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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH
is not judging but drowning

? 'Hi, Alice,

Many thanks for your flyer about the Fretwork concert with Clare Wilkinson on 1 February. Unluckily I'm working that night myself, but only wish I could make it, as I have a number of their recordings, and am a true fan of their fabulous sound.

Kind regards,
' S G, London

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Alice Hi Stan,

Thanks for yours, and no worries about Fretwork: with their following they're bound to get a good crowd at the Wigmore anyway!

I also am a fan, first introduced to them by my musicologist husband Simon McVeigh. They seem to me to combine the ideal balance of ancient music (musicke?) with modern panache--though nothing gets in the way of the composer's intentions, whatever those might be. I recommend them often, and hope they'll sell out on Feb. 1, even though it's a Sunday (bad luck) and the weather in mid-winter will probably be complete rubbish (even badder).

Cordially (Obama!! Obama!!! Obama!!!!),

Ask Alice

Obama! Obama! Obama! Obama!

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? 'Dear Alice,

I have a personal problem with regard to someone I don't dare to name, or even hint at. This person (not giving even the sex away here) has a lot of influence and has given me to understand that, should I give this person what s/he's 'longing for' then I can count on working enough with (name withheld) group to 'pay the mortgage'.

My problem is simple. I either do what the person I've mentioned proposes, and reap the benefits, or I refuse (and will prob be fired).

I have no one to turn to, without fear of retaliation or worse. Pls help!

' Anon

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Alice Dear anon,

I'm very sorry to hear about your trouble, which has almost certainly come about through no fault of your own. Many people (of either sex and in professions too numerous to mention) use this particular lever with which to soothe their egos, or flatter their mistaken views of their own importance.

This is of course blatant sexual discrimination, whatever sex you belong to, but voicing that will do you no good at all.

My advice is to refuse, all right, but to refuse in such a way that your career might still remain unaffected.

In other words, if you say, 'Ewwwwwwwwwwwww no, I'd rather die!', you can count on being rubbed out of the orchestra, as we say in the UK.

On the other hand, if you suggest that, were you only not (a) married or in a strong relationship or (b) actually the 'wrong' sexual persuasion for the exercise proposed, you are very likely to get off the hook without catastrophic consequences for your career. (If you're not actually married or in a relationship, then use your imagination to create your 'ideal' and pretend that it's the reality.)

I realize that many readers will accuse me of supporting untruths here, but -- and follow me closely here -- I frankly couldn't care less. They probably haven't been (as so many actors and musicians have been) put in this kind of situation, so it's easy for them to judge.

Yours, not judging but drowning,
Alice (Obama!! Obama!!! Obama!!!!)

Copyright © 23 January 2009 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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