This post follows on from my recent one on paying our musicians, which highlighted the uncomfortable fact that several well-known London venues – both public and private – expect musicians to perform for nothing – and yet either charge a fixed admission price or have a retiring collection, which the organisations keep for themselves. I have just received a depressing account of an evening violin and piano recital, given in a Home Counties venue by two outstanding musicians of international calibre. Although an admission fee was charged, the performers were paid precisely nothing. They asked for their rail fares and they were grudgingly told that this would be transferred to them subsequently. They found this to be very humiliating.
Even more depressing is their description of the concert itself. The audience, numbering around 50, seemed totally passive and unenthusiastic. The acoustics were very dry, and the piano was old, but what struck them most was the ‘very short clap we received’. Afterwards, ‘nobody came to us after the concert. We collected our stuff in our changing room and found the hall completely dark but the piano still opened with our scores on it’. They were ‘quite shocked’ by the entire experience.
These two musicians have given the same recital at one of my venues to rapturous applause, and are very level-headed young people who are not prone to exaggeration. Their treatment at this concert does seem rather shabby and deplorable. I wonder whether this happens at other concert venues as well. I suspect that it reflects the lowly status of musicians in the eyes of at least some sections of society. It rather reminds me of Mozart having to eat with the servants before leaving Salzburg ! I would be very interested to hear ‘horror stories’ from other musicians who have suffered similar abusive experiences. Let me know on firstname.lastname@example.org .