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Everything I Know About Life, I Learned From My Conductor

Phone Solo

Maestro was exhausted.  It had been an unrelenting eight weeks and he wouldn’t be home for two more.  Between the closing performance at the Opera House last night and the early flight this morning he’d managed too few hours sleep and spent his flight time studying scores.  Since he’d landed it was bloody hot, there was a hotel mix-up and an eleventh-hour programme change; would he mind doing the Beethoven instead of the Brahms?

Can do, these things happen. You’re very welcome.  Is the air conditioning not working?

Tuning seemed unnecessarily noisy. 

Wonderful to see you all again, let’s start at the top. 

Focus.  Concentrate.

Bar 145, keep the semiquavers steady strings.  Quiet, please.  Listen to the winds at the vivo – can’t hear Brian, sorry?  Quiet everyone, please.  Exaggerate those crescendi after letter D.  Quiet.  QUIET!

People.  We have a lot to get through today.  Let’s keep the talking to an absolute minimum.

Thirty more bars.  An exquisitely soft cadence.  A moment of blissful silence. 


A mobile phone.


Maestro inhaled deeply beneath the dull roar of jocular ribbing from the orchestra and placed his baton on the stand.  He raised his head.

May I PLEASE.  HAVE.  SILENCE.  That is absolutely unacceptable.  Lose the phone or leave the studio.  One more interruption like that and you can rehearse yourselves, I’m not interested in a circus this morning. 

Now. If we’re all done, may I have some focus.  PLEASE.  From the repeat.

Another twenty bars.  A whisper quiet passage.


Another mobile phone.


Maestro froze.  So did sixty musicians.  Waiting.  Waiting.  The phone trilled blithely on, a triumphant solo in a vast vacuum.

IS THIS SOME KIND OF A BLOODY JOKE?  Whose phone is that?

Waiting.  Trilling.

Suddenly stricken, Maestro clapped one hand violently on his pants pocket and the other to his mouth.  He pulled out his phone and silenced it.

Deliberately, inscrutably, he stepped down from the podium.  A large, black-lined instrument box stood on locked castors in the corner of the rehearsal studio.  Maestro advanced like the condemned towards it.  One lanky limb after the other, he climbed into the darkness of the box.  A long arm appeared from the depths, groped about for the lid, and lowered it shut. 

A disembodied voice:


Tea break...

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