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<<  -- 3 --  Jennifer Paull    REMINISCENT RETROSPECTIVES


Well rehearsed, and warmed up by several concert performances, we were to embark in grand style for The Royal Irish Academy, Dublin. This was November, a very precarious moment to be sitting in the boarding lounge of Liverpool's John Lennon Airport. Of course, the Beatles were only just setting out on their publicity campaign for Liverpool in all matters musical, so the airport had a different, non-musician's name and Fritz' move to all things Liverpudlian via his Scouse Press and word fun had accidentally fallen upon its feet with perfect timing around his RLPO exit and the Fab Four's timely entrance!

We all sat -- and sat some more, yet more and worried. The carefully planned twenty-four hour, Spiegl Stupendous Musical Tour had allowed for no frills (as ever). Hotel nights were a luxury (as ever) and an early morning call at the airport was sure to be enough time for us to fly over the sea to Dublin, rehearse, grab a bite to eat (for those who could), give a concert, munch a further sandwich (optional) with liquid refreshment (most necessary), sleep in an hotel (finally!) and fly back to Liverpool early the following morning (triumphant but not refreshed).

This is not how the plan unfolded and probably accounts for much of my present lack of ease faced with the difficulties of today. At the time, one could carry one's reed knife inside one's oboe case into the cabin of the aircraft. One did not have to watch the invaluable-necessity-for-performance disappear with one's luggage, often not to reappear when most desperately needed -- in advance of the concert to which one was travelling. Climatic alterations reap unaccountably strange havoc with reed cane (arundo donax). My luggage and I seem to go to very different destinations frequently. At least one in every three trips is a 'Teflon Trip'. We become unstuck. A heart-wrenching and most terrible moment saw my suitcase-less possessions returned to my nearest railway station in three cardboard boxes a week after my return. Fortunately, although several objects had disappeared (including the suit-case through which a fork lift truck had scored a direct hit), my favourite reed knife was still there -- a true glutton for punishment for the adventurous life!

The fog was a pea-souper. No flights were taking off from either Dublin or Liverpool. A very cool Fritz told us not to worry, that we didn't really need to rehearse, we had been playing the Mozart Serenades in concert for some time now and so we would just check into our hotel, get spruced up into evening garb, and make for the concert hall. As time moved forwards, we began to realise that it would be a matter of getting changed at the Academy itself.

Eventually, the small plane from Dublin did cough to a halt before us. We were hurried aboard as fortunately, a minimal time had been allocated for its servicing. Fritz had underlined the vital import of our arriving for our concert in spite of this delay to several disinterested parties, con brio (again, with many repeats, as was his wont).

We made it to the customs hall in Dublin with just enough time to change in the dressing rooms and play two notes before walking onto the stage. That is, we would have, had Fritz not had the brilliant idea of trying to be funny to lighten the gloom.

'Quick Lads, hide the contraceptives!!' he voiced in a stage whisper that was meant to be taken as a joke by the sadly, humour-less customs officials. In those days, it was illegal to bring contraceptives to Ireland. I have no idea if the laws have since been modified. Fritz' prank turned sour upon us all as we were obliged to open every pocket, every reed case, every possible inch of our baggage and even our instruments themselves, which were disembowelled. The customs officers looked inside my oboe suspiciously and peered into its innards. Every instrument had to be taken apart (fortunately within the usual, allocated parameters) and scrutinised carefully.

All of us fuming at Fritz and in a bad mood, tired, hungry, thirsty and bedraggled, filed onto the stage in our crumpled clothes straight from the bus, reeds in mouths. We put up our music stands and took out our instruments and without any warm up, started playing with some hope mingled with much willpower. We were lucky to have kept the audience waiting for a mere ten minutes or so. To our amazement, it was one of the best performances we ever gave!

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Copyright © 23 March 2005 Jennifer Paull, Vouvry, Switzerland


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