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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On Botox, youth and adventures in good music,
with classical music's agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice, I have long been a sufferer from dystonia, a disorder that causes involuntary movements (in my case, in my hands). I understand that Botox, renowned for temporarily disposing of wrinkles, may be a cure for this, but worry whether or not the cure may be worse than the disease! Have you any information?

A musician, London

Dear fellow musician,

No, sorry, this was all news to me. I've never even had the nerve to try Botox for what are euphemistically called laughing lines, though those few of my friends who have tried it all claim it works!!!!! (At least, the ones who can still get the muscles around their mouths to form syllables seem to be saying it works ...) However, all I've discovered on the internet is that the 'paralysing' drug Botox 'commonly used in beauty treatments' apparently helped over two thirds of musicians with the same disorder that you suffer from. The article I got hold of went on to say that, 'Task-specific dystonia often afflicts people whose jobs involve repetitive movements. It is common among musicians and sportsmen ... Musicians in the study included woodwind, string and keyboard players, as well as guitarists. On average they received injections every four months, usually in the forearm, with promising results.' (Not only that but I'll bet all those fine lines on their forearms really perked up too!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

In other words, if you can face the occasional injections (and, given enough incentive, we all can, with Yours Ever injecting herself in the thigh for three years with IVF drugs which never even worked; that's how dim I am!!!!) you appear to have a good chance of relief from your condition, which also seems more common than I ever imagined. I wish you all poss luck from everyone at M&V, and do keep us informed of how it goes.


Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I was watching Young Musician of the Year and I got so annoyed that they didn't pick the pianist Benjamin Grosvenor just because he was eleven. People talk about ageism but this was ageism in my opinion anyway.

Another young pianist (but not eleven anymore)

Dear pianist,

I missed the pianist to whom you allude, tragically, so I don't know whether I would have picked him, though I have heard other musicians say the same as you. I clocked Daniel de Gruch-Lambert (trumpet), the eventual winner Nicola Benedetti (violin) and Adam Walker on flute. I admired them all a great deal, but would perhaps have picked the flautist on points myself. I did not then know (thanks to the BBC's current lack of enthusiasm for publicising this competition) that these three were all under seventeen (only the percussionist had actually hit seventeen, apparently) or that the marvellous young pianist I missed is a mere munchkin of eleven. But, in what was apparently the youngest BBC competition ever, it's hard to accuse the judges of ageism. They could, after all, easily have picked finalists of seventeen or eighteen. They may have felt that eleven is a bit young to make the most of the chances heading the way of the actual winner (and that may have biased them somewhat) but my guess is that, if young Benjamin is even half as brilliant as people are saying he will have nothing to complain about. He has five years on the (very accomplished) winner; and his confidence too must be sky-high at this point. A few years of waiting will do him no harm technically, and can only make him more musically mature than ever. And what's the BBC Young Musician of the Year compared to the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition?

But this should be a valuable lesson to you, confident as you are that your fellow pianist was robbed. Repeat after me: competitions are a lottery. The best person may or may not win. Life is generally not fair.

(Why is it that I can just hear you sighing, just like a grown-up, yawn, yawn, blab, blab, blab??????????????????)

All right then, have it your own way. Young Benjamin was robbed!!!!!!!!! Man the barricades!!!!!!!!!!!! Picket the Royal Albert Hall!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Get a petition to Downing Street!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Teenagers, eh??? Fuss, fuss, fuss!!!!!!!!!!!)


Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I'm having trouble locating the name and composer of a favorite piece of mine. It's the theme song Karl Haas uses for his radio show Adventures in Good Music. Send me an e-mail if you know the name of this piece.

Thank You!


Dear Robert,

Sorry, never heard it, but I bet someone Out There will know!!!!! (Keith will give you Robert's email address on application, as long as you are a sad person who needs to get out more and not someone in Nigeria hoping to get his bank details, someone out to increase his p*n!s size by several feet, or Someone (anyone!!!!!!!!) With the Right Mortgage for You!!!!!!!!!!!!)

[Boring note from Keith: M&V will never give out anyone's email address. What we will do, however, is to forward any genuine messages to the person concerned, if we can contact them.]

PS Many thanks to all those who wrote it suggesting (in the politest possible way) that I was a right prat for not spotting the previous correspondent's code for 'miffed' ... One of these days I hope to come to grips with modern text-phone/email idiom but until then at least I'm SATCODTNHTNTTB (Still Able To Communicate Orally Due To Not Having The Nerve To Try Botox!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Copyright © 14 May 2004 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK





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