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I got a call from my friend Mark.  We used to be quite close but he left town over a decade ago and so we, comparatively, lost contact.  He took his family out of town because of problems of finding schooling for the kids.

So he got in touch to say that his boy was playing with the E.Sussex Youth Orchestra and they had a gig in town and would I like to go??  We could catch up on a few things, hear some music and lend support.  The band was going to be playing Shostakovich.

Of course I said yes.  Too good a social opportunity to pass up.  I checked out the Orchestra and it was a serious business. Arts Council funding, London Symphony Orchestra affiliation.
I checked out Shostakovich.  Bit of a Russian dude who kept his head down and toe'd the party line during Stalin but when the old despot died he was straight out on the street whistling the avant garde stuff that woulda got him shot a few years earlier.

Came the night and I showed up at the gig.  Chatted with me old mate and his missus and then with the lad  who was knocked out that I new something about the secret dissident composer.  Plenty more than his folks did!!  (A little groundwork can go a long way.)
The lad went off to get sorted with the orch and I continued socialising with the proud parents.  Then it was time for us to troop into the venue.

We were up in the gallery and it afforded a good view of what was going on below.  The orchestra came in and took their seats and it was a big outfit.  Some of them were prolly in their 30's so there was obviously some flexibility in the interpretation of "youth" to maintain the standard.
As a bass player, my eye was first of all drawn to the double bass section where there were half a dozen big chested double basses.  As an electric player, I was immediately reminded of the adage "If you want more volume, get more speakers".

There were a lot of string players in the show so there was a lot of din of tuning up, then they got comfy on their seats, adjusted their music stands and in came the conductor (no youth) to get the show on the road.

The band struck up the first number and we were off.  They were very stiff in their posture and their playing, squinting at the music on their stands.  No one could tap their foot in time, some couldn't tap it all and some had their feet running away from them.  I'd like to say they were nervous but it's no excuse.

The conductor got them to the end of the number and then there was a pause as the "soloist" came on.  The soloist was a cellist and he was clearly bought in for the evening as he was in his 30's and a virtuoso.

The soloist greeted the conductor and a frisson of excitement visibly ran through the whole orchestra.  The virtuoso was going to play with them!!

He sat down, tuned his cello to the violins, nodded to the conductor and they were off at a pace.  The soloist, his curly black hair flying, no sheet music before him and his foot tapping in time, played as if it was a song his mother had taught him. 


And at that point I was lost to them, lost in thought at the philosophy of music.



You see, I go out and play music.  I do it with two, maybe three other people, a max of four.  Nothing is written down except the order of the numbers we're going to play and that can change as the gig goes on.
Nobody sits down except the drummer.
We are all soloists, we all consider ourselves to be virtuosos, and we all play tightly together. 

That's the deal.


Oh, and none of us would play with anyone who couldn't tap their foot in time.



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