Brancusi and Wings: The Death of David Branson

Not so very long ago when I was very ill David came to visit me, clad in one of his ill-fitting suits, briefcase stuffed to the gills, fliers in hand. When David came into a room he filled it up, his psychic presence was huge, his particularly beautiful voice bounced off the walls. I often called him Il Magnifico, the de Medici, padrone of the arts. So I lay in bed and watched him drink my best whiskey, of course, while he pontificated on life, on art, on love and on theatre. And how could I allow someone else direct my latest show.

Because darling, I replied, you don’t have time, you are already directing three different shows in two cities at the moment, you really don’t have time. What a fool I was. Of course he had time, he always had time, he would have manufactured time if he could have. Eventually he sat on my bed and made me swear solemnly that I would not die, that I wouldn’t leave him. It was the full Bransonian production, hand on heart, tears in eyes, hands raking through his hair, checking the mirror, walking, pacing, talking, he was never still. So I promised him, as you would a child, that I would not die. Because how could I, the set was all wrong, I needed a white canopy over the bed, more flowers, candles and most importantly, David, playing something truly beautiful on the violin, eyes closed, head bent, lost in music.

It seems to me to be the cruellest irony that I am now standing at his funeral, that he left me, that he left us and there is now a huge, gaping hole torn from the fabric of our lives, for he was so much a part of the weaving of our dreams, of our art, of our love, of our lives. But life is cruel, it so very fragile, so utterly tenuous and we forget this, we forget this all the time. We forget that to be mortal is to be little more than a brief flame in the mind of a God. And what a flame David was. How many of us have warmed ourselves by the fire of David’s heart, our spirits ignited by the passion of his work, how many of us have found a welcome by the hearthside of David’s generosity and compassion. And there is nothing and nobody who can replace Il Magnifico, I cannot seem to shape words that will make an answer to his death, perhaps only music understands it, music which shapes breath and tears and can give voice to something so achingly painful. David, of all people, would have understood that, for I think I loved him best watching him play his violin, when he had forgotten to project his fabulous, over the top public persona, when music claimed him so absolutely that he allowed himself to become the instrument that played the cantata of his heart, the pure notes of his spirit, the melody of his soul. O David. Beloved. It is time to be still, to return to the bright dancing stars of the night, to play music in the cosmos.

Kate McNamara

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