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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

A tale of magic rings and dinosaur bones,
related by classical music's Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? 'Dear Alice,

I understand that you have been for two decades principal cello of an important amateur symphony orchestra. I wonder if you could fill me in on some of its history for an article in a magazine?

' AP

Ask Alice

Alice Dear A,

Yes, delighted. Here is a potted history of one of England's oldest and most distinguished orchestras:

Origins of local orchestra
shrouded in mists of time

Latest research suggests that the Bromley Symphony Orchestra was founded in the Paleolithic era by two twin dinasaurs, the bones of which were found (one with the tag: 'A crotchet is a crotchet!') in the grounds of Bromley High School for girls. (The other dinosaur sported the following: 'I told you I was right!")

However, an evil witch stole the magic ring from the dinosaurs, and built the Ravinsbowrne Halle, in the late 1600s, where the orchestra flourished, though consisting at the time of exactly four sackbutts, two lutes and a serpent.

Around 1750, when music in London was thriving, they lost one of the two sackbutts to Ye Olde Lundun Simphonie Orchestre, which had just been founded, to great acclaim, by Haydn and Salomon.

This failed to deter the then conductor, Ye Adrun Browne, who wrote in his diary: 'I am buggered if I lose more than one single miserable sackbutt to ye bloody City!' (The Bromley Symphonie at that time being down to one sackbutt and two recorders.)

(After the Great Plague, only one recorder.)

Things looked up in the 1800s, when Brahms came to stay with Clara Schumann's friend Elizabeth in Bromley, and dedicated a little-known work for two violins, two violas and ninety four cellos to the orchestra.

And they looked up again in the early 1900s, when Debussy agreed to conduct from the piano (a serious error) two arrangements of his Arabesques for solo piano with orchestra. (Unluckily, he got lost in the finale.)

In the late 1900s Adrian Brown took over, and the orchestra has since gone from strength to strength. There having been no more Great Plagues, it is pretty much full, except for ye double basses, anyone interested check out ye website.

Hope this is helpful.

Ask Alice

? 'Dear Alice,

I have an old, and very good violin, on loan from an institution. The last time I took it back to be inspected I was criticized for not having cleaned the varnish properly. But what more could I do!?? I wipe it down every single day, and also use Hill and Sons varnish cleaner, which is very respected.

Ask Alice

Alice Dear Unnamed,

This is a really tricky question. Two massively famous violin experts (mysteriously called luthiers, don't ask me why) have assured me that all one needs to do is to wipe the varnish clean, and that even the best varnish cleaners (such as Hills) are not as hot as not using any, but having luthiers clean the instrument at least annually.

However, I find that the varnish you mention gives a lovely glow, and find it really tough to remember (while messing about with writings and students and cooking and dogs) to wipe my cello every single time ...

Perhaps someone out there can advise.


Copyright © 20 February 2009 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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