Things that should never happen to a page turner
Getting to know the Sinfini Music audience on social media showed that a huge percentage of our followers were musicians themselves.
I wanted to commission a piece of content that would resonate with musicians of all levels. What have nearly all classical musicians done at some stage in their lives that is both terrifying and thankless? Page turning.
Sinfini writer Christina Kenny ran with the brief and a viral hit was born.
Concert page turning is generally acknowledged to be one of the most stressful jobs in classical music. Not only do you have to be able to read music like a pro, you have to be constantly focused on the task at hand. And the number of things that can go wrong is unreal. Seriously though, don’t worry – you’ll probably be fine.
56 Dreadful Things That Can Happen to Page Turner
1. You could turn two pages at once…
2. However, this is in fact quite minor in terms of all the dreadful things that can happen to page turners
3. For example, a sudden breeze could mess up the pages
4. Or you could accidentally throw the entire score off the music stand
5. Seriously, though, it could happen. This guy managed it all by himself
6. Want to bet how many audience members will spring to your aid?
7. NONE. They see your pain as part of their ticket price
8. You’re highly likely to be dealing with an ‘easy to turn’, extendable Scotch-taped score
9. THERE IS NOTHING EASY TO TURN ABOUT THIS HELLISH PAPER CONCERTINA
10. Pianists say it opens like a book. We say – what the hell kind of books have you been reading?
11. The kind where the pages stick together at the base of the inner spine?
12. Or the kind where the outside corners get stuck to the pages underneath?
13. You might get a creaky chair.
14. The noise will freak you out so much that you’ll spend the whole concert pretending to sit after every turn, but actually hovering half a centimetre above the seat, trying not to cry
15. They might forget to put a chair out for you
16. You’ll have to stand for the whole concert, while at least a third of the audience look at you expectantly, waiting for you to burst into song
17. Missed the ‘concert blacks’ memo?
18. There is no purer form of shame than that experienced by a page turner wearing jeans on a stage full of people in black tie
19. Worse: you might accidentally out-glam the soloist. You will never page turn for this person again
20. You could get to the stage and find there’s no music at all because the pianist decided to perform from memory at the last minute
21. Like, what are you even supposed to do in that situation?!
22. Walk off?
23. Sit down and pretend to be enjoying the recital from your special ‘friend’s’ seat?
24. THERE IS NO MANUAL FOR THIS
25. Then there’s the stress of sight-reading
26. So easy to get out by a couple of bars and turn too late
27. Or count in four when it’s actually in two, and miss the turn altogether
28. Or vice versa – turn way too early and leave the pianist to improvise
29. Repeat marks ON THE PAGE TURN
30. It’s hard to believe this could happen in a civilised society, but we’ve seen it before
31. They could at least make them bigger, or red, or something
32. Lots of bars that look very similar – they could happen too
33. Philip. Glass.
34. Looking at the pianist doesn’t always help – you can easily miss a turn waiting for a nod that will never come
35. Cue an ecstasy of fumbling
36. It’s also confusing when they nod at other people
37. Or just nod all the sodding time
38. How are you supposed to know if they’re signalling a turn, or just really feeling the music?
39. ORGAN. Organ could happen
40. That horrid little loft with its tiny little bench
41. Do people have any idea how easy it is to play an accidental pedal note?
42. AND NOT NOTICE?!
43. You might accidentally lean on one of the stops
44. Or play a cluster chord with your bosoms when you lean over
45. Men aren’t safe either.
‘I once had to turn pages of loose A3 sheets for a piece about 45 minutes long. The only way to keep the music on the piano was to stand on tip-toe at the far left of the keyboard and lean forward from the waist, but unfortunately in one particularly frenetic passage, the pianist punched me very hard with his left hand in the family jewels. The next 10 minutes were pppppppp with lots of 40 second pauses, so I couldn’t even swear under my breath.’
47. In slower pieces, you run the risk of falling asleep. It happened to Ivan Ilić – it could happen to you
48. You could fall over
49. Or off the stage
50. You could be stung by a bee
51. Or have stomach cramps
52. Or a runny nose
53. Or a REALLY inaccessible itch
54. BUT YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT ANY OF THOSE THINGS
55. The only way anyone will even know you were there is if you screw up
56. Considering how much can go wrong, you may have to be stretchered off before the concert has even begun
This content was first published on Sinfini Music, reproduced with permission, Universal Music © 2015