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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On Beethoven bowings, hero worship
and the pressures of academic study,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

I'm in an amateur chamber orchestra that has decided to take on Beethoven's 7th symphony. Would you have any recommendations for bowings for the 'dotted 8th / 16th / 8th' rhythm in the first movement? I'm thinking it'll best to hook together the first two notes of the group in a down bow, and then an up on the last 8th. Does this seem sensible to you? The standard of playing is variable, so I need a secure straightforward bowing.


Dear Mark,

Most people (including the Royal Philharmonic and the English Symphony Orch) choose the exact bowing you describe ... I was once in an authentic instument orchestra that insisted we do as-it-comes (down, up, down, up, down, up) and everyone moaned about it ... I feel sure Beethoven is with you (us) on this; so go for it!!!!!!


Ask Alice

I recently read your article regarding John Martin with the NSO. I have also been fortunate to have met him, only not as a cellist. My father once rented a room from him when first returning to Washington DC. I was thrilled beyond belief to meet a man such as he. I'm classically trained, so I felt as you, hero worship. I live in Washington DC and happen to be seeing the NSO tomorrow evening. I wish John was still with them.

Heather Hart

Dear fellow hero-worshipper (possibly fellow cellist??)
How good to know that I am not alone!!!!!

Pls write back asap and tell me which you thought the noblest and most expressive:

  1. John Martin in aristocratic profile
  2. John Martin's elegant bow-arm
  3. John Martin towering over the rest of the cello section, as he walked off-stage
  4. John Martin's little quizzical glance over at Dorothy Stahl, as she turned their page late

I can NEVER decide!!!!!!

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

I'm a recent college grad who has taken a year off before attending graduate school. I'm currently in the process of filling out applications, but for some reason this makes me extremely nervous. I'm aware of how ridiculously I'm behaving, which is why I'm forcing myself to sit down and get things done. I have repeatedly asked myself whether I want to get a Masters or PhD, and I KNOW I do. But questions keep running through my head saying that I don't deserve it and that I'm setting myself up for a fall because I fit the profile of a first-rate loser. In the past I have turned to self-injury and abstaining from food as a way to punish myself for a lot of things. I have never tried to kill myself as I don't want to do that.

Now that I face this fear of applying to graduate school and the risk of not getting in, I want to start refraining from eating. What can I do?

Thanks for reading

Dear anonymous,

For a start, you do NOT fit the personality of a 'first-rate loser.' You've been accepted for grad school, and the majority of even college graduates would not have been! -- You've done incredibly well, and I bet you've made a lot of people incredibly proud, already. For some reason, however, this isn't enough for you. You seem to have really painful self-esteem issues, in common with many high-achievers -- nothing you do, however well you do it, seems enough.

You're right to worry about your feelings of panic, because you have (apparently) got a history of mistreating your body. I really do urge you to get this sorted out with counselling, even if it means postponing grad school until you're well enough to do it justice. I don't even know what continent you're on, but I know you've been honest enough to admit to panic attacks to me, so you really must speak confidentially to someone who could help you to sort this out: your mother, your doctor, your minister, someone on the pastoral side at university, whoever. Please don't be tempted to ignore it, or else you might just start the cycle of worry and panic and self-mistreatment again. This would be such a shame, as you've done so well, and clearly have a lot to give.

The university years are often stressful and difficult as well as fascinating: you're not alone in feeling worried, especially assuming you're moving to a different institution for grad school.

Give yourself a break NOW and go admit to someone what you're going through (I was worried and depressed at your age as well!!!!!!)

Very cordially,

PS Please write back; then I'll write to you privately if you'd like.

Copyright © 11 November 2005 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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