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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On pianists, conductors, truth and goldfish,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,

I am a piano player and have done all my grades. I quit piano because I worried that wouldn't have enough time to practice due to my GCSEs. Now I really regret my decision because I miss playing the piano and my parents won't let me go to lessons anymore. I have tried to practice myself at home but I still would like a teacher so that I can do my diploma or at least play at concerts. What shall I do? And if i have a teacher, will this affect my studies?


Dear Helen,

Cheer up, for a start, your fingers WON'T forget the piano, especially not if you've done 'all' your grades. Certainly not for some years, anyway.

I think you ought to make it clear to your parents that you feel you made the wrong decision, and that the piano is more important to you than you thought (unsurprisingly, given the evidence that GCSEs are very stressful AND that music can relieve such stresses -- not to mention international evidence to suggest that kids who learn a classical instrument perform better at school!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

However, if you can't talk your parents around, and you feel that working at McDonald's in order to keep up your piano lessons might adversely affect your exams, all is still not lost. You can keep your fingers moving by playing all your old pieces (or buy some new ones without holding down a part-time job) -- which might incidentally serve to impress your parents with your earnestness. If it doesn't, be comforted that, whether you come back during university or directly afterwards, you will be amazed how you can just pick it up and keep going later on. A gap in piano-playing at your age is only really serious if you had hopes of a concert career (which I gather you didn't).


Ask Alice

Dear Alice,

You should stick with the truth. There is no subsidy or money for a German orchestra visiting France -- we tried very hard to get financial support from there. Very little success.

Unfortunately: without financial help there is only a 'yes' to conditions as I am able to provide or there is no orchestra coming at all. This is the point: Just try to do it and organize your own concert-tour without any support except your own survival-technique: you will certainly immediately side with Mr Miller and me and stop to write this rubbish.

We have nothing against paying great wages to our musicians, but we cannot dare to demand 50-80 pounds per ticket, as would be required to be able to fullfill union demands. The Halls would be half empty, the tours finished in 6 days for reasons of bankruptcy. Everybody in the business knows those facts and tries to keep quiet about it.
In fact what we are doing is impossibly difficult enough: to let survive orchestra without subsidies.
The Internet is full of stories about the great profit I am supposedly making with my tours -- the facts are totally different.
I am barely surviving.
Who by the way pays the difference between the Union demands and the reality of the concert takings of tickets? The Taxpayer! This is publicly accepted theft, nothing else ...
One thing is clear to me:
If all the misunderstandings who make up such an opinion as yours would be cleared -- if all the informations required to see the real truth behind this monstrous intrigue against my orchestra and me could come up to light -- you would express completely different thoughts as you did in your commentary.
I am absolut shure of that.

I wish you a good day

Volker Hartung

Dear readers,

Will somebody please please PLEASE tell me what this German person is so soundly berating me for? (no, I'm not psychic, just spotted a couple of Capitalized Nouns)

I have a vague and hazy recollection of some controversy back in the dark ages of man, about German orchestras getting subsidies (or not?) for visiting France, and this bugging starving French musicians. I suppose it's my age (I have been thirty-nine for some years now) but I find it increasingly difficult to remember anything. (Which cello string is it, exactly, that comes between the A and G? And will someone remind me what the real point is of thumb position -- or of John Prescott, come to that??)

However, I loved your letter, Volker, and simply had to print it. What I loved best was the 'Nevertheless: I wish you a good day.'

It's little touches like that which made me (many, many moons ago) fall like a stone for my German cello teacher. (No sense of humour? Who says no sense of humour??)

Yours, on your side,

Ask Alice

hi my friend is getting goldfish and she's trying to find information about goldfish so she can get things right. so can you please send me the things she much do you feed them a day,where do you live them at day and night, how can you tell the differents of a male and a female and how to clean the fish bowl.

The Official Guide to Goldfish. Goldfish Society of America

Dear Bobby-Jane,
I'm getting fed-up with people assuming I'm the world's goldfish authority, just because I've killed a few (by accident!!!!!!!!! Honest, Volker, by accident!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

As I have been obliged to explain before, my meagre experience with goldfish suggests:

If they're looking dozy, change their water and add salt.
If they're chasing each other, tick them off roundly, then add salt
If a goldfish is looking ill, add salt.

(A cholesterol nightmare, but, believe me, seems to work).

What your buddy needs to do is to buy a 'How to look after your goldfish' book (Amazon have hundreds, and yes, I do mean hundreds).

What you need to do, in sharp contradistinction, is to learn the difference between differents and difference, and when a sentence starts and needs a capital letter (see Volker for tips -- or maybe not ...)

Yours grumpily,

PS Have to admit am intrigued with your question, 'where do you live them at day and night.' I mean, unless you and your friend expect to cuddle them up in bed with you, the general notion is that goldfish stay in their fishie-bowl day AND night!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Copyright © 25 August 2006 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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