There is one thing I don’t like so much as a performing artist. Sometimes I feel irreplaceable and it’s a huge responsibility. Sometimes it leads to play with our health. And why?
I wrote about this theme already in my thesis Body as
Instrument. Physical demands of working as a musician. (Sorry, only abstract in English.)
Why so many times musicians get up on the stage even when they are not feeling very well or they are really sick? This mentality has to come from somewhere. If you have all your fingers in their place and you can still walk to the stage, everyone expects you to do it. I remember playing Dvořák cello concerto slow movement’s solo having fever and my heart racing in my ears in over double tempo of the piece. I told I’m really feeling bad but no one said that I shouldn’t come. There wouldn’t be anyone else to play my part and it’s kind of needed there. On the other hand, in orchestra there is maybe more easy to replace the player if the program is very known pieces so there just might be someone who has played that part. Yes, I heard one time one player had to fly from Helsinki to Oulu to the concert on the same day.
But what happened last night in the theater for me… It would have been too little time to get anyone else there on my spot since the other clarinet player was abroad. To know what parts to play without notes, where to go. I called to the theater during the day to tell that I’m feeling quite bad. But who wants to cancel the performance. It’s really expensive… So I promised to try to come there. Also because my parents and their friends and some other relatives came from another city to watch me. Only that night. There was also the irony, that I got this flu from my mum since I had to stay at my parents place earlier this week for teaching work. Maybe it would have been possible to give the performance without me but I wanted to be there. So I took all the medicines I could and called a taxi because I was too weak to walk. I believe I didn’t have fever but my nose was bleeding just before leaving and it would make anyone weak. In the show it was almost all good. I don’t have to play so much and have time to rest on the backstage. Anyway just in the final scene for me, where we are standing in the middle, I felt that blowing is too much. I even quit playing earlier because I felt dizzy. I took the arm of the oboe player next to me. I wanted to go away from the stage but it was little too late. I almost fell but our angels, servants dressed like angels in the performance, caught me just in time and dragged me away from the stage. It was a pity that it was the first time I got flowers (from my parents) and I couldn’t go with them on the stage during the applause but was lying on the floor backstage.
The reasons for doing this work even when feeling so bad are that you don’t want to cancel if they have to cancel all the show. It’s expensive for the theater because there is so many other people working as well. And of course it is a disappointment for the audience.
Even if you had organized the concert yourself for example with a pianist, you should pay the rent for the venue and salary for the pianist, and perhaps refund the tickets for the audience. And how often you are able to reschedule concerts? I think never during the same year.
For a freelancer musician it also means lost of incomes. No show, no money. And same with the teaching. Many times there is the lack of health care for freelancer musicians. Should we go to private doctors? And who really understands how physically demanding this job is?
Yeah, sometimes I wish I had just a normal day job. I could call that I can’t come and someone else would be able to do those urgent things if I would help on the phone lying in the bed at the same time. Other jobs could wait until I come back.
Well, at least I can say that yesterday I gave my everything. I was there until I dropped. But I’m not sure if it should be like that.