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Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH
in search of a tenor

Dear Alice,

I heard that you singlehandedly organised a concert at St Johns for a corporate client with soprano and TENOR!!!!!

How did you find this elusive creature?
G R, Surrey

Dear G R,

Well, I cannot pretend that it was easy.

Some years ago there ran (or trotted, at any rate) a London West End show called Lend me a tenor, which I found moderately amusing. Little did I know that, years later, the remembrance of the title alone would be enough to make me feel like weeping.

A tenor lurking in his natural habitat
A tenor lurking in his natural habitat

The tenor is a nocturnal creature, whose habitat, though widespread, is little known. There has been much research on a few of these creatures: the lesser Carreras, the Pavorotti Rotundus, and the spotted Domingo, known to scientists as 'the big three' but other tenors remain widely unexplored. Hence the difficulty of locating one, especially when one was stupid enough to volunteer to fix a concert.

My first port of call was the Royal College of Music. Had my budget been unlimited, I might have scored here, but my budget was under 200 pounds, for three arias and a song from West Side Story, and your average tenor will not cross the road for same. I was also unlucky, according to the lovely Mary Cosgrove, of that institution, that the RCM opera was producing Così that night. She generously and broadmindedly referred me to the Guildhall, also strikingly tenorless, and they to Trinity, which admitted very sadly that they were notably short of tenors at the moment. (Do tenors reproduce? one asks self in vain, at this point ...) I was being offered barrel-loads of baritones and basses by the dozen, but tenors (those shy, elusive fauna) nary a one. (My father, now 75, kindly volunteered his services, but only if a club class ticket from Washington was included. VERY funny.)

I then had the bright idea of calling sopranos. Sopranos, notoriously, hang out with tenors (onstage, at any rate. Offstage, according to my informants, they prefer basses and baritones.) My soprano friends were gloomy on the tenor topic. Tenors, according to your average soprano, fulfill all the stereotypes that one gets (on the internet anyway) about sopranos.

Why did the soprano tiptoe past the medicine cabinet?
(Answer: she didn't want to waken the sleeping pills.)

As for tenors, when do you know that a tenor is REALLY stupid?
(Answer: when the other tenors notice.)

According to my (very brainy) soprano friends, a tenor's ego is in inverse proportion to his talent (and other parts of his equipment.) One of them even suggested finding a nice baritone and seeing if the corporate clients could spot the difference.

But no, a McVeigh's word is her bond. I had promised to obtain a tenor, and a tenor I felt honour-bound to obtain. Soprano A recommended Tenor B, but Tenor B wasn't free. Tenor B recommended Tenor C, but Tenor C wasn't free. (The Wednesday night I needed my tenor for appeared to be employment bonanza night for tenors.) Tenor D couldn't even be bothered to get back to me, but Tenor C came through with Tenor E, who was keen, able, intelligent and willing, to belt out La donna è mobile and Brindisi. In fact, so able and so obliging was Daniel Meades (Tenor E) that he deserves apes, ivory and peacocks to be delivered to his address. No longer was I stumping around the house muttering, 'Lend me a tenor,' or 'To croon or not to croon, that is the question.' To the infinite grief of NTL, to whom I pay my telephone bills, I had found me a tenor.

So this is the advice of one who has lived long and suffered:

Leave tenors to the wildlife specialists and locate a baritone (Baritones R Us has loads). Alternatively, Daniel Meades is on +44 (0)7733 221935.

Yours, sadder and wiser,

Copyright © 17 June 2005 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK

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