To start a little before the beginning: Having walked from Egham station to Royal Holloway, Google Maps could do with revising the algorithm that states a walking route is ‘mostly flat’.
Getting a medium-sized orchestra plus in effect a piano trio of soloists (including full-size concert grand) onto the stage of what is really a large lecture theatre meant I was some of the time pretty much next to the 2nd bassoon, who I later worked out was a hired extra like me not a student member of the orchestra. She not only had a newspaper crossword on her stand for the long rests / periods where the conductor was only rehearsing the strings; but was doing the cryptic side not the comprehensible-to-the-uninitiated one.
Very good to see the (professional) conductor of a student orchestra insisting on the importance of ear protection for classical players, and to be able to see some of the nearer players are using earplugs, even if pretty basic ones. Massive step forward since I was a student 12 years ago, even if this orchestra is a lot better than most of the student ones I played in.
Oboe 2 / cor anglais not only has stickers on his containers of reeds to distinguish which instrument they are for, which surprises me not at all; but also a label saying ‘cor anglais’ on one of the instrument cases. Is the size difference not big enough to tell externally?
A cellist (clearly orchestra member and resident) tells me that it is possible to get a cooked meal onsite, without being a college member. I take this up, having already had a meal on the hoof en route in order to make an early afternoon rehearsal start, and am very grateful for her navigating the buildings and corridors to the dining hall! The bewilderment and faffing produced in the till staff by my paying cash and needing change is comparable to that I expect when handing over a £50 note in a supermarket. The young bloke apologises, ‘Sorry, we don’t get much cash.’ Nonetheless, the fact remains about half my gigs are paid in it …
Same cellist somewhat later confesses she ‘couldn’t find any heels’ and is doing the concert in her ballroom dancing shoes (probably competitive; it’s still quite a big deal in student circles, where these days dancers compete on behalf of their institutions and so are effectively fielded as teams). Leaving aside the question of why flats would be infra dig (maybe it would change the geometry of holding her cello, and so mess with her technique? This is not a serious suggestion I hope!), the only significant difference I can see about the shoes is that they have those floor-protectors on their stiletto heels (which is a common requirement of venues with wooden floors, even when not being worn for dancing). Of much more interest to me is that even, or perhaps especially, wearing about an inch and a half of heel, she has ‘dancer’s gait’: the weight is visibly carried on her toes not back on her heels. I imagine this, under these circumstances, to be something confined to ballroom (if we stretch that to include all Latin styles) and tap dancers.
First bassoon’s idea of fun in the empty last minutes before going onstage includes playing bugle calls. I point out to him that really using the keys of the instrument to do so is cheating, and am rather disappointed when he informs me that playing bugle calls on harmonic series alone would involve being unfeasibly high in the instrument’s range. Consider that a challenge laid down to woodwind players.
For some unknown reason, the green room contains a smart whiteboard / TV thing. During the interval, for some equally unknown reason, it is showing rolling BBC News focusing on Brexit developments. One of the students starts chalking up odds of various possible events on the ordinary whiteboard next to the swanky digital thing …
Being sat roughly equidistant between the trumpets, timpani and bassoons, I was certainly not going to forego earplugs (though I only had one in for the Beethoven concerto; hard enough to listen attentively to a cello soloist facing away from you with the entire string section in between as it is). However, the only point I didn’t have them in and wished I did was when the concert finished and some wisecracker student put George Michael on the smart screen at party volume. My case, bag, etc were right in front of it and I had just started packing up …
I still don’t know why the Beethoven triple concerto goes on for so long by means of so much repetition of material.
Finally, if you’ve reached this far – for my money, notwithstanding Britain’s biggest protest today (I went on the previous record holder, the Iraq war march of 2003, and that achieved, er … ), the most nearly plausible current avenue to avoiding a long walk off the Dover cliffs is to get the number of signatures on the government ‘revoke article 50’ petition higher than the number of Leave votes in the exit referendum. I believe that was 17.4m, and the petition is currently up to about 4.5m, so keep spreading the word to everyone you know who has an email address and is a UK citizen…deadline to do anything about it 12 April remember.