CONFESSIONS OF A WOULD-BE PAGE TURNER
Finding a page turner is usually the responsibility
of the pianist in an ensemble.
Invariably, until the dress rehearsal of the approaching concert, the pianist flicks
the pages, thinking blithely that he can manage somehow. Then a moment of panic
sets in, and he scouts around for willing suckers among friends, acquaintances,
As a performing cellist, when between engagements,
I find myself becming a prime
duck for this job. I have many important qualifications:
I own a dark suit,
I can look funereal, I don't take
up too much space on stage, I read music somewhat
fluently, my eyesight hasn't yet failed me completely, I am mostly even tempered,
I don't wear cologne, after-shave lotion or hairspray.
But I invariably decline the honor! For me, page-turning is the most nerve-wracking
experience. Performing on the cello, even before a large audience, I'm cool
cucumber. I have nerves of steel. But the
responsibilities of being a page turner
are truly daunting: what if you turn two pages at a time! turn too soon! too late!
miss a Da
Capo! dal segno! or, God forbid,
a quick Segue! What if your
boardinghouse reach fails you
in negotiating oversized contemporary music pages?
My definitive life-altering experience came at a
concert many years ago when,
as a naive young man, I consented to turn pages for the Prokofiev D Major
Violin Sonata. The professional pianist was none other than the formidable mother
of my erstwhile girl friend. Though shaking in my boots, refusing her was out
of the question. At the last minute the desperate violinist begged me to turn
her pages as well.This required intricate footwork, as I commuted across the stage
between pianist and violinist. There were some close calls, but no major disasters.
At the end, I even received applause from the appreciative audience.
Nowadays, however, when asked to turn pages, I respectfully
decline. I leave that
to certain Members of Congress.
POSTED: SEPTEMBER 6, 2007
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