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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

When Agony Aunt meets White Witch,
plus a review of the Jacqueline du Pré memorial event in London,

Just when I learn to despair of life, thinking how grey and dull it can be, after Christmas, and how empty the 'Ask Alice' letterbox, then I realise just how wrong I am.

Yes, yours, the undersigned, coming back from a tumultuously uninteresting evening playing at Banqueting House, Whitehall, last week (in the room with the Rubens ceiling, where Charles the first was supposedly beheaded), actually met someone interesting.

More than interesting: bizarre, fascinating, incredible!!!!!!

Yes, there I was, chatting away with Andy Laing, world's greatest Scot and the peerless leader of my quartet, when a remarkably good-natured fellow sporting (in order) (a) a comfortable-sized wife (b) a comfortable-sized paunch (c) long grey ponytail (d) an amazing array of tattoos and (e) a beautifully-carved broomstick, sat down across the aisle. Now the great drawback of being a musician and toting around for one's sins something as instantly noticeable as a cello-case, is that everyone and his dog thinks you are fair game to talk to. So I couldn't be too amazed when he said something about said cello case, nor was I displeased, for a change, as it gave me a chance to find out about the broomstick.

Agony aunt meets whitch witch

And it turns out, gentle reader, on what used to be Connex South-east (before they absolutely deservedly went bust) just in transit of an evening between London and Hastings, it is perfectly possible to meet a (male) white witch!!!! And not just any old witch, no, but one of the country's leading white witches (could have sworn that ought to be warlock, but, let's face it, what do I know???), called Kev. And this Kev is apparently in constant demand to have a go at exorcisms ( homes-dehaunted-while-u-wait) and appear on Tricia (a TV show, apparently, of which all I can tell personally with any certainty is that it's not on Eurosport). In fact, I strongly urge you all to click on, if indeed it has so far escaped your notice, in order to get your demons exorcised and your haunted house de-haunted, and no I am not joking (well, I was about, but is really Kev's site!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Now as a card-carrying member of the United Reform Church (though anything much more disparate and immoveable it would be hard to imagine) it is of course my task to shrink back in horror at such Paganism, but as he was so marvellously Kev-like, and entertaining, and good-natured, I thought I'd give him a plug on M&V, instead.

(And, as you're all obviously dying to know, he doesn't actually RIDE on the broomstick, or how could I have met him on the train?? It's all part of the mystique, innit????)

Yours in mystification,

Ask Alice

dear alice
busted have reasently split up and the thing is i'm really upset and i want to be a famous musian when i'm older but now cos busted have split up i don' know who to look up to please help me !!!!!


Dear anon,

Never heard of Busted (sorry, busted).
Never knew they (he/she/they) split up, or who they split up with.

My personal opinion is that the desire to become famous musician (sorry, musian) when older is frankly not compatible with such a feeble attitude as yours. The true would-be-famous musician would instead think: Busted are bust, all the more space/time/money for ME!!!!!!!!!!!!! Move over, busted -- you're busted -- here I come!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My career advice: try lap-dancing.


Ask Alice


Just had to add a review of the Jacqueline Du Pré memorial event on January 26th at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. A very good crowd of people game enough (or curious enough) to see whether it was possible to play every one of Beethoven's five cello and piano sonatas AND the three sets of variations, was rewarded by a performance of incandescent beauty, passion and control from probably Britain's best cello and piano duo. Raphael Wallfisch and John York have played together for so long, and with such unity of purpose, that it was like hearing the old Italian string quartet in full flow, yet never was there any hint of boredom even with such standard works as these. Raphael glanced at John and John twinkled at Raphael (especially when some idiot's mobile went off: the performance was being broadcast live) but one sensed that this was purely for comradely purposes: the listening was enough for the music, with such rapport as theirs.

The works, as everyone knows, are widely varied: early and late Beethoven, delicate and muscular, dramatic and understated by turn. There was never a musical twist that caught Wallfisch and York flat-footed, and these were also astonishingly clean performances, as if they had made a joint pact that drinks afterwards were on the first to miss a note. Towards the end of the final, great D major sonata I began to wonder if Raphael's beautiful bow-arm was tiring, but no, they awarded us for staying with a fleet-footed and glorious account of an arrangement of Beethoven's 'Kreutzer' finale. A woman behind me declared that she wished Beethoven had written enough music for the combination to have played another three hours, and (though I had a childminder to get back to) so deftly-timed were these performances that the moments flew by. My only cavil is that the piano was fully open, causing even Wallfisch's divine C-string to be drowned out at times: really, a pianist with the cajolling eloquence of John York did not require that extra power, at least not from halfway down the QEH.

Perhaps the highlight (among so many) was the slow movement of the last, late sonata. Here the gorgeous depth (and sunny lights) of Raphael's cello conjured up such divine pathos and colour, while the piano part was charged with harmonic flow and feeling that I felt I'd never understood the movement before. The audience response made it obvious how privileged we were to hear two marvellously seasoned performers at the peak of their powers, and anyone envious is advised to order the Wallfisch/York CD of the Beethoven cello sonatas from St Cecilia Promotions, 166 Woodside Green, London SE25 5EW, England.

Copyright © 28 January 2005 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK






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