Music and Vision homepage


Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Problems down at the ol' wind quintet,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? 'Hi Alice,

I have a problem with my wind quintet. We have been together for a number of years and normally get on together very well, but one of our members has had a fair amount of success in orchestras and solo work recently, and got (I think anyway) a bit of a swelled head. Now this person is laying down the law and making himself a real pain in the group.

Query: should we try to get somebody else? Or talk to him frankly?

The tension is getting to us (to me anyway).

A woodwind player

Ask Alice

Alice Dear woodwind player,

Very tricky one.

To answer it sensibly I would really need to know:

  1. How long the quintet has been going
  2. What financial commitment each member has put in (if any)
  3. Whether or not any extant member is romantically involved with the unnamed successful one
  4. Whether or not there are any recording contracts signed up for and
  5. Whether the other members are with you on this

However, in the -- tragic -- really absence of these facts, I'm guessing that you're a good group but not famously good, and that nobody is sleeping with anybody.

In such a case, I prefer option 2 (to speak frankly to your irritatingly successful group member). For a start, it may well be that he is completely unaware that, from being a valued member he has effortlessly transitioned into being a pain in the behind. In these circs, you would be doing him a seriously good turn by pointing out their recently-acquired insufferability as no orchestra will (no, they'll just rub them out).

Secondly, it may open up a fruitful discussion about issues of which you may be unaware, such as that the irritating one is annoyed at the lack of rehearsal time, or non-prevalence of recordings. You never know where it might lead (that's a warning, by the way) but every chamber group needs a letting-off-steam meeting now and then.

Thirdly, you might discover something mortifying, such as that his kid just slit her wrists, or his mother just died. A lot of people (God knows why) are very loathe to mention such extenuating circumstances as to why they might be approx ten times more of a pain in the bum than usual.

In the aftermath of the nuclear explosion (I allude to the 'friendly chat') you will then be at leisure to consider alternative oboe players (just a guess ... oboists are sooooooooo difficult!!!!)


Copyright © 12 June 2009 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

Ask Alice



 << M&V home              Alice's previous columns >>