B usker Davey J. is tuning his guitar. Of average height with hair a tone of middle-age grey, his fine fingers pluck each string while he listens intently. It’s festival time. Davey J. is but one of 400 buskers hoping to be heard on their very own ‘Boulevard of Dreams’. They crave recognition. But Davey J. is different. Unshaven and wearing dark glasses, Davey J. relishes his anonymity here – a universe away from his normal life as Hammerschlag, J., that is Justice Hammerschlag of the Supreme Court of NSW.
His Honour’s musical pursuits have always been eclectic. A Jewish escapee from South African apartheid, David Hammerschlag ventured into the Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House on a cold August night 29 years ago. A few months before, in the nearby Drama Theatre, he had conducted and sung with an all-male choir celebrating Chanukah. In his previous life he had learnt the trumpet before rock ‘n’ rolling Johannesburg as guitarist in Midas Touch, that city’s coolest pop group. But on this night Hammerschlag was transfixed by the violin – the virtuoso violin of Pinchas Zukerman performing Beethoven’s concerto with the Israel Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta.