Monday, April 30, 2018

12th Sept 1967 (probably) - Audition

Undated, as usual, but postmarked the 12th. A Tuesday.

Well, dear old mother, Things are slowly sifting along. Today was A-DAY (audition day) and Crowl duly went along. But let me start from the beginning.

John Hammond
This morning I woke up feeling just a trifle panicky about not having been able to do any practice for nearly a week, so rather than do it blind and practice on the bench-top in my room (which I tried!) I scouted round to see if I could get a studio. Well, I looked through all the likely places in the Pink pages, and finished up ringing Palings, a big music store. I knew from passing that they were a large place, but they didn’t have any now, so I was probably a few years too late! However, they suggested (at my request) ringing the Conservatorium, but they couldn’t help either. They suggested Ricordi’s, who did have one. So I screamed in and booked it. They’re on the 5th floor on a place in Pitt St, and like the Chess Club building it’s a very old (and slightly sleazy) place. But they had a piano! So I John Hammond (who apparently played correspondence chess with Dad quite a bit). In spite of the name, he’s some sort of European (a ‘semi-millionaire’ according to Cecil) and anyway, he very kindly gave me the name of a guy who is very up in the music world, with his (Hammond’s) card. So!
walked fairly solidly (in about 150 degrees heat) and then went and had lunch with Cecil and a friend of his,

Next, (after another free lunch!) I returned to K.C., and spent the next half-hour or so getting nervously ready, (including pressing my suit pants!) Actually, at that stage I wasn’t greatly concerned about anything; the music had gone all right at the practice, so I wasn’t very worried. BUT!, I soon got to be! Anyway, I got round to the Trust (about 10 minutes’ walk) and found my way to Mr Oxenbold (who turned out to be much younger than expected) and he directed me to a studio. By this time I didn’t feel like practising, but I warmed up (ha! ha!) a bit and fiddled about till they came for me. [This may have been Moffatt Oxenbould, later the artistic director of Opera Australia.]

Three men in long, tall suits arrived – Mr Hall, Mr Bynel, and Mr King.  (The first two are producers) (the other a not very good conductor – according to Anne). They asked me to play something I was comfortable in (!) and so I whipped into the Beethoven. But I don’t think it was terribly inspired. Anyway, they stopped me before (after some effort) I’d finished it and plunked three horrible scores down in front of me – in quick succession. First Trovatore, a snaky soprano area which I started, and was asked to take faster! Well, I ploughed thru that. Then, (ho! ho!) (but I didn’t tell them till after that I knew it) Fledermaus. The Czardas, to be precise, which I also had to start again, because I played an incorrect note that I seem to recall playing for a while back in ’66! Then, ugh, ugh, the most fiendishly fast baritone aria that Mozart ever wrote, from Giovanni Presto (multissimo) (it might as well be) – well, we didn’t get on too well (like the Trovatore, I already had a fair idea how it went) but we finished it; it’s a louse. (The baritone in NZ sang it in Italian because he couldn’t manage it in English!) Don’t suppose that would have mattered anyway. [This was toured in 1965, if I have my facts right, along with Trovatore. I ushered at His Majesty’s for at least one performance. Coincidentally, as I retype this, I’m just working my way through the score of Don Giovanni, including that notorious Presto, in preparation for Opera Otago’s production in August 2018.] 

Well, after that, they walked and left me to gather up my shattered nerves! (Sorry about all the “!”s, but life’s full of them just now!) BUT, Stephen Hall said he’d like to see me in about half an hour’s time, so I went and had some coffee, not really caring what the outcome was, but slowly gathering back my calm! One hour later I finally got hold of him again, and he was surprisingly encouraging.
He reckoned that I’d got ‘quite a lot of talent’!!!!!! So I modestly said, ‘Yes, I knew that already,’ ‘what else is new?’[I’m not even sure whether this is a joke, but I hope it is.Anyway, after a small chat, (wherein he took down quite a few details) he asked me if I’d come back in a couple of days, when he’ll get some others to hear me – so, that seems to be reasonable. He sez it’s unlikely that I’d get any work until next year (which I’d expected) but he reckons that there’s limitless opportunities for coaches if wanted, and all in all he was quite nice, in spite of the fiasco. He reckoned, in fact, that I coped fairly well with the music, because I didn’t take one look at it and go – ‘Oooh!’ (I didn’t tell him I probably would have if they’d given me something I didn’t know.)

So, since then I’ve rung the Conservatorium, and they suggest coming along and seeing them about accompanying the teachers. IF (I said ‘if’) I can get work (I’ve still to try the Rockdale and State Opera Cos) both of which should be paying propositions!) I might stay here – you wouldn’t object too strongly would yuh! I’d miss you too, terribly, but it might have to be. If I did stay, I’d see, say the priests at St Mary’s and see (or even St C…) if they could get, or knew of, some board, or even a decent flat, I could share. (I don’t think I’d like to live alone too long!)

Sooooo! We’ll see what happens, and I’ll keep in touch! By the way, I got a letter from YOU today – sorry about the car – but it’s nice to see you still love me!

LATER Went to see Flying Dutchman tonite – percussion box practically empty – so sat there. [This was because I’d played with a number of the members of this orch in NZ, and the percussionist and I were good friends: so he gave me free access to the performances.] Very dreary production – hardly any attempt made at acting by the principals, but singing great. Orchestra very weak throughout, particularly the horns and brass. Quite effective lighting – 1 and 3 acts (on boat and wharf) done behind a gauze cloth, which gave it all a misty effect. Krug came into the box during the 3rd act – and had a wee chat.

Love Mike