BBC BLOGS - Barling's London
« Previous | Main | Next »

A Phantom Returns

Post categories:

Kurt Barling | 15:58 UK time, Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Little did I think when I wrote my blog on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall last month, that the phantom that had circulated in my memory bank for 20 years would actually come to life?

Whilst in Berlin in 1989 to make a film for the BBC one of my strongest recollections was a man sitting astride the Wall on the Western side.

From my Eastern vantage point I could just make out the saxophonist and hear his jazzy rendition of Glenn Miller's "In the Mood".

Until the day after my blog it remained just that, a fuzzy Cold War souvenir.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

Of course for two decades I imagined the man (that much I could make out) was a Berliner drunk on the moment "freedom" started the process of German reunification.

It was certainly the moment I realised the bi-polar world of West and East had changed for good.

Lo and behold the saxophonist appeared on my blog and announced he, a Londoner from Leyton, was that musician.

I confess at first my sceptical instinct got the better of me. But after a little more investigation, I discovered that the saxophonist's picture had appeared in the Independent Newspaper on the 29th December 1989.

Armed with the visual evidence, I invited the potential "imposter" to Broadcasting House so we could swap memories and spy tales. Imagine my surprise when the man in the newspaper picture turned up; hardly having changed in appearance at all.

Stephen Ellery it turns out had been a student of music in Birmingham and had sought adventure by opting to study classical conducting in Krakow, Poland.

Once there he would travel via Friedrichstrasse in Berlin to the West as frequently as he could to stock up on cash to support his studies. One weekend the Berlin Wall came down and he decided to join in the fun.

Ellery went on to study classical conducting in Leningrad/St Petersburg at the Conservatoire and to practice his art in Japan before returning to London.

Among other things he has now reconnected with his own musical roots in Waltham Forest passing on his international knowledge and experience to the local Youth Orchestra.

Twenty years on my phantom has been transformed into a real person. Now in his early forties Ellery is developing his career as an international classical conductor.

He holds concerts far and wide in London, Europe, Latin America and the Far East.

We travelled back to Berlin together and remembered the moment when the world became that much smaller.

I believe they call it synchronicity. A bit of internet magic to end my fifth decade!


  • No comments to display yet.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.