Planning the memorial tribute concert for Ayyub Malik
An essential part of the grieving process is sharing memories and appreciation with others who knew and mourn the person. Having missed the memorial tribute concert of the late composer Robert Avalon in Houston, Texas, I was determined not to miss that of another friend who greatly influenced my life. Indeed, I could not be present for Ayyub Malik's funeral in Oxford in late 2007 for it was a few months before I learned of his death. When I read of Nigel Woolner's plans for holding a memorial tribute for him in 2008, I decided I had to be there one way or another.
I had never met Nigel before 3 July. He was one of Ayyub's closest friends, a long-time colleague --- in fact, someone who had hired him to the architect firm in London. When I arrived at Nigel's mansion in Chiswick for our first meeting, I was suddenly reminded of the story of his married friend with the big house. Ayyub, in contrast, owned a small, simple, sparsely furnished bachelor pad next to the Thames River. Ayyub had warned me against getting married. He said,"After you get married, all you will talk about is buying a house, renovating it, choosing the furniture, and then buying another house, renovating it, and choosing the furniture." He was right.
A number of mutual friends and acquaintances put me in touch with Nigel: Owais, Djina, and others whom I had contacted to find out about the memorial tribute. I had written and dedicated an elegy to Ayyub, a piece for an 11-member ensemble that had already been performed in Utrecht, Netherlands three times. I wrote a piano version for myself to play at memorial concerts and a string quintet version that was not yet performed. The Elegy for String Quintet became the focus of my two-hour conversation with Nigel. Where and how could we make it happen? We needed a place with good acoustics and above all, good string players.
A string quintet is made of two violins, one viola, one cello, and one double bass. It was to be played without a conductor. There was no need for a piano, and I had envisioned that a string quintet could be portable. In other words, the event could be held in one of the buildings that Ayyub had designed, in his bachelor flat, or any space that had good acoustics and guest capacity. Nigel by then had already found a place with good acoustics --- a room on the top floor of the Royal College of Music. It was one of the famous Parry Rooms that the movie "Shine!" was filmed. With wooden floors and tall wooden curved ceilings, it would hold around 40 people comfortably.
Between grinding fresh coffee beans in the kitchen and enjoying the cafetiered coffee in the sitting room, we talked about Ayyub, our friend who passed away in late November 2007. Nigel recalled some of the last words they exchanged in his final days in the hospital.
"I'll organise a memorial tribute for you. I'll get your friends together to see your artworks." he had said to Ayyub. "You'd like that won't you?"
Ayyub had left many works of art, mainly ceramic pieces and a few paintings. While most were displayed in his flat, some of them were still stored at the gallery where he had had an exhibition earlier in 2007. It was a matter of getting them safely transported to the memorial tribute venue, putting them on display, and allowing the guests to choose which pieces they'd take home as momento.
"There's a lovely grand piano in the Parry Rooms," Nigel said to me.
"In that case, I'd like to play something," I suggested. "We could begin with music that would allow people to walk into the room and get seated."
And so we discussed and chose the music that would be appropriate for the occasion. We'd begin with extracts from the guitar concerto of Joaquin Rodrigo, "Fantasia for a Gentleman" arranged for piano and guitar. The gentleman was Ayyub Malik. Among the string quintet players, we could ask a violinist and the cellist to play the Encounter, one of the first pieces I wrote at conservatory and later revised for my final exam. It traces a conversation between a man and a woman. We should end the concert with an uplifting theme. One of the most famous movements from Luigi Boccherini's guitar quintets was the lively Fandango of the 4th quintet for guitar and string quartet. Ayyub was a man who liked fun. This was a tribute to celebrate his life.
We chose Tuesday 9 September 2008, just before the academic term was to begin, for access to the Parry Rooms, and just after the summer holidays. It would also give enough time to contact Ayyub's friends, create and send the invitations, and make the necessary arrangements for catering, transporting his artworks, etc. There were many people to contact -- and much to organise before the "dead zone" of August when Europeans took off for their annual summer holidays.
All I had to do was to submit my guest list (those who also knew Ayyub and wanted to be there) and practise the Fantasia and Mozart's Adagio from Piano Concerto KV488. The scores for my two compositions were easily downloadable from my website, and I left everything else to Nigel.
Between 3rd July and 9th September, I met more of Ayyub's friends --- a dinner at Owais' home in July and a dinner at my place in mid-August celebrating Ayyub's birthday. It was a summer of remembering Ayyub.
9 September 2008
Ayyub Malik: architect, ceramicist, writer, a Bon Journal entry 3 January 2008
Memorial tribute to Ayyub Malik, 10 September 2008
Exhibition of Ayyub Malik's artworks at the FLUK Factory, 2007