Dear Mum, I’ve only just received your letter telling me about when you were sick. Well, this is not good at all ˗ what does Fred [the cat] think she’s up to letting you get ill? I’ll have a word to say to her when I write! And what you are doing eating stones?? [I think my mother had a gallstone problem at this time.] It must be all this gardening you do. Anyway, I hope that by now you are getting better again, and haven’t gone back to work too soon. I’m very glad that all those marvellous brothers and sisters of yours were within calling distance. They really are great to have around in time of crisis. I’ve written a short letter to Monica, [Stokes] (it is 24 Argyll St, isn’t it?) and I’ll get you to thank everybody else, including Mr B, for looking after you for me. [Mr Bevan and his wife lived around the corner from my mother, and were very good friends.]
I’ve got the morning off this morning (we’re in the middle of production rehearsals so that I always have a little more time to myself) so I’m writing straight away, and I hope to be able to go Mass at 10.00 just to make sure you get better. (Believe it or not it’s only 9.40 now ˗ I do get up early sometimes.)
I went to the first rehearsal of this thing that I have to play for on Thursday night last night. And though I practised the stuff I had to play I didn’t feel very happy at all, and I don’t think the conductor did either. But between you and me, I found him a very difficult conductor to follow, and I’m very glad that there is another rehearsal on Wednesday, before the show. I felt so inadequate last night (when I arrived he was playing for them in great style, and bringing them in with his head ˗ though he does have the advantage of having had the music to work on since last Easter) that I began to get annoyed with my apparent uselessness (essessess), but I thought this is no good, Mike; pull your sox up and even if you aren’t as good as he is, do your best and make it worth their while paying you such a ridiculous fee. They’ve giving me seven guineas! [It seems more ridiculous now that anyone was still paying fees in guineas.] Which works out to about a pound an hour for the hours I work for them. Still I think it’s worth it, because of the amount of practice I have to do on the stuff to make them sound even remotely reasonable. I also went to another rehearsal with the two soloists on Saturday morning, and wasn’t very happy to find that the Mezzo didn’t know her work ˗ and they are supposed to be professionals. Anyway, it was quite a good rehearsal in spite of that, and I got two shocks from it: late in the time I was there they suddenly foisted a Britten Canticle for tenor, mezzo and piano on me which I had to sightread! (I knew it by ear a bit, fortunately, from the record.) [Probably: My beloved is mine (Canticle I) for soprano or tenor and piano (words Francis Quarles), 1947] The second shock was that I did sightread it, and quite well ˗ I was beginning to wonder if I’d been suffering under a delusion all these years I could sightread! And they are intending to perform this piece at the concert too ˗ I think almost, that they should pay me another couple of guineas for the shock treatment!
The biggest bother with this sort of thing is that everything is done in a hurry ˗ and you don’t have time to absorb the music into your system before it has to be performed ˗ music really needs a good working out, and then a rest and then a rejuvenation treatment, and by that time it’s become part of you, and seems to lie under your fingers all that much easier, and to come from you the way it should instead of being forced. (I’m just off to Mass, I’ll finish this later.)
Back Again. To continue. I was under the impression that Chelmsford, the place where the concert and rehearsals are taking place, was somewhere in the North East of London, but I discovered last night that it was about 20 miles or more from Liverpool St, which in itself is about three quarters of an hour from Blackheath. I wondered why they offered to pay my expenses as well as the fee. Thank goodness I didn’t refuse.
They now tell me at the Centre too that I may have to go to Bristol at the end of the week to play the celeste in the orchestral rehearsals for Schicchi and Tabarro which are being held there. The reason for this is that the orchestra we are using this time is the Bristol BBC training orchestra. But I doubt if I’ll actually get there as there is nothing important for me to do on the celeste and to me it seems hardly worth the expense of getting me down there. But that sort of thing ˗ expense, I mean ˗ is what the Centre is rather absurd about. They spend money on all sorts of crazy things (like hiring an orchestra from a town over a 100 miles away when there are just as good here, and having to pay for their travel etc).
You know my large, large grey case? Well, it’ll shortly be on its way back to NZ. Kevin and I are swapping cases ˗ he needs a big one for stuff he is sending by sea, and I find that that case is too large to carry stuff around in, in London, so he’s giving me a smaller one. Because his only day off in the week is Thursday and because I can’t meet him this Thursday, I’m taking it up to Waterloo’s left luggage, and leaving it, and then sending the ticket down to him by post! Sounds like a couple of old-fashioned spies on the job, doesn’t it? Hope you don’t object to my giving presents away like that! I’m sure you won’t. Well, I’m nearly at the end of this aerogramme and I want nothing but GOOD reports from now on.
Lots and lots of love, Mike