Saturday 29 August 2009

Pageturning and the Festival

So I got a phone call from a friend during a hectic week a couple of weeks ago asking if I could do some page turning at the (International) Festival. Great I thought. And there's money in it. Even better.

Which is why I found myself in the Queens Hall to page turn for the Hebrides ensemble. This in itself was quite nice, they are a group that I love listening to and I've been conducted by Will Conway their artistic director a lot.

However the best thing about this was the fact I was page turning for Philip Moore, not the former organist of York Minster (and a former next door neighbour of mine) but Philip Moore the upandcoming pianist. His duo with Simon Crawford-Phillips has created in my opinion the best recording of the two piano version of the Rite of Spring you can find (you may have also seen them on the proms recently). In short, I'm a fan. So consider my delight when he turned out to be a lovely guy, quite chatty, a fabulous pianist and very accommodating of my occasional errors (hazy as I was at the 9 O'Clock morning rehearsal after a less than sober night the night before. Mind you at least I didn't sleep in completely like two of the Hebrides' own members...!)

All was fine until we got to the Schoenberg Chamber Symphony. I'm a relaxed kind of guy, I don't get nervous before all but the biggest concerts, and I'm very laid back even in those. However the Schoenberg turned out to be just about the most stressful 22 minutes of my musical life. There seemed to be a page turn every 10 seconds, and everything seemed to be a blur of black on white. This was the sort of peice that if I fucked up he would have been in serious trouble. Thankfully I didn't, though there was one moment where they all got out and I didn't know whether to turn or not which nearly ended in disaster. Thankfully it got sorted out before something awful happened. It was certainly the most I have concentated in a musical performance, and as I wasn't playing anything this says alot!

The rest of the concert was more mundane thankfully, a lovely version of L'Apres Midi which I want to get my hands on, and some Mahler songs excellently sung by Christopher Maltman were the real highlights.

The other concert was today. I was turning for Helmut Deutsch who was accompanying Michael Volle and Franz Hawlata. I wasn't really very excited about this one, song recitals don't really turn me on, plus it came on the the back of the after show party for the show I was doing in the Fringe. However this morning turned out to be one of the most pleasurable mornings I have spent in a very long time.

All three of them were lovely, and completely mad, they kept suggesting mad things they could do to liven the recital up (in a drinking song they were seriously thinking about bringing the bottles of Whisky Festival Performers are given on with them...). I thought it would be odd being a 'fourth wheel' in a rehearsal conducted in German, however they kept telling me anecdotes in English which was nice. And at one point, whilst they were rehearsing three songs by Britten, Helmut said "Do you have any remarks about the english?" I suddenly realised he was talking to me and the other two were looking at me intently. I mumbled something about it being "Really good" (which it was!), hardly world beating advice, but what is one meant to say to two world renowned singers in this situation? Answers on a postcard please...

Page turning for Helmut Deutsch was honestly one of the most privileged things I have ever done. I mean Philip Moore is an astonishing pianist, don't get me wrong. However The Helmut plays the piano is just astonishing, the amount of colour and depth he gets out of the piano was incredible. For someone who has and will be doing a lot of this sort of thing in the upcoming months it was a complete eye opener.

So all in all I've had a great time doing it. The festival might still be going on but I'm back in Beverley having a bit of R and R. Bring on next year...

1 comment:

  1. Loved the times I did it last year. Chamber music players always seem great fun and you learn an incredible amount just from being around when they're working. Is definitely more stressful than playing though, especially when they're recording live for radio.