Greetings from Divertimento String Quartet.
Lindsay and I (Andrew) had injuries to our fingers quite recently that temporarily jeopardised our playing commitments. I had a bizarre altercation with a handle of a chest of drawers that left one of my fingers lacerated and Lindsay performed impromptu involuntary surgery on a finger tip while chopping vegetables. Fortunately our digits recovered just in time for us to be able to fulfill our playing engagements.
So, on the same theme of extra-musical behind the scenes trivia and in the spirit of seasonal story telling and merriment, we thought that we would share a few other pre-concert incidents that have happened over the years, just in case we have ever given the impression that our rarified artistic world is devoid of the experience of the mundane.
I was playing in a concert with the English Chamber Orchestra. The soloist in the first half of the concert had been the violinist Frank Peter Zimmerman. We were chatting with him in the green room and then it was time to go back on stage for the second half of the concert. I couldn’t get my violin out of the case; somehow the lock had jammed. Frank Peter pushed his Strad into my hands and I hastened after the others to get on stage.
Every violin takes getting used to, but I enjoyed trying to control this amazing instrument. After the concert Frank Peter triumphantly held up my fiddle… as he had spent the time prising open the lock on my case with a knife that he had got from the restaurant.
I could waste rather a lot of your time recounting numerous pre-performance ‘incidents’. For instance a waitress was divested of her work outfit because I turned up to play for a wedding without my concert clothes. Yes, people sacrifice their dignity for me for the cause of art.
I was booked to lead an orchestra in Plymouth and when I arrived at St Andrew’s church for the rehearsal I opened up my violin case to find nothing inside. This is a bit of a theme, I confess, and I am very grateful to my family for saving the day when I’ve not managed to get to a rehearsal on a concert day with an instrument to play.
Amongst other ignominious stains on my reputation, I offer this:
Concert day at The Royal College of Music. The Director, Sir David Wilcox and other big wigs were sitting in the gallery of the main hall awaiting the arrival of the orchestra on stage to play Brahms’s Serenade No 2 Op 16. This piece has no violins so the violas are very much in the spotlight.
As I got to the stage door to walk on with the other musicians it dawned on me that my music wasn’t on the stand – I had taken it home to practise it after the rehearsal earlier that day. I knew that I had brought it back to the College though. I told the conductor that I was going to get the music from my viola case. I discovered that the music wasn’t there. I realised that I must have left it in my locker – in another part of the large building. I informed the conductor of the situation. To get to the corridor where the lockers were involved going through the opera studio that was underneath the main hall – it still is, probably.
The floor had very shiny lino on the floor in the audience area of the studio and as I rushed through the room, I found myself skidding around the corners, not unlike the sliding movements of those professional tennis players on clay courts. When I got to my locker in the dark corridor I reached for the key in my pocket, searching, but in vain. I’d left it in my viola case.
I rushed back to the green room of the main hall, skidding all the way, grabbed the key and returned to the corridor, extricated the music and headed back, performing skating movements that Torvill and Dean would no doubt have been impressed by.
I arrived at the stage door breathless and flustered. The conductor, Michael Lankester, was surprisingly calm. I was thankful for this as the forthcoming ordeal of my arrival on stage was looming. I bit the bullet. It wasn’t exactly an entry greeted with tumultuous adulation. I seem to remember some rather feeble hand clapping. I tried not to think about the people in the gallery.
It is a really beautiful piece, that Brahms Serenade. I haven’t heard it since that day. I think that I need to revisit it.
At a recent DSQ concert, I forgot to bring the correct shoes to wear in the concert. A good friend of mine – also a cellist as it happens – was in the audience and when I mentioned to her my predicament, she said “I will go and get my spare pair from the car for you.” rushed off with only minutes to spare before the concert and I found they were much too big. I headed off down the aisle of the church but to my horror I could barely put one foot in front of the other, as the shoes kept falling off. I had to skate my way down the church, clutching my cello, trying not to lift them at all, a difficult feat (feet!). The situation made me and the others in the quartet collapse into helpless giggles. I managed with difficulty to climb onto the platform and was still trying to control myself, with tears rolling down my cheeks, when we started playing Haydn, which quickly sobered me!
Laughter is the best medicine. We hope that you all have jocular and good times over Christmas and the new year with your families and friends, whilst keeping safe at this very difficult time.
We are so looking forward to performing our next programme in the new year. We will be playing works written between 1596 and 2011 and finding connections between Devon, Denmark and North America across the seas.
Mary, Andrew, Lindsay and Vicky
(We are indebted to the late and great Hollywood String Quartet for the photo idea.)