As a musician, there are some concerts you perform in that you remember for years to come; they live on in the memory as moments that are special for both profound or simple reasons.
The first I want to write about is the one that is captured in rehearsal at the top of this blog. It was the St Endellion Summer Festival last year, 2011, the first Endellion festival I played at. The particular performance was the last night of the Festival, the third performance of Die Walküre by Wagner, the second part of the Ring Cycle. Never having played the Ring before, it was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to the Festival. This performance was somewhat different, as our original Wotan had sadly been struck down with illness. So the legendary Sir John Tomlinson kindly agreed to come to sing the role for the last night. With Sue Bullock as Brünnhilde, they were rather a formidable team. There are some concerts which are unbelievably emotional, where you come out understanding something new about what you do and why you do it. This was one of those. The power of that performance in that little church in Cornwall with a full Wagner orchestra and Sir John in full flow right behind me as I played is not something I’ll forget in a hurry – and I loved playing Wagner before I went!
Another night to remember was my first ever BBC Proms performance in 2001. If you’ve ever been to the Proms, you’ll know it’s a special experience due to the Prommers and the particular atmosphere. This Prom was with the EUYO – it was my first tour with them and I was playing on the third desk of the first violins. We were about half way through the five week tour, and we were playing Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 and Elgar’s Symphony No 1.
So the Brits in the band were all excited to play on home turf, as we’d been rehearsing and performing in Europe up to this point. Being in London meant an opportunity to see family and stop off at home to pick up clean clothes and sleep in our own beds for a night after 3 weeks away. When the concert started, the atmosphere was electric. And then… within a page of starting, my E string snapped. Adrenalin kicking in, with everyone still playing around you, somehow you have to hope 2 things. That you remembered to put spare strings in your pocket before you went on stage, and that you can get it changed easily with as little fuss as possible! Going off the stage at the Albert Hall wasn’t really an option. The dresses the girls wore in EUYO back then did have a pocket buried somewhere in the folds of the masses of material – and thankfully I located the single string that was still in there from the last concert – an E. It was the most nervy couple of minutes – it’s remarkably difficult to change a string when everyone’s playing full pelt around you, with what feels like all the eyes of the audience staring at you! Breaking that string in that Prom had one major effect; ever since, I’ve always had a full set of spare strings to hand whenever I’m on a concert platform!