Last week I played a lunchtime recital in Aberdeen, the first time I’d played in the city for ages. I took a train early enough to allow me to see sunrise over the Firth of Forth, followed by a spectacular curve around the coastline of Fife as the first light was touching the landscape (see photo). Made me wonder why I don’t take early trains more often!
Getting out of the train at Aberdeen I was taken aback by how cold it was. I knew I didn’t have long to rehearse, and as I walked up the grey cobbled streets towards the hall in a cutting wind, I started to wonder whether I’d actually have time to warm up, physically as well as in piano-playing terms.
Winter often presents the musician with extra challenges, especially if the performance is in a building with inadequate heating. Despite previous experience of concert situations where the first task is to thaw the fingers enough to be able to play any faster than Andante, it is curiously difficult to factor such knowledge into one’s preparation. You accept another invitation to play in a church in winter, and yet you pack your thin concert outfit and your glamorous shoes, and don’t think of taking a thermos of hot chocolate.
If I feel chilled, I like to warm my hands by putting them in a basin of warm water. This is rarely possible in public buildings where the sinks often have just one tap, sometimes just with cold water. If the water is hot, sometimes boiling hot, it’s un-adjustable with only one tap. And nine times out of ten there is no plug to put in the sink anyway. “Stops people putting the plug in, leaving the tap running, and walking away.” So there’s nothing for it but to do the hokey-cokey with a gush of boiling water. ‘You put your right hand in, you take your right hand out; in, out, in, out, shake it all about…’.
Anyway, after an alarmingly cold morning I got my reward when a huge and welcoming audience turned up to hear the lunchtime concert. And during the concert they were so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. An ideal audience, then, even if they were all sitting there in their coats and scarves.