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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

When to put up and shut up,
by classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? 'Hello Alice,

We met once, some years ago, and I try to check out your column when I can. Now I have the problem!

I play, not regularly but often with one of London's best (and best paid) background string quartets. I get on well with all the members, and really enjoy fitting in the dates when I can. Unfortunately there is one player, an older guy, with whom I find I simply cannot play. His style of playing is simply completely antithetical to mine (I particularly loathe his old-fashioned baroque style). I have told the fixer that I would rather forgo a date than work with this person, but it happened again last week, and you can imagine my feelings when I entered the venue to be greeted by the one player I can't stand (though personally he is perfectly pleasant.)

What can I do to make sure this never happens again? (I've already told the fixer once!)

(name withheld)

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Alice Dear Anon,

My advice on this may surprise you. It is, frankly, to put up and shut up.

Why do I suspect that you are rather a young professional? Possibly because you mentioned the 'older man' -- or possibly because you haven't learned yet that, at least in the music profession, it is hugely unprofessional to complain about one's colleagues, and unprofessional to the point of insanity to reject work because one person or another doesn't suit your style of play. Nobody gets along with everybody, either personally or musically, and the fixer of the quartet probably thought you were just making a joke, which he/she was kind enough to overlook, when you intimated that you'd rather not work with this other player.

It's up to you, of course, but to even run the risk of being rubbed out of decent work because you disagree about the musical qualities of someone whom the fixer clearly values just seems nutty to me. I'd put up with it if I were you, and even use the opportunity of learning how to blend with someone you find musically unsympathetic, which can be very good training. The world is full of older players preferring an old-fashioned baroque style. Someday you might want one of these to give you a job.


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? 'Dear Alice,

I'm desperate to find the name of a piece of music for our ten year wedding blessing. Its played by a string orchestra. It starts up fairly high and gradual steps down the scale, then goes back to original start and goes through the whole pattern again. You could be walking in a woodland during a glorious summer's day, or walking through falling golden Autumn leaves. The music purveys all the joy of living and happiness. It's perfect for the background music for our ceremonial blessing.

Many thanks and best regards
Eric May, UK

Ask Alice

Alice Hi Eric,

I'm guessing Pachelbel's Canon here, but otherwise ... well, let's just say that your description, while lovely, is mega-subjective too: the kind of work that evokes feelings like that differs madly from person to person. I could imagine it referring to Corelli, Vivaldi, Mozart -- even Copland or Vaughan Williams. But 'pattern' is a clue: and the most famous pattern is the Pachelbel. (Please note: if it is the Pachelbel, your cellist deserves extra money for playing the same eight notes 95 times in a row!!!!!)

Anyway, I'll shove this out there, and see if anyone has any other ideas ...

All the best,

Copyright © 26 June 2009 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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