Sunday, 20 November 2016

we christen the stage

Today was the day we tried out the new stage for real.  Six of us converged at the church after the morning service to put it up.  The ideal number would probably be three, though two could do it pretty comfortably, and as we all stood in each other's way and gave contradictory advice about which piece should go where next I thought that six was certainly too many.  But it is a new toy, and we all need to learn how it works.  The vicar, and the vicar's guide dog, and two other priests came to admire it, and we all agreed it was a very fine stage, and we'd be even more pleased with it once we'd seen it supporting a piano with our own eyes.

The only potential snag was that we had mislaid one of the bolts for attaching the steps to the front edge, but luckily the community across the road has a well stocked workshop and the guardian of the old stage was able to find a replacement.  I think he was an engineer in his working life.  At the practice session with the new stage he was talking to me about left hand threads as if that helped, and I realised that to an engineer the idea that anybody might find clockwise and anticlockwise confusing, particularly if they were looking at it upside down and had already been fiddling with it for ten minutes was completely alien.

When I next saw the stage it had a piano on it.  Success.

The performer for tonight's concert was the youngest and least established of the artists in this season's programme, a singer supported by a sponsorship scheme for selected musicians at the start of their careers.  The music society is signed up to the scheme, which entitles and obliges us to one and one only heavily subsidised concert per season.  Obviously we hope we'll manage to pick out the artist in the brochure who goes on to become a household name, then we can preen ourselves that we saw them here first.  Tonight's singer was pretty good, and that's according to some of the other members of the society who know more about classically trained singers than I do, as well as my untutored opinion.  The church was gratifyingly full for a relative unknown.  The only problem was that nobody knew quite when they were supposed to clap.  The music society's audience knows to follow the convention (which I'm all in favour of, though some people seeking to broaden the appeal of classical music condemn it as stuffy) of not clapping between movements, but there was a spatter of slightly tentative clapping between every song during the first half, until at the start of the second half she asked us (very nicely) to save our applause for the end of each cycle.

I preferred the Strauss she opened with to the Britten she ended on, but that says more about Benjamin Britten than her.  I didn't think much of his version of Waly, Waly, which he managed to conclude with the floating verse about how love is fine when new but fades away, instead of the more interesting and Waly, Waly specific lament that if the singer had known at the start how it was going to end she would have boxed her heart in a cask of gold and sealed it with a silver pin, which is way more interesting.  And Britten leaves out the verse in which the singer wishes her baby was born and sitting on its nurse's knee and she herself was dead and gone, the green grass growing over her.  That is the big reveal.  The problem isn't just that she's heartbroken, it's that she's pregnant.  I learned from the translation of the Strauss supplied in our programmes that waterlily translates literally in German as water rose.

So the new stage was well and truly launched.  Our previous page turner who had been very reliable for a couple of years had disappeared off to music college and we had a new one, presumably also recommended by one of the local music teachers as being good enough at sight reading to turn the pages at the right moment and responsible enough to be trusted to turn up.  Her mother told the membership secretary that it was the girl's first ever paid music job and apparently she was thrilled.

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