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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On free plugs, guides on making music, good shows ...
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

I have just left the Royal College and am desperate to earn some money (preferably playing violin, not waiting on tables!) I've set up a string quartet but all we've got is a few Bill Thorp arrangements and the Mozart book. Where can we get hold of some lighter things for quartets for weddings and christenings and stuff like that?


Dear Fiona,

Well, you're both luckier and unluckier than I was, fresh out of music college in the mid-80s and hoping to do the same ... You're unluckier because (as you'll know) every violinist in London has already set up a string quartet for background music (but you'll still get some, it's that kind of market) and you're miles luckier simply because of the worldwide web!!!! I will never forget the ache in my hand writing out the violin and cello parts from piano scores (only my husband was clever enough to make up the viola in the middle) one Christmas after our string trio got the weekly contract at the London Hilton ... We didn't even have Sibelius then; it was all elbow grease and hard slog !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You, in sharp contradistinction, have, you have, you have books and books of published stuff by people like the admirable Bill Thorp (Blackwell's music online is best for those), and you have a stunning new contender in Admittedly, John Rayson (an up-and-coming composer), who has done all the arrangements for jasmin music, charges more than Sibelius and Virtual Sheet Music, but the extra money is 100% worth it. Because he is a 'real' composer, the voices work, and there is real style and substance to his interpretations, and they are miles more fun to play. I would recommend that you spend as much on Rayson's stuff as you can afford, and pad out the rest of your music with the others. You will with any luck make enough money to buy more as you go along.

Finally, for a full guide on how to do background music, you could do no better than to splash out a mere fiver on:

ALL RISKS MUSICAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! -- the ultimate, the amazingly irreverent guide to classical music by:


All Risks Musical -- book cover

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Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

Seen any good shows lately?


Dear Alice,

Gosh, yes, I thought you'd never ask!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why only last night, I was lucky enough to catch the new Annie get your gun (which is heading for the West End) at Bromley's Churchill Theatre, and it was FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've been bugging my seven-year-old all morning humming 'There's no business like show business,' while recollecting the stunning Charles Lawson as Frank and the divine Rebecca Thornhill, as Annie. Their charisma was stunning, their chemistry sizzled, the dancing was stunning and the singing sublime. I've never heard such great singing in a musical before, and I've been to almost every musical in London. Thornhill's voice, especially, has a silvery range and an effortless interpretive quality which recalled Ella Fitzgerald (but she's also beautiful, and she can dance). My advice is to sign up NOW for the West End run of this great performance. Even in dull old Bromley, full of sleepy citizens who'd lost the will to live, the cast scintillated. This lot will light up London theatreland from one end to the other!!!!!!!!!!


Copyright © 2 September 2005 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK

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