We had dinner last night with a friend who plays professionally in a string quartet. He’d been coaching a young string quartet from Paris. They got to talking about rehearsal venues, always a vexing problem for chamber groups and one that I and my friends have never successfully resolved. We generally travel long distances to one another’s houses, or make complicated arrangements to borrow rooms in larger houses. We worry constantly about disturbing neighbours. Renting studio space is not an affordable option in London, especially as we are not paid for rehearsing.
The French musicians reported that they have no such problems because, as a string quartet resident in France, when they reach a certain level they’re entitled to their own rehearsal space in a specially set-up and government-financed building in the centre of Paris. They can go there at any time to rehearse, and in the breaks they often meet up with other string quartets rehearsing there too. Over coffee, the quartets swap news and plans, often learning of interesting opportunities, or hearing useful nuts-and-bolts information about venues and promoters.
My British friend and I sighed with envy as we imagined this scene. Our own rehearsal space, paid for by the government, in a city-centre building devoted to chamber music! For a moment or three, we wished we could turn the clock back and emigrate.