|WILLOW'S MAGPIE TALES No. 48|
Every orchestral player, so scenario-writers would have you believe, carries a conductor's baton in his case. This is not true: open any instrument case in any bandroom at any time, and you will find a near-black bow-tie or flimsy scarf, seven old assorted programmes, an outdated lottery ticket, a sandwich and a dirty duster.
There may also be an instrument of some sort, but there will be no more sign of a conductor's baton than of a poached egg. Probably less.
There is a great deal of romantic nonsense written about musicians. Novelists endeavour to convince the public that members of the profession wear an air of glory, and manage to infuse them with a spirit of romance and adventure, that is denied other mortals. A musician's life is, in reality, as prosaic as any; there is no more glory attached to it than to the lot of a shop assistant, and no more adventure than to the life of a travelling salesman.
The concert goer is, perhaps, more deluded than one who knows less about music. After weeks of happy anticipation he listens, entranced, whilst sixty black-clad performers play his favourite symphony. It is only natural that he should place these beings on a mental pedestal, and imagine that if they do have the same sordid necessities and vices as the rest of the species, they at least forget about them whilst they are playing for his benefit.
The concert goer also holds the idea that musicians play chamber music in all their leisure moments. The opposite view is also widely held: that musicians play poker whenever they are off duty, and are too sharp to admit that they are on an easy racket. The two opinions, in a nutshell, are that musicians are either long-haired or bald. Some of them are, of course, but never at the same time.
The first thing a player does when he comes on to a stage, having made sure that he has the best available chair and sufficient room to play, is to study the audience. Very attractive members of the audience, male or female, will occasion an appreciative titter. Critics will cause mournful glances in the direction of the conductor, blaming him in advance for the performance's shortcomings. Any player spying a fixer - these exalted beings rarely attend concerts - will keep the sighting to him/herself and play like they've never played before. Getting on to the A-list of a well-known fixer is what every musician aspires to; fixers have such sought-after money-spinners as light music sessions, film sessions and TV jingles in their gift. Jingles pay the most for the least effort.
Musicians develop, very early in their careers, a fine technique of conversation with the public. They will size a layman up from his first sentence, and adapt their remarks to suit his taste, on the principle that every member of an audience is a potential employer, or at least a possible supper. There is no propaganda for musicians, only for music, and it is incumbent on every player to convince as many people as he can that he is a fine artist and a nice chap and that the orchestra to which he belongs is the finest in the country.
During their career, most players adopt a fatalistic attitude, and have difficulty in keeping up the attitudes that are expected of them. They would really much rather be at home painting the bathroom or sorting their stamp collection.