Backstage Access

As I sat backstage after the orchestra concert a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded how much I miss hanging out back there. I used to take it for granted, but I’ve come to appreciate how fortunate I was to have that kind of access.

It’s little things I miss, like watching how musicians prepare for concerts and rehearsals. They all seem so calm – not like the student days, when everyone was hyper and nervous about the upcoming concert. I was the kind of neurotic player who would arrive at least an hour before the concert started, so I marvel at those players who show up mere minutes before showtime.

Conductors and soloists are usually pretty relaxed, too. Pinchas will talk about the Sens game right up to the second he walks on stage, and he’ll ask for the score as soon as gets back. Only once did I encounter a really nervous soloist. Her name escapes me, but just a minute before the concert she confided that she was worried about going on because she didn’t really know the piece that well. I felt bad for her – it must have been scary to cross that threshold, see the bright lights and a full hall, and wonder if you were going to make it to the end of the piece.

I came to love watching concerts from the wings. I’d pull up a bass stool and sit by myself in the corner, far from the whispers and rustling candy wrappers that have spoiled many a performance. With a clear view of the conductor and mere feet away from the last desk of strings, you sometimes get a taste of what being on stage feels like.

I kind of regret going backstage on Thursday night. B and I went to see the English Theatre production of Macbeth, and we went to the Green Room to get a drink at intermission. I was slightly startled to find myself face to face with Banquo, still in costume with his face caked in blood. Just minutes ago he was on stage, haunting Macbeth from beyond the grave, and now he was chatting with our Principal Trumpet, who just happens to be his neighbour. So much for the willing suspension of disbelief…

Incidentally, Macbeth was great. It took my ear a while to get used to the 17th century text, but I slowly caught on. Peter Hinton, the director, set the play in World War 2, drawing parallels between the Macbeths and Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. I thought it really worked well, and the set design and lighting were stunning. It’s been a hit, again proving that nothing sells like stuff written by dead white men.

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