Almanac Music: Desiring and Joy in Lygon Street


Susan and I and the kids met Gideon and Charlotte and Cecilia for dinner at the University Café in Lygon Street, Carlton.

Pizza. A glass of red.

Kids being kids.

Catching up and wondering why we don’t do this more often.

But, being a school night, it was time to go home.

We walked by Readings, where (on the Jimmy Watson’s side) a guitarist was sitting on a milk crate cranking out his (polished) version of one of those recognisable tunes which is in movies and ads.

“What is that piece?” I asked.

Romance,” he said.

We stood there, enjoying the moment. Young kids sensing art. Why would your man be doing this?

He was very good.

I gave Theo a few coins. But, aged eight, Theo was reluctant to go forward.

Eventually he did.

We continued listening. The busker was smiling, but in a way that was not about the selling. He was selling nothing. It was about the music.

I liked him.

It really was about the music.

I lent over to Theo. “Ask him if he knows Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.” I said.

“What?” Theo said.

“Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.” I said.

“No,” Theo said.

“Go on.”


“Anna, you ask,” I said.


So I asked myself.

“Do you know Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring?”

He smiled. “I haven’t played it for ages,” he said. “But I have it here.”

He had a folder of about two dozen pieces. One was Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring.

“I’ll give it a go. But I won’t promise anything.”

He had the music in front of him – on the footpath.

“Theo,” I whispered. “Go and hold the music for him.”

Theo and Anna and Evie went to him, and stood before him. Theo picked up the folder. He held it like he was a human music stand, his sisters standing by his side.

The busker played Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring – perfectly.

The piece from our wedding. The piece Nanna, my mother, has played in church for a lifetime. The piece in which my father found great comfort. And strength, when, in his humility, he felt he had nothing to give. Even though he did.


So special. So ordinary.


Here is a version, very near to the version we heard:


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About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. crankypete says

    nice touch before bed.

    Presumably it was Shosti’s Romance? cliched, but in a great way.

    Ah, Melbourne….

  2. Doesn’t get musically better than that.

  3. Cat from the Country says

    Oh John, this brought back memories!
    I walked down the isle to my waiting husband -to-be Terry to this beautiful music in May1969.
    Thank you for sharing

  4. Keiran Croker says

    Good one John … The joy of unexpected music!

  5. The Avenging Eagle chose Handel’s “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” for our wedding. As we signed the register the String Quartet played the “Jaws” theme music. They must have known something.
    Wonderful stuff JTH.

  6. My mother played that in church for years too. And at a wedding of some young folk about 3 weeks before she died, she was determined to do it for them. 30 years ago this year…

  7. kath presdee says

    It was the offertory piece at our wedding. It’s lovely and uplifting.

  8. Love the story John, and the music. Well played.

  9. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic John. Great tale. Very city, very Melbourne.
    Wasn’t familiar with Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Really enjoyed it. Thanks.

  10. Rick Kane says

    So you ask a busker if he can play Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring? And he says yes. Love it. Was this at the Rosebud Plaza? Didn’t think so. Best moment? Theo and Anna saying no, they won’t ask for you. I reckon Theo was just gathering up the nerve to ask the busker to play Black Sabbath’s Iron Man, or at least the riff. But no, dad has to ask for some rocker from the 18th century! Cheers. Oh, lovely moment.

  11. A great story, John. I could quite clearly picture it all happening.

  12. My life was improved for two minutes in the reading, another two in the music. Lovely.

  13. Well played jth. Another version

  14. Lovely. Thanks.

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