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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Playing 'Fiddler on the Roof' at wedding receptions,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

What do you do if you're Jewish and you get asked to play Fiddler on the Roof at a wedding reception?

I can play it all right; I simply find it offensive. Am I allowed to say, 'No?'

P N, Philadelphia

Dear P N,

I apologise, but I haven't got enough information to answer this question properly.

First of all, who's doing the asking? Is it the (Jewish) mother of the bride? Is it some tipsy reveller? Or is it someone running the string quartet that you're depping in for the first time and wish to play with again? [The answers in these cases are (a) you play it anyway (b) you laugh lightly and favour the company with your arrangement of West Side Story and (c) you play it anyway, perhaps remarking to the leader later that it drives you nuts, if you think s/he might sympathize.]

Secondly, what is your position? If you're playing for love (for a friend's wedding) you are less morally obliged to play something you dislike; while if you are in charge of the group you can always pretend you don't have it. However, if you are only an employee then you have to suffer: you are but a cog in the machine; the client's preferences naturally outrank yours, and he who pays the piper etcetera etcetera.

However, I keep trying to figure out what your objection is to Fiddler on the Roof. The tunes are catchy, the good guys are all Jewish, and as far I can know it is reasonably historically accurate, which is all a good deal more than you can say for most musicals!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yours stumped,

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I am a female clarinet player with a secret passion for a violist in my orchestra. The trouble is that the violist fancies the (female) leader and not me, even though she has been with the conductor for years (probably because he has a sports car and she's mad about sports cars) as well as a real cocaine problem, though he's not a bad conductor, in fact he's pretty good. My other trouble is that the principal clarinetist, who is with the second oboe, feels threatened by me and keeps putting me down and calling me 'a nice little player' and similarly insulting and sexist comments, which I am just about completely sick of. He was having an affair with the principal horn, but now she's with the conductor, and I'm the only one who knows (I think) because I have this claustrophobia problem so I recently took the stairs on tour when all the others waited for the lift and I saw them kissing just outside is door, which is why (probably) I've been given the lead in the next symphony, which has not exactly thrilled the principal clarinetist any, as you can imagine! -- I also have some troubles flying, which is probably related to the claustrophobia trouble (I went on one of those conquer-your-fear-of-flying courses and it DID NOT WORK) and about the only way I can cope with tours is by taking a couple of Valiums with some alcohol and I'm sure that's not doing my irritable bowel syndrome any good. And also the violist (the one I like who prefers the leader) is always getting to play chamber music with her and who needs a clarinet for chamber music? -- even the principal (that keeps putting me down) doesn't get asked. So what on earth should I DO?

A female clarinet player

Dear f c p,

Nice try, Keithie baby, but I can spot an April Fool when I see one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Copyright © 1 April 2005 Alice McVeigh, USA

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