always performers who have so much to share.
    A homeless person can tell you stories you wouldn't imagine, a person with an instrument will let you know about other universes by his music.

    Thank you

  4. This reminded me of an old man I once met at the Seapoint Promenade in Cape Town. I wanted to write a proper article about him, but lost his number and haven't been back there again. Perhaps I'll go again... You've inspired me.

  5. I'm literally wiping tears away. Anthony is a richer man than I, and you conveyed that so compassionately and beautifully and my heart is broken. I can tell that even without glasses he sees life better than most, but he must have glasses...

    For me, this blog has everything.

    Can't wait for the film.

  6. I really enjoyed the way you combined the poem with the music. The poem flows well, capturing the moment you described and the essence of the man and his music.

  7. This reminded me of the gentleman who appeared as if from nowhere on the RER line in Paris. He played and then quietly left again. The music stayed so much longer in peoples minds. Thanks for reminding me of this. It made me smile during a pretty difficult day.

  8. That's one beautiful poem. Straightforward and true and colorful and just wonderful.
    Also, not many people stop to appreciate those kind of things anymore. It's nice that people like you still exist. I'm sure you inspired at least a few number of people to do the same.

  9. This morning was no different than any other for me, up at oh god thirty in the morning, get kids dressed, fed and ready for the day. It’s the same routine each day, I make my coffee, sit and read my e-mails, take a looksie at my blog to see if anyone else has ventured to take a look at it, while my youngest sits at the table, eating breakfast and we have a cute little conversation about anything, everything or nothing, what ever the day promotes. Today was a tired morning and she wasn’t really into talking so I decided to read your latest blog.

    I didn’t really have any expectations of it, except that I usually enjoy what you write. As the next Noah is preparing for the flood that is surely happening outside right now, I just needed some brightening of the day. I read it and was taken aback; perplexed and left pondering my own human nature. Your poem was great, I enjoyed it. You are correct in that it flowed like his music, it reads well alone and with in the video, but I liked it with the music more so than with out. You get a better understanding the words as you listen while reading. As I said, the poem was great, however, what stirred my pondering was your description of your poem and the events leading up to it.

    Your encounter reads like a scene from a movie; being so moved by something, that you must act on it, no matter who it is. He took you from your own existence, into his world and rather than feeling pity or even revulsion, you saw into the man, his soul, not the persona that was visible to all around. I have always had pride in myself that I try not to judge people until I know them, but your description opened my eyes to the contemptuous American that I really am. You see, during my 45 minute drive to and from school this morning (6 whole miles), where I swear I saw construction of a large boat in the distance, I had that whole time to think about my own humanity, what I give and what I get back. Karma can be a real bitch. At first I found my self angry, at you for making me feel inadequate as a human being, in how I treat my fellow man. Here in the States, homeless people are looked down upon, even feared. That’s a whole other subject that I’m sure many people could go on about for hours on end. As I sat in traffic and watched the animals around me start walking two by two, I realized that my anger at you, was extremely misplaced. I was mad at myself for being that typical cynical American that looks down their nose at those less fortunate.

    So now, I sit and write this, motivated to do something, anything to try and make a difference, to reach out and stop being afraid of something that is a little different. I know you don’t like praise, but you are a good person Eoin, you have heart, a good soul. Don’t stop being you, bold and courageous enough to do what your heart tells you too. Can’t wait to see the whole video and learn about the man that inspired you, if only for a brief moment of your life.

  10. i liked the poem on the video, but perhaps another time the words could stay a little longer..? =] xxxx

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  12. It's truly fate that you were meant to meet Tony, what a remarkable guy! One of the partially ignored and largely invisible members of society.... The least value of "wealth" is in monetary terms, and his riches travel with him wherever he goes.... His music is so very expressive and full of passion & emotion.
    This reminds me of some wise words I was once given.. "Enjoy every second of the small moments in your life, 'cos when you look back on them later in life they will be the biggest and most important ones..." I'm old enough to appreciate the truth in that.
    I'm sure your genuine interest in him as a person has bolstered his self-worth in ways we can only imagine, so his "gift" to you is a 2-way street I'd say....It's absolutely fitting that two people benefit from one random act of praise, interest and kindness.... As an artist yourself you must be painfully aware of the value a performer places on enjoyment of ANY performance they give.
    The poem is beautiful & fits the jigsaw perfectly. Poetry creates it's own truth & is about the isolation of feelings &'s the difference between the seen & the felt, so the combination of visuals and the poetry are a perfect complement. It's excellent.
    You HAVE to find a small role for Tony in one of your "Sins" creations.. it could be incredible...
    I've honestly NO IDEA where you find the time for all that you accomplish creatively,... but I'm very grateful that you DO!!
    With respect,
    Karen S

