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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

As the year comes to a close,
classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH
looks for a new job

It appears that either all my readers are either too turkey-fat and happy to write -- or else too busy flexing their credit cards in the sales -- so I thought that this week I would apply for a job. This thought (as are so many in which I'm pleased to call my brain) was prompted by my mother, who sent me a Washington Post article about its recently-deceased chief music critic, Joseph McLellan, who filled this post for 30 years.

I would like to be the Washington Post's next music critic, as it would suit someone like me extremely well. I am just as capable of being nice, I feel sure, as Joseph McLellan, who rarely voiced negative views of anyone. 'You can find weakness in any human effort', he apparently said, and I string along with this school of thought. Here, free, for nothing and gratis, for example, is a sample review of mine of my daughter's recent (free, for nothing and gratis) performance of a few hits from Annie get your gun, in our front room:

Not for nothing is the lovely Rachel McVeigh (aged 8) known as the songstress of Oakwood Road. With just a few deft touches, including socking her mother on her behind when she said (pace Jane Austen) that she had delighted us for long enough, did she deliver the following: 'You can't get a man with a gun' (something many US women would do well to take heed of), 'Anything you can do, I can do better' (ditto), and 'The sun in the morning and the moon at night', which was encored (one dachshund rashly wagged her tail). The entire toute ensemble was completed by her hairstyle (that fashionable, just-out-of-bed look) and the clothes (the 'Mum-made-me-get-out-of-my-dressing-gown-midmorning- and-to-spite-her-I-picked-this' impression).

Miss McVeigh's sublimity of tone was complemented by the improvisatory and adventurous style of her intonation, which is probably only equalled by many a well-oiled grande dame of fifty who has made a regular habit of smoking 30 a day since their youth. As for the projection, plaster is still, I understand, dropping off of the ceiling. I have no hesitation in saying that Rachel McVeigh is a young singer of whom we shall we hearing more -- probably much, much more ...

I share many other qualities with Joseph McLellan. For example, I am extremely open-minded, especially towards new music. Unlike -- to take an example at random -- my father, who firmly believes that real music ended with Dvorák, I am strongly of the opinion that it ended with Benjamin Britten. When I turn on Radio 3 and hear something clearly and obviously post-Britten, I jump (for joy, obviously) to turn it off. When I am at a performance and hear something which sounds like a combination of a mosquito buzzing around some percussion, punctuated by fascinating comments from the brass diaspora, I am reduced to such happiness that I am obliged to leave the concert hall entirely, so that my whoops of joy will not disturb the pleasure of the remaining auditors.

Should the Washington Post be looking for someone, like Joseph McLellan, capable of combining chess knowledge with music, I have to say, with all due modesty, that I am their (wo)man. My chess is known on such a famously high level that my husband, who initially gave me one of his pawns, later a bishop and finally two rooks so that we could have a good game together, now refuses to play me at all!!!!!!!! I am an expert on the behaviour of pawns, especially in cocktail sauce, and am also very good at making up games for kids in which the horsies ('knights' to those of you similarly gifted at chess) are the good guys and charge the castles ('rooks'), knocking them over to great effect and with suitable hilarity.

Needless to say, I would also be extremely willing to attend white-tie events at the White House, as Joseph McLellan did, and even to advise the White House on the kind of background music required for any such event, at no extra cost ... After all, Yours the Undersigned, must be one of the world's only musicians to get away with promising the London Hilton to perform nothing but Belgian music for a week-long Belgian event and (such was my cunning) never once playing a work (are there any?) by a genuine Belgian composer.

All in all, I think that my qualities of musicianship, writing skill, liberal-mindedness, generosity to young musicians (I frequently tip buskers) and the huge advantage of living thousands of miles away make me the ideal candidate to succeed this marvellous man.
I will be waiting by the phone.

Yours, full of quiet confidence,

Copyright © 30 December 2005 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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