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Magic moments


Every musician's career is seasoned and spiced with a peppering of personal memories. Some are of glorious music-making when everything went wonderfully right, but inevitably there are souvenirs of moments when things went sadly wrong.

My first introduction to the magical world of opera took place in the very old, low-tech Crane Theatre, Liverpool. There I was, as I had so longed to be, sitting in the pit and taking part in a production of Bizet's Carmen. The rehearsals went off without a hitch. I loved that somewhat oriental sounding oboe solo in the overture, and was very excited about playing it. Fortunately, I had practised the section and knew it by heart. Of course, the night of the première was not hitch-less. Just as we reached my special moment, the lights cut out in the pit with a noisy crackle and a flashing blue spark! Naturally, this wasn't the only time such a thing would happen to me, but it was the first. Many danger-filled moments can and do occur over the years. With time, one becomes accustomed to outdoor concerts and the fluttering of pages in the wind, for example. Without a clothes peg holding the score securely to the music stand, one is in trouble indeed. Taking one's own and learning to be prepared, come as second nature after a very brief apprenticeship. However, the first total panic is so chilling, one can never forget!

'Keep going!' whispered the conductor. Somehow, I did. There was hardly enough light from the stage, where spotlights illuminated the still drawn, dusty curtains somewhat half-heartedly. There was much slithering about by individual instrumentalists. We managed to fake our way until the light was restored a line or so later. Bar numbers were called out frantically, and we joined up to finish together, which was pretty good bluffing!

I proved that it was possible to keep on playing, reed in mouth, and heart a-flutter. I proved it to myself. This was a lesson that can never be learned in a conservatory, Only in the hot seat during the actual crisis can one discover if one is faint-hearted-soft, or toffee-nut-hard centred.

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Copyright © 18 January 2002 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland






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