  13. Would like to just add it would be amazing to hear you read your collection of poetry !....Poetry is an art form that can be appreciated in many forms, but to hear poetry read by it's creator is nearly always exceptionally moving, as the passion is their own... A youtube perhaps?? Pretty please??.... :-)
    Karen S

  14. That poem is very good!!! Better than your previous two!!!:-) But I don't like violin solo, cos it's like something metal scratching in my ears!!!

    1. But I'm still appreciated by your beauty-seeking heart^^ I find myself so lucky to be a fan of yours^^

    2. I mean "I'm still impressed by your beauty-seeking heart"!!!

  15. Thanks for the comments, I'm really happy you have responded to Tony's music, he's an exceptional guy, incredibly giving. I showed him the short and he was unhappy with his playing, i had to remind him he was playing on a moving tube which was rumbling under his feet as he did so (in the short anyway). Desiderata,it's completely true to just live each day as if it's your last and you never know what will happen, and to just be positive, Tony is the epitome of that, he would be great in one of the shorts alright. Beth, I'm glad it stirred something in you, sometimes it's little things that this that can do that...The poem seems to have worked, thanks awesome smurf and debbie, i wanted it to be a little jilting with some sort of unconscious rhythm in there....

  16. I'll put up the full short with him after the weekend.....i hope you're all as enraptured by him as I am....he introduced me to another young guy living in the hostel with him, whom tony is putting all HIS time into helping get successful with his music (this other guy is a rapper), and trying to be a film maker, to seeing Tony helping him....well it shows the generosity of the human spirit....

    1. Hello Eoin
      Really feel honored that I have met Tony last Friday and could shake hands with him and exchange a few words. He really appeares to be a very nice, warmhearted man.
      I´d love to send him soemthign from Germany .. maybe you ask him if he likes something special and let me know? Surely hadn´t anything from here for a very long time ..


    2. yes..was very captured both of you .. as soon as I walked around that corner first time and had a direct look at your meeting together !

    3. Hi Vampira, I´m an old friend of Tony´s from Cologne, Germany.I would so much like to get into touch withhim and maybe do something for him. Do you know how I can get into touch with him. If so contact me here or on Facebook under Uschi Stahl

  17. The power of words, books, poetry, I completely surrender to through my writing and reading, is nothing compared to the power of the words uttered on a rainy day, when all seems lost, washed away from the surface of the tough (but beautiful and full of hope, always) earth we all live on. The power of the words, the power of the person, of the voice. The power of a glance, and all seems so terribly full of hope again. Never give up, cause there must be a word for you somewhere.
    English is not the language I usually write in, so… sorry for not being so poetic right now.

  18. hmmm..can´t get Anthony out of my head since Friday .. why is that?

  19. Hi Eoin, I found your video on Tony and wanted to send you an email, but it just got bounced back to me... Is there an up to date email address for you that I can use? I know Tony from a while back and was really excited to find this... Thanks, Kristin

  20. Hi Eoin, I think it was 1988 in Freiburg, Tony and me, we had serveal sessions. Tony as an exellent violinplayer and singer, myselve as a celloplayer in the beginning...I Think Tony knows a lot about secrets of musik and I hope, we meet again. Thank You for this great film! love Ludger

  21. Hi Eoin... i met Tony and Skaboosh in 1988.. i was 17 then.. they were so fantastic.. i have many fond memories and some pics.. here is one of Tony in Freiburg.. with Harvey Hilliyer and Ben Grove
    I tried to find out some years ago were Tony is but I have only an old adress in London from 1989 when I visited him.. Tony is a jewel.. happy you found him.. send him my love Katja

  22. the picturelink of Tony in 1987/1988 :-D

  23. Hi Eoin. I was once very much in Love with Tony many many years ago. I was wondering last week whether he was still playing, so googled his name and found your video. it was very sad to see how he has ended up. Have you stayed in touch these past six years?