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All Risks Musical: an irreverent guide to the music profession
by Alice McVeigh
ISBN 0-9544040-0-9
Paperback, 96 pages
Copyright 2002 Pocket Express
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All risks musical

The cellist and writer Alice McVeigh captures the inside story of orchestra players in her 96-page book "All Risks Musical."

Those of you unfortunate enough to play the piano but not play it well enough to be the soloist of a piano concerto might have that yearning to be a member of an orchestra.

I wrote to McVeigh to review her book because I am such a pianist and have for years wondered what it's like to play in an orchestra. Although blessed with not having to carry your instrument, pianists don't get the privilege of knowing what it's like to be a team player, such as that of an orchestra or the cast of a musical production. The closest thing to being a member of the team is that of being a rehearsal pianist. But that is where it ends.

Illustrated with cartoons by Noel Ford of "Punch" and "Private Eye," the book is a humourous albeit cynical self-help guide to etiquette in UK orchestras. McVeigh identifies 35 rules covering the entire arena of proper behaviour in both professional and amateur orchestras, on stage and off stage, at home and abroad.

McVeigh confirms what I've guessed all along --- musicians are an emotionally charged, sexual bunch who show their true nature when on the road.

"Don't have an affair with the conductor, however dashing, lonely or generally misunderstood he might be. The odds against his actually abandoning his wife and children for you have been calculated by our experts at 999:1."

I am sure that orchestra members will get the inside jokes which, together with jargon that might have benefited from a glossary of orchestra terms, pass over my head. I do not know what a fixer is, for instance. The book would have a wider appeal if equipped with an appendix of what constitutes an orchestra, with illustrations of different instruments and a flowchart of how one auditions to become a player.

Having said all that, it is a handy little book to give to friends as going away gifts, which is precisely what I intend to do for my violinist friend who coached me on my latest piano-violin work in progress.

30 August 2004 Monday

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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku

writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page.
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