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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

More forays into politics and literature,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,
Is it true that the terrifying political interviewer John Humphries is a secret cellist?
PN in London

Dear PN,

It is indeed. I read a profile of his where he specifically admits wrestling with the cello, due to having been inspired by his son, a professional player in (I think) Greece. I once played for a dinner at which he was the guest speaker, and, in passing, proposed he have a go at my cello, whereupon his heartfelt negative was accompanied by this comment: 'My cello playing would make angels weep!'

Cordially,
Alice

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I recently read the most amazing new biography of Glenn Gould, the pianist (Wondrous Strange: the Life and Art of Glenn Gould, by Kevin Bazzana, Oxford University Press). Have you read it? Let me recommend it! It really gets underneath the skin of this most weird and wonderful musician.

Glenn Gould fan, Toronto

Dear Gould fan,

No, sorry, haven't read it, however will try to get hold of one. Was it Gould, or Piatogorsky, or possibly both, who learned a concerto from memory on a single long train journey, and performed it without a slip-up at journey's end? Poss it was Piatogorsky. Either way, it is an offensively irritating ability, being able to remember anything complicated or indeed anything at all and where did you say you were from again???

Pip-pip!!!!!
Alice (I think)

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I am writing about the government's initiative about providing more music in primary schools. Unless this money is ring-fenced, it will never (or almost never, if the head is fanatical about music) go towards music. I am a school governor and (believe me) the pressures on funding are just too great to believe. Is this a cynical electioneering ploy on Blair's part or what?

Disgruntled Labour voter/muso

Dear muso,

Well, yes, it probably is a cynical electioneering ploy. On the other hand, there is some evidence that the government has spotted that music is going down the plughole. The money should indeed be ring-fenced, but at least more than lip-service is being paid. Rumour has it that this is because of a study proving (what a lot of us already knew) that studying a musical instrument has a wonderful knock-on effect on pupils' concentration and memory (not that the memory bit worked for me, see above!!!!!!) And frankly, the Conservatives were no better: perhaps you're too young to recall Thatcher torpedoing school music in the 1980s but I'm not. Still, with stories reaching me that (for example) the Guildhall orchestral course is so desperate for decent violists and double basses that such players can now do the course for half fees, it's about time someone stood up and said there is a crisis here, a very quiet crisis, but still, a crisis. So here goes:

Ask Alice

(Personally I don't do quiet)
Cordially,
Alice

Copyright © 9 July 2004 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK

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