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As some of you have realized by now, what I laughingly call my mind is constantly intruded upon by music, and not only the most glorious of sounds.

Sometimes it’s a certain lyric that strikes a deeply innate chord, and then, like the proverbial pebble tossed into the stillest of ponds, my thoughts ripple forth.

Early this morning as I was driving along, I was emotionally slapped in the face by one of those There-But-For-The-Grace-of-God moments.

There she was, the lady Dame Cleo Laine, Britain’s and the world’s jazz Songstress of Choice so very tenderly mentions, here:

If this fails to play, my apologies. Please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yglDcOI41lA

Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She’s no time for talking,
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
Show you something to make you change your mind

As today’s homeless old girl …. Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags… just kept right on walking Carrying her home in two carrier bags, I continued traveling at some speed.

Rather akin to the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, I kept on passing by.

When I began to think what could possibly be worse than her current plight, Reality stretched herself way out into her thinnest of straggly threads.

What if this poor woman had no plastic grocery store carrier bags?

Indeed, what if she had no hands for “… carrying her home in two carrier bags”?

I thought I’d reined myself in, or, until I saw this:

Felix Klieser plays French horn with his toes & he’s just released an uplifting second album

If this fails to play, my apologies. Please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kbybplC2Gk
The award-winning young horn player Felix Klieser – who was born without arms and works the keys of his instrument with his feet – follows up on his debut album of Romantic era chamber music with this remarkable recording of works by Joseph and Michael Haydn, and by Mozart.

Each of the three works gathered here are united by their lightness and cheerfulness, and it certainly is an uplifting collection.

The first of Haydn’s two horn concertos calls for the high-register horn, the second was composed for its lower-tone counterpart. Horn players generally specialise in one or other of the instruments – but Klieser plays both, and brilliantly.

Michael Haydn’s Concertino for Horn and Orchestra is seldom heard in concert, but deserves to be better known because it is genuinely beautiful.

And the Mozart work included here is a horn concerto reconstructed from two fragments, and also seldom played. Klieser certainly makes a compelling case for these forgotten works.

It’s an album of intensity, enthusiasm, and the pleasure that Klieser clearly gets from these works, accompanied with verve by the renowned Würtemberg Chamber Orchestra of Heilbronn under the direction of Ruben Gazarian.

FYI – here’s how Klieser sets up the French horn stand that allows him to play with his feet:

If this fails to play, my apologies. Please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uWCN2p18WM

Many of you are thinking, as did I, what are the odds, just how frequently is it that any child anywhere is born with the same defects as Herr Klieser?

America’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities in Atlanta, Georgia, estimates that each year about 1,500 babies in the USA are born with upper ‘limb reductions’ and about 750 are born with lower ‘limb reductions’.

The defect is referred to as a “limb reduction” because a limb is either ‘reduced’ from the normal size or is totally missing in the particular foetus/fetus concerned.

In other words, each year about 4 out of every 10,000 babies will have upper limb reductions.

About 2 out of every 10,000 babies will have lower limb reductions.

Some of these babies will have both upper and lower limb reduction defects.

What causes limb reduction defects?

The cause of limb reduction defects is unknown. However, research has shown that certain behaviors or exposures during pregnancy can increase the risk of having a baby with a limb reduction defect. These include:

• Exposure of the mother to certain chemicals or viruses while she is pregnant
• Exposure of the mother to certain medications
• Possible exposure of the mother to tobacco smoking (although more research is needed)

The Center for Disease Control works with many researchers to study risk factors that can increase the chance of having a baby with limb reduction defects, as well as outcomes of babies with the defect. Following are examples of what this research has found:
– A woman taking multivitamins before she gets pregnant might decrease her risk for having a baby with limb reduction defects, although more research is needed.
– Certain sets of limb reduction defects might be associated with other birth defects, such as heart defects, omphalocele, and gastroschisis. [Emphasis mine]

To decode a bit: Omphalocele is a type of abdominal wall defect in which the intestines, liver, and occasionally other organs remain outside of the abdomen in a sac because of a defect in the development of the muscles of the abdominal wall (exomphalos).
Omphalocele occurs in 2.5 out of 10,000 births.

Gastroschisis is a similarly located congenital defect characterised by a defect in the front part (anterior) of the abdominal wall through which the abdominal contents freely protrude.

There is no overlying sac, no peritoneum, and the size of the defect is usually less than 4 cm (1.6 inches).

This abdominal wall defect is located at the junction of the umbilicus and normal skin, and is almost always to the right of the umbilicus.

The defect occurs 5-8 weeks after conception, most likely due to a disruption of the blood supply to the developing abdominal wall.

Contrary to what one would like to think, this abnormality was historically reported as having a ratio of 1 in 10,000 cases, It is usually detected before birth.

However, reports say that the incidence of gastroschisis has increased in recent years. The Center for Disease Control estimates that about 1,871 babies are born each year in the United States with gastroschisis.

The culprits are decidedly not matters of rocket science. Mums-to-Be and their babies at greatest risk?

When the expectant Mum has a history of cigarette smoking, using ‘recreational drugs’, alcohol consumption, low body mass index, or increased frequency of genitourinary infection.

Whatever caused the affliction which Herr Klieser suffers but continues to conquer every hour of each day we don’t know, and about which I won’t speculate.

All I know is that if one needed a mirror into one’s soul, to gauge just how bad off one really is, perhaps Dame Cleo’s and Herr Klieser’s words, music and hearts just imparted to all of us the feelings their music evoke.

And, yes, right down to our toes. Time to put our feet up and consider all this more deeply than normal?

Dame Cleo Laine, DBE, http://www.quarternotes.com/ Her YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/results?hl=en-GB&gl=GB&search_query=cleo+laine

Ralph McTell for his evocative song, The Streets of London Twitter: @Ralph_McTell http://www.ralphmctell.co.uk/contact-us/

Classic FM (London) Web: http://www.classicfm.com Twitter: @ClassicFM Facebook: ClassicFM

Felix Klieser, http://www.facebook.com/felixklieser Mr. Klieser’s latest album ‘Reveries’ is available on Amazon (USA) here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dpopular&field-keywords=Klieser+AND+%E2%80%98Reveries%E2%80%99+

Also, on iTunes, here: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/horn-concertino-in-d-major/id981917339?i=981918183&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Württembergische Kammerorchester Heilbronn/Wuerttemberg Chamber Orchestra Heilbronn
Website in both German and English:
Twitter: @WKO_Heilbronn
Facebook: https://de-de.facebook.com/pages/W%C3%BCrttembergisches-Kammerorchester-Heilbronn/156624024358388

Armenian-born and -reared Wunderkind now all grown up, Maestro Ruben Gazarian, is one of my own very small list of Conductors-to-Watch: Website: http://www.rubengazarian.com/en/