Holywell Music Room on Hollywell St. has been the focal point of classical music in Oxford since 1748. Haydn and Mozart have both performed on its stage, and now well-known musicians from all over still congregate here. In late July, Chelsea and I decided to attend a concert here on our last day of four in Oxford. The Adderbury Ensemble and pianist Viv McLean were to perform. We walked in to buy our tickets and as we were paying, a man in black concert dress to the right of the ticket counter looked at us and said, “Oh, and you’re going to be turning pages for us during the concerto too, right?” He had a smirk on his face, so I played along, “Of course!” “Really?” he asked. Again, I jokingly assured him, “Sure! I can do that.” “Great!” he exclaimed, “We’ve been looking for someone to turn pages all day!” At this point, I began to realize that perhaps this wasn’t a joke. A series of confused questions and answers took place between this man and I, and before I knew it, he was saying, “Can I take you backstage to meet the pianist?” I was taken through the hall, across the stage and through a door into a room where I was introduced to Viv, a handsome man who took my hand and bowed slightly, making me feel as if I were in a Jane Austen movie. Both men kept thanking me profusely for being willing to turn pages, like it was a matter of life and death, when really it was I who was so thrilled to even be there! I went back, shaking slightly, to take my seat and enjoy the first half as an audience member.
The ensemble played Divertimento in D by Mozart excellently. Though they had no conductor, they moved together effortlessly. Then Viv McLean played a favorite of mine, Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor, followed by Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, one of the pieces I can’t imagine anyone being able to memorize, but he had. After that was the “interval” in which I nervously made my way backstage to wait with the musicians. Whereas the ensemble and the pianist had played separately during the first half, they were now to play Chopin’s Piano Concerto in F minor together, and I was to turn pages for Viv. I chatted with them for a while, and they were so pleasant and enjoyable that I was sad to have only known them for one evening. Eventually we were all out on stage and the concerto had begun. The music was absolutely beautiful, though I could hardly concentrate on it because I was so concerned with turning the pages at the right time, my fingers digging into my thighs, keeping count like my life depended on it. Each of the three movements had probably 15 page-turns, some of them easier to keep track of than others. Thankfully I only lost my place right near the very end during a 4-page-or-so-long period of triplet after triplet after triplet in the piano part, and Viv seemed to have it all by memory at that point anyway.
I was so honored to have been of assistance in this concert that I didn’t feel I needed anything in return, but I was given my 15 pounds back and also a free copy of the Adderbury Ensemble’s recent cd of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which has been a favorite of mine since the time of doing “ballet” and “figure skating” in the living room when I was little. Below is a picture of me with the ensemble members on the left (some of them had already changed from concert dress), and Viv nearest me on the right. I miss Oxford already!
All the best,