Thursday, February 27, 2014

Glass. Not that Glass, though.

Last night I took a trip to London's newest concert hall: Milton Court, a 600-seat, wood-lined venue under the auspices of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, across the road from the Barbican Centre. I hung around to talk to people after the concert, then set off for home (I don't have a car, so only use public transport) at about 10.20pm...and somehow got deeply and hopelessly lost in an area to which I've been trotting regularly ever since the Barbican opened in, er, 1982.

It wasn't pleasant. There was nobody around except for one or two speeding (and occupied) taxis; the giant new blocks housing financial and legal institutions all look the same when deserted by night - glass, glass and more glass, alleviating the surrounding concrete but creating more of the same problem in a different style; and these great piles seem to shake up the GPS on the mobile phone, which didn't seem able to show me where I was or where I was going. I know the way to Moorgate, honest guv. Yet somehow I ended up at St Paul's Cathedral. It is magnificent at night with its floodlighting, but it wasn't where one wanted to be.

Location, location, location? London's concert halls occupy some funny places. The South Bank has transformed for the better this century, but it took a long while to reach the status it has now and make the most of its riverside setting (and even now there'll be trouble until they can sort out the refurbishment issues with the mayor, who it seems prefers to placate a handful of skateboarders rather than encourage access to a varied feast of cultural activities for several million people). The Barbican's location has always been awkward and unwelcoming, and Kings Place is cursed in terms of journey and surrounds, though it's terrific inside. The Wigmore Hall is the one venue that is central for all. It's an issue of practicality, of course, London's land and property prices being as they are; the idea of "regenerating" an area by building a new venue, too, is admirable, but I'm not convinced it has yet been proven to work. The biggest mistake of London's musical scene was the decision not to rebuild the Queen's Hall after the war. It was just north of Oxford Circus.

The hall at Milton Court, though, is in itself wonderful. There's a resemblance to the auditorium of Kings Place, but the acoustic is a little warmer, the space bigger and perhaps more versatile, and the wood darker. It was a great forum in which to cheer on Tasmin Little and Martin Roscoe in a delicious programme of Mozart, Fauré, Ravel and Franck. The Guildhall used to have the dubious distinction of being housed in one of the nastiest buildings in which I've ever spent time - it was (and the old building remains) right over the Barbican's car park, fumes and all, and you can't see much beyond the concrete. The new place is an improvement beyond recognition.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Lucky Little

Tasmin Little has just learned that she's both Artist of the Week all this week on Classic FM and Artist of the Week all next week on BBC Radio 3. Comparisons with buses come to mind, but she certainly deserves an accolade or many, even if they do all arrive at the same time. We can hear her in recital tomorrow at Milton Court - London's newest concert hall, clocking up a fantastic series in the new building of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama - when she and Martin Roscoe play, among other things, my very favourite sonata, Fauré's Op.13 in A major and much more besides... Above: Tazza plays Kreisler's La Gitana with a rose...and John Lenehan (piano).

Where has the British talent gone?

No British violinists have got in to this year's Menuhin Competition. Have Brits been left behind in music's global market? You bet. Here's my piece on the topic from today's Independent.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Alice Herz-Sommer 1903-2014

It is farewell to the pianist Alice Herz-Sommer: survivor of Terezin, daughter of a friend of Kafka and Mahler, resolute lover of life and an inspiration to us all. She made it to 110.

The clip above is from a film by Christopher Nupen, made when she was 98. Here's an article I wrote about her in 2010 and here is an obituary from The Guardian.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Victory looms for nascent Lucerne opera house

If you're in the know about the Lucerne Festival, you may have heard that its director Michael Haefliger's plans to build a new opera house, the Salle Modulable, for the Swiss lakeside town looked set to turn into fairy dust upon the withdrawal of necessary funds. This has been challenged in court and the opera house has won. We hope that in due course opera amid the mountains will become as vital a highlight of the European musical calendar as Lucerne's existing festivals are today.

Salle Modulable Foundation wins its case: withdrawal of funds was unlawful

Lucerne/Hamilton, 21 February 2014 The judge of the competent court in Bermuda has ruled that the withdrawal of funding for the Salle Modulable in Lucerne took place unlