Men problems this week for
music's agony aunt, ALICE McVEIGH
[Note from Keith to Alice:
Is this DGriffs again, do you think?]
I have been a member of a provincial orchestra for a number of years. Over
the last couple of years I have found myself becoming more and more attracted to
the principal cellist, a vivacious, charming, fine-looking woman, and a truly
fantastic player. So far I have managed to control my feelings but things are now
coming to a head. During rehearsals I am obliged to be in a position where I can
view the object of my desires without giving the game away but I now find myself
missing cues, playing wrong notes and generally finding it impossible to
concentrate on my music. Should I (a) tell her how I feel but run the risk of
rejection, (b) be patient and hope that fate will somehow throw us together,
preferably in a situation where I could save her from drowning etc or (c) enter
holy orders and hope that a strict regime of cold showers and the Bible will put
me back on the straight and narrow? Any help you can offer will be greatly
appreciated as I try and pull myself together (Excuse the Pun).
Confused of London
Dear confused of London (and who isn't????)
If you are DGriffs, as I think you are, please check out answer (a) below.
If you are somebody other than DGriffs, please check out answer (b)
(a) Dear DGriffs,
I am so sad, so sorry, but it can Never Be. It's not that I haven't noticed
your shy smiles, eager glances, lustful ooglings and completely ballsed-up playing
but -- and I hope you'll be able to understand -- I Adore Another. (It's true that
we've never met, this other and I, but I have fallen for his writing style,
especially his punctuation, and live in hopes that he will return my last email.
In the meantime I fantasize, principally about his manly commas and broad strong
Hoping you will forgive me,
Your friend always,
(b) Dear Confused,
Get a life you sad git.
[Note from Keith to Alice:
Are you sure you're not being a bit terse with DGriffs? Don't forget he's sent us
some of your ripest queries since the very start of the column. I hate to get
involved in your private life, but I really think you owe him one!]
[Note from Alice to Keith:
See answer (b) above]
I am a harpsichordist, and passionately believe in the One True and Authentic
Faith (raw vegetables, Bach's flower remedies, quorn, gut strings, the
Green Party, etc.) However, I have observed in myself of late a strange
yearning to switch on (the horror of it!) Classic FM and a hideous, lurking
desire to play piano again, preferably a Steinway grand. My harpsiplonks
(I own several) seemed to look reproachfully at me, but I have to admit that
I listened -- right the way through! -- to the Prokofiev violin concerto
recently. Is this the beginning of the end?
Desperate of Blackheath
Yes, I have to say that I think your case may be serious, though you haven't
(yet!!!!) gone to the extreme lengths of eating meat or fancying someone of the
opposite sex. At least you've taken the first step -- a brave one -- of admitting
that you have this problem, and that is hugely in favour of your recovery. My
advice is that you consult a doctor with expertise in this field: there are several
in the Netherlands I could recommend if you are worried about being spotted in
London, including the well-known Dr Ludvig van Guttierthanthou of The Hague.
But don't despair. More people in the authentic world than you suppose have
secret yearnings to 'come out' as admirers of Brahms, Mahler and even -- almost
unbelievably -- Saint-Saëns. The true faith is not quite as narrow and rigid
as you think, and backsliding is not uncommon: some baroque specialists have for
years moonlighted in top contemporary ensembles, generally in rudimentary disguise.
My guess is that -- if you seek expert guidance, stick to your herbal teas and
try not to dwell on your perverted cravings -- the fit will subside and you will
be tinkling away as advertised in a few months' time.
(I'm assuming, obviously, that you don't want to be de-programmed, which is
available privately though not on the NHS; check out
I heard about you from a friend of mine, and wonder if you could help me?
I am a full-time member of an orchestra -- rather not say which orchestra,
or which section -- and I have a problem with my long-term desk-partner.
It's not that he drinks or makes sexist comments or anything, it's just that
every time I get a bit enthusiastic (well, it's marked fortissimo!)
with the bow, he moves his chair away in a rather marked manner, and
starts moaning about 'the good old days' when the orchestra only had about
two women in it. He never comes to the pub, and never says anything to
me unless I say something first, and, even then, he normally objects to it.
(Example: 'It's a nice day,' to which he'll say, 'Not in Scotland it isn't',
or similar.) He's never actually rude, I can't say that, there's just this
covert antagonism all the time. What can I do to make life on the same desk
Dear Female fiddler,
I assume you've already tried the obvious ideas: crop rotation within the section,
sleeping with the principal in return for a seating switch etc.
In which case, you should probably just chuck in the towel. The most
scintillating conversationalist in the world (such as you are not, frankly, judging
from your example) would make little or no headway with the kind of Eeyore you've
got landed with. Don't waste your sallies on him, but develop a good rapport with
others in your section. If it's a whole section full of grumps bring a book you can
perch on the stand while putting up a convincing show, to the conductor, of studying
the minutiae of the part. (I've written a few books perfect for the purpose, see
sample below!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) In the last resort, I suppose you could even
consider paying a spot of attention to the job at hand.
It is a sad fact that there still remain neanderthals to whom the very existence
of women in the orchestras is an abomination, and any effort put into changing their
minds is an effort wasted. As my daughter, now five and decidedly not suffering
from an image problem remarked when observing that some of the boys in the playground
didn't want to play with her, 'They're probably just jealous of my amazing
It's worth bearing in mind, however, that desk-partnering is a mini-marriage,
with cagey compromises required on all sides. If your effervescent spirits
grate on your partner, do please try to curb them. (Try saying, 'I can't believe
how lousy this conductor is.') Otherwise I run the risk of getting a letter from
the Grinch griping, 'My desk-partner never shuts up and is always rabbiting on
about the weather conditions in the Hebrides' ...
Which would not be funny.
[Note from Keith: OH yes it would.]
[Note from Basil: PLEASE stop this bickering.]
Copyright © 23 May 2003
Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK
[Note from Keith to DGriffs:
Due to a row have regretfully had to fire Alice.
Would you be interested in her slot?]