For those who toil

by Keith Clarke

Music critics don’t always have the fondest place in musicians’ affections but you have to admire their stamina. OK, our stamina, since I’m a paid-up member of the motley crew, so beware a little self-regard, but I’m thinking about the brave souls who work for the daily papers and have to do the arts editor’s bidding, for good or ill.

Last week I cast an eye over my colleagues doing three hours of Britten in London on Thursday, the same colleagues doing three hours of Mozart in Cardiff on Friday, knowing that they would be on duty at Glyndebourne on Saturday for a performance of Meistersinger that started at 2.55pm and ended at 9.40pm. OK, you get a long interval at Glyndebourne, so that everyone can get through their foie gras and Dom Perignon without fear of indigestion, but you get my drift.

I excused myself from the Wagner, for reasons best kept between me and my urologist. But as I raised a leisurely glass or two on Saturday evening, I felt honor bound to toast those who toiled.

Of course, musicians have every right to stamp in here and say “What about us?” They are the ones putting in the real effort, night after night, while we sit on our fat butts then file a bit of pontification. But we know the blood, sweat and tears that go into performance, whereas journalists are generally looked on as lazy sons and daughters of bitches who spend their whole lives standing around quaffing other people’s liquor. Like the man said, “Journalism? It’s better than working.” Sometimes it just doesn’t feel that way.


On the subject of being excused from Wagner, we asked one of our Classical Music magazine scribes to come up with Top Ten accessories for musicians for our June 4 edition and he rather controversially included a Shewee, a device enabling ladies to discreetly answer the call of nature. He reports: “An acquaintance recently told me of her dread of playing Götterdämmerung at the Royal Opera House, not because of any difficulties in Wagner’s score but because of the prologue and first act’s two-hour running time.”

Apparently the Shewee was pressed into service with great success. Whether the conductor was aware of fumblings beneath long skirts as the music soared goes unreported.

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