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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Helpful hints about sharing instruments,
plus some musical commentary on Wimbledon,
from classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,
Can Tim Henman ever win Wimbledon?
A fan

Dear fan,

Thanks for your question. Tim Henman's bow technique is very sound, and his up-bows are especially elegant. I'm also impressed by his clever use of angles on his preparatory strokes, though some players do it faster, or with greater attack. His presentation is good, if a bit repetitive (that clenched vibrato at moments of passion can become a bit predictable) and it can take him a while to settle into the mood of a work (especially a tough work) but he generally seems to deliver on the day. What worries me about Henman, and I know I'm not alone on this, is his mental attitude. At some level there just seems a less-than-complete belief. He can't always raise the level of his bow arm on the top string, or -- if he does -- he doesn't get quite enough weight in the stroke. Some people think he's too nice a guy, but look at Lindsay Davenport -- most popular and widely-liked woman on the tennis tour -- and being nice never stopped her winning Wimbledon. I'd love to be wrong here, but I just don't think chip-and-charge near the bridge is going to do it against Federer. But we can always hope!!!!!!!!!

Cordially,
Alice

PS (after Henman's defeat) Alice requests a second go at this question.

Question:
Can Tim Henman ever win Wimbledon?
A fan

Answer: No.
Pip-pip (Henperson),
Alice

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I was playing at a background gig last week, corporate classical thing when this guy with a South African accent comes up and says 'hey I played violin when I was a kid, can I have a go?' Well I said no right away, and he goes off all offended. But what else could I have done? It's not that I've got a Strad or anything but its not right to ask to use someone's fiddle is it? What else could I have done?

JG in London

Dear JG,

Nothing. What you did was absolutely right, even if it got you in trouble with the client. First of all, not everybody at the event was presumably ear-wagging at this point. Had the South African businessman been a truly awful player (as is odds-on likely) and the sound emerging from your violin had been unpleasant, guess who might have been blamed? Secondly, what if he'd dropped it? Most people have no conception of the value of even a mediocre string-instrument (not that I'm suggesting yours is: my quartet leader plays background on a violin so fine he can't afford to insure it!!!!!!) Finally, and we are talking really unlikely situation here, what if the South African was the ex-leader of the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra and he actually played your violin better than you???? Where does that leave you, exactly, other than painted on the backdrop feeling stupid while he showed off with 'your' string quartet or whatever????

If there's any fuss about this, simply explain that it was your grandmother's violin and that she put a dying curse on anyone touching it other than her linear descendents. As Sylvia Plath wrote, 'That would fix a lot of people.'

Cordially,
Alice

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,
Why were you writing from Lucca last week?
PS in Virginia

Dear PS,

Thanks for asking!!!!!!!!!! Due to my husband's turning fifty (he's miles miles miles miles miles older than me, of course!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) we left Rachel behind for four days and shot over to Lucca, in Tuscany. This was such a brilliant break that everyone who turns fifty should do it. Beautiful cathedral, almost no traffic, bicycles provided by the Hotel Celide (check internet), old fortress walls all around the city that you could ride around, great restaurants (check out the D'Olivo). Almost worth being fifty for (which of course I won't personally, not for ages and ages and ages ...)

Yours dead youthfully,
Alice

Copyright © 2 July 2004 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK

THE JOHANNESBURG YOUTH ORCHESTRA

HOTEL CELIDE, LUCCA

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