On Sunday morning I had a rather unusual musical engagement. I was in Rotherhithe, among the old dock district, in a building largely belonging to a film costume company … to audition to join Gifford’s Circus.
Not, I hasten to add, as a trapeze artist, clown or lion-tamer; as a musician. Nonetheless the role is rather unusual. Gifford’s have a touring band for each summer season; the musicians are fully part of the performing troupe, travel and live (and work at setting up and tearing down!) with the circus, and play music written and devised for the show largely within the same frenetic development stage (in late spring) as the rest of the performance.
2016’s show is going to be Western-themed, with some tongue in cheek; after a bit of advance discussion, I therefore auditioned in front of the musical director with a mandolin rendition of ‘Will the Circle be Unbroken’, acoustic guitar version of ‘Rock me Baby’ – and to show I can do technical, classical playing and read music, this Bach solo violin movement. Plus a couple of quick off-the-cuff demonstrations on request (mandolin as melody instrument; boom-chick country guitar strumming).
I make no secret of not liking auditions or performance exams, and feeling that I don’t have to; my effort is largely to avoid my nerves and distaste for the whole chilly room with one or two more or less poker-faced people situation impacting negatively on my playing. On those terms, I was fairly happy with my performance – especially considering I had a stinking cold, hadn’t had a day off in a fortnight, and had been freezing my hands off doing the video shoot the day before, but those aren’t factors an assessor can in any way be expected to factor in.
You can’t just run away to the circus these days of course; they are legit employers with rules to obey and a reputation to uphold, and competition will undoubtedly be fierce. It would be a big commitment to take on as well; I would basically do nothing else, having only Tuesday lunchtime to Thursday lunchtime off each week, from 11 April to 25 September.
So I make no guarantees and no predictions, not even of definitely accepting the job if offered. But several people will be watching for developments with interest!