Author(s): Marshall Walker
When a schoolboy in Glasgow, Marshall Walker became addicted to the music of Sibelius. In 1996 he made a pilgrimage to Finland, visiting places of special significance to the composer, his birthplace in Hameenlinna, the villa 'Ainola' where he lived for over 50 years, the forests and lakes near Koli in the Karelia. Back home in New Zealand Walker began to write Sibelius a thank-you letter for a lifetime's companionship. Walker tells Sibelius how his music helped him overcome childhood ordeals in Scotland. He discovers Sibelian connections in his family, tracing the steps of his grandfather from a Sunday stroll in a Glasgow park to the Elliot Junction railway disaster of 1906 and commemorating his uncle's service on the Salonika front in WWI. The scene shifts to student days at Glasgow University, problems with God, the kindness of the Scottish conductor, Ian Whyte, and the music of Arnold Bax, Sibelius's 'son in music'. In apartheid South Africa Sibelius becomes Walker's medicine man. There's a glimpse of the composer feted in the USA and a connection between his music and the American writer, Robert Penn Warren. A child falls in love with Sibelius's Third Symphony.From New Zealand Walker sets out on the compulsive pilgrimage which prompts him to try to show how an artist can be a continuous, sustaining presence in a life.