Scientists say that there will be a serious power shortage in the future. Music and power are linked in more ways than one!
At the Edinburgh festival in August 2012, the London Philharmonic’s performance of Rachmaninoff’s ‘The Bells” was cancelled due to a power cut at the Usher Hall. Before the concert, I went to meet my old friend Tony Chidell who was in the orchestra. We had not seen one another for more than twenty years
Do you know it has been more than twenty years since the Maastricht treaty was signed, Bill Clinton was elected, and we were last together in London? The cancellation of the concert meant very little to me of course, except to say that had the announcement been made sooner we could have spent some more time together.
“Power failure at the Usher Hall”, the Scottish news said last night. It’s difficult to get to the truth through such imprecise language. There is a forest of nebulous, platitudinous, multi-purpose vocabulary that is used by critics, radio presenters and third rate conductors everywhere, to bewilder and amuse their audience and fuel their own self delusion.
Surely there must be some who suffer a nightmarish dread of an era to come, where it will, be required of “experts in the field” to provide some proof that they have some real knowledge of their subject or even some practical experience of it, beyond the operation of a CD player in a radio studio, or dramatic corporeal gesticulation on a rostrum, which activities are at best incidental to the genius of the great composers, and the sounds of the finest orchestral players in the world.
We will never know, unless we turn to the critics, who seem to know everything, and I half expected to see a review of the concert the next day. It certainly would not have been the first time that a review had been published, of a concert that never took place nor is it the first time a concert has been interrupted by darkness.
Years ago the lights went out towards the end of a concert during one of our RPO Welsh tours during the finale of the seventh symphony of Beethoven which was steered calmly to its conclusion by the composure and silver haired experience of the then ostracized and destitute Royal Philharmonic, (though my own youth and meagre ability produced little or no contribution to the proceedings). The conductor was still faintly visible, by moon and street light to those who were interested but he had appeared to have lost his place in the score long before the power cut had intervened to sharpen our concentration.
His consequent histrionic and desperate attempts to simulate control and acuity had been made the more frantic by the sudden darkness, and when the heroic rescue of the symphony was acknowledged at the end with thunderous applause, he very obviously thought it was all for him, and having spotted a little pool of light that had fallen onto the stage from a streetlamp, he jumped into it to take his triumphal bow!
It was a joy to see you again, still laughing and performing in such distinguished Philharmonic company, though that sticky sandwich bar and the malodorous dressing room revived the anxiety and dyspepsia of touring days for me, and I freely admit to feeling a glorious feeling of relief when I took to the street at last and headed for home.
In Wales all those years ago the maestro narrowly escaped the horror of anonymity that they all seem to fear so much, by drawing on the power of people who knew their trade, and I can still remember the look of relief on his face, though for myself, having been restored to sanity by a couple of years of normal, non orchestral life I cannot imagine any greater anonymity for any musician than to appear in an orchestral concert without an instrument!
The real power of music lies in the hands of those who compose or perform it and last night the electrical ineptitude of the Edinburgh city council deprived the maestro of a platform for his conjuring trick, but it is the power of money and the media that perpetuates the maestro’s deception and protects his five figure fee and it is that power that in these times is failing us all who want simply to perform and to afford regular meals.
I’ll be in London in January for a recording, assuming all is well with the National Grid.