...and on the final note of the bass clarinet line, someone coughed and then said, ‘Sorry!’ - it ruined the moment…"
Mark Elder describing an atmosphere breaking interruption in a recent performance of Tchaikovsky’s 6th symphony. You know the bit? After that beautiful clarinet solo in the first movement where the bass clarinet takes over on four unbearably quiet descending notes then a brief pause before hell is unleashed? A misplaced cough can ruin a hushed moment for the audience and in this case, as they are the only four notes the bass clarinet plays in the whole symphony, it can ruin their night too. If you go to or perform in a concert at this time of year, the chorus of coughing that marks the end of a movement ranges from the sleeve stifled hack to the full on attention seeking consumptive death rattle.(Conspiracy theorists and hacks, note the non capitalization).
I think we can probably all agree that not managing or bothering to stop coughing, or at least trying to make it quieter is annoying and at worst disruptive. But what about concert etiquette in general? Are there a whole set of unwritten rules for classical music concert going? Do we all know and agree what they are? A friend of mine told me last week that she finds the atmosphere intimidating at orchestra concerts, she feels like she might do something wrong without even realising. That’s not good, and I as a player I don’t want anyone to feel like that.
I’ve lost count of the the number of times I’ve heard a pop song on the radio followed by listeners saying, “Is that it? I could have written that!” The simplicity of the form (that’s why it’s so catchy!) can sometimes make it sound obvious, almost like you’ve heard it before. I heard a story once about Sir Paul McCartney who when he first wrote the famous song, Yesterday, thought the melody so familiar that someone must have already written it. It’s not just music either. Without a doubt, every time I visit the Rothko paintings at the Tate Modern in London, the audience is split. One group will be standing in quite contemplation, staring deep beyond the picture, awaiting the vibrant red canvas to give up its secrets. The other half will walk past and say something along the lines of, “Well...it’s just a red square isn’t it? I mean...I could have done that!”
But they didn’t. Lets be honest, thinking of a great idea immediately after you’ve seen the same idea which had been previously thought up by someone else...well, it’s not a hard won skill is it? The wheel? Well, I coulda thought of that...
This week has been one of those times where a complex idea was deemed to be easy, and something which looked so simple on paper was probably the most challenging moment of my week. If we don’t include concentrating on the music whilst the extraordinary Barbara Hannigan sang and danced a few feet away from me…
Having briefly moaned about music education and the future lack of practitioners in my last/first blog post, here's some good news. The picture above is of the offstage brass of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain giving it some during rehearsals. I should declare some self interest here - my son is one of them! They are giving concerts in Leeds tomorrow and at the home of the LSO, the Barbican on Sunday night. Back to school for most of them on Monday. I know it's often said that a picture can paint a thousand words. Well, if you want to know what the young upstarts thought of rehearsing with John Wilson, you can read what NYO harpist Hannah Allaway thought about it in her blog
2014. That was a year wasn’t it? Same as last year. As my blog about touring has come to an end, I decided there were two ways to look at it. I could either stop entirely or I could expand my ramblings to non tour related shenanigans as well. I’m choosing option 2.
So as well as touring, there will now be teaching, flute related stuff, writing stuff and anything else that takes my fancy. I’ve no idea what’s going to happen so I thought, as every other blogger/writer/critic is doing a round up/prediction thing of 2014/15, I would too. Here goes. Please note that names, places, times and facts may have been changed…
Kids in Concerts
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