Saturday, April 17, 2004

Injury time

I'm getting a taste of Life on the Other Side. It hurts.

Venturing to a piano in public is about the dumbest thing someone in my profession can do. Since I have to pass judgment on other people's musical achievements, trying to perform myself is asking for trouble. Still...playing the piano + marrying professional violinist = concerts. My colleague Olly Condy, dep ed of Classic FM Magazine, has asked Tom and me to give a recital in a series at the church where he's organist, St Paul's, Clapham. With rash delight, we chose the Cesar Franck sonata, which happens to have one of the nastiest piano parts in the repertoire.

Upshot: headache. Except that it's not so much headache as shoulder ache.

About six weeks ago my shoulder started hurting and it's got worse. I've eliminated various other activities that could have caused it - weight training (oh yes), carrying the shopping, carting around big handbags full of books...but with the concert a few weeks away, I can't cut out the piano; and the more I practise, the clearer it is that Monsieur Franck is to blame. So the heat is on - the Deep Heat.

It's so easy, from our usual position as happy listeners, to forget what an intensely physical thing playing a musical instrument is. Musicians are 'dreamers of dreams', absorbed in a world of beauty, spirituality and moral edification.....aren't they? No way. They're like Olympic athletes. The more I practise, the more spurious my privileged position as reviewer feels. Does ANYONE who doesn't play have ANY idea how DIFFICULT it is? It takes your whole body, your whole mind, your whole spirit, your whole heart, and if you emerge unscathed in each department you are damn lucky. Hey guys, dear musicians, I take my hat off to all of you.

I'm seeing the physiotherapist later this week and after our concert I can close the piano until I'm better. Spare a thought for the professional musicians who can't stop - no play, no pay. How many of them are pushing on through pain like this in front of oblivious audiences and critics? How many of them ever find the backup, support and understanding they need?

I'll never forget the nightmare I had as a student in Cambridge when I got tendonitis. In those days (1986), nobody had heard of RSI...Over 18 months I experienced:

* Sports injuries clinic - ultrasound.
* GP - anti-inflammatory drugs.
* Different GP - diagnosis of glandular fever-type virus.
* University Counselling Service - recommended for Neurotic Music Student Who Thinks Her Arm Hurts. Sat there telling long-suffering counsellor that my arm hurt.
* Chiropracter - mad Yorkshireman with chips on both shoulders who'd missed his true vocation (butcher). Nearly fainted in Newnham College afterwards.
* Acupuncture - no fun if you don't like needles. Emerged with bruising which, I'm assured by those who swear by acupuncture, isn't supposed to happen.
* Packet of frozen peas, wrapped in tea towel - applied to sore arm daily.
* Finally I bought a little bottle of homeopathic remedy for pains in ligaments. Two weeks later I was better. As I don't really believe in homeopathy, this was quite a surprise, but thank goodness it worked.

I was lucky then. Hundreds are less lucky. My toast today is to them. And my plea to everyone else is: just think a little more about what has gone into the creation of the performance you are listening to.