excerpt from 'Musings and Memories of a Musician' pp. 168-170 (484 words)

excerpt from 'Musings and Memories of a Musician' pp. 168-170 (484 words)

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Musings and Memories of a Musician

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A wide and lucrative field of activity for instrumental virtuosos and singers there was during the spring and summer season in the many concerts with which rich people were wont to entertain their guests after dinner, and it was at one of these private soirees that, the very first year, I had a rather interesting and exciting experience. The scene was one of those palatial residences in Belgrave Square. Two operatic prima donnas, England's foremost tenor, two foreign virtuosos, a violinist and a ’cellist, and myself were to go through a long programme of music, commencing at 11 P.M. There was leading into the ball-room, which by the temporary erection of a platform had been converted into a music-room, a little antechamber, reached by the back stairs, which served as a green-room. This we caged lions paced impatiently up and down until our respective turns came and the faithful Mr. Saunders, the representative of Chappel’s, who managed the affair, opened the doors into the arena to let us loose. We had just heard the applause following the customary high C natural of the prima donna's final cadenza when that poor lady re-entered the green-room in a state of great excitement, nervousness, and indignation, exclaiming on the point of tears, “It is too awful, they don't pay the slightest attention to the music, they talk and giggle it’s horrid,” and so on. “You don’t mean to say,” I asked—poor innocent me—“you don't mean to say they talked aloud whilst you sang?” and being informed that such indeed was the deplorable fact of the case, my mind was made up. Soon my turn came: a recitative and air from a Handel opera. As usual I was my own accompanist. After striking a few forte chords by way of prelude I began to sing. For a few bars there was silence, and then, at first from far away down by the door at the end of the room where it opened into another, came sounds of talking and tittering. Count Beust, a distinguished diplomatist and amateur musician, turned round—he sat in the first row—with a few sharp and solemn “Psht—psht, ...” but hardly to any purpose. The talking and tittering grew louder and louder, and so did my voice. No use. With a few “bangs” I improvised an abrupt ending to the aria, inwardly apologizing to the shades of Handel. Amid the applause of the audience, the majority of which only by that applause realized that something in the way of singing had happened, I withdrew to the green-room, took my hat and coat, and in spite of the anxious entreaties of poor Mr. Saunders to, for goodness' sake, stay and do my second turn, left the room and the house.

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excerpt from 'Musings and Memories of a Musician' pp. 168-170 (484 words)


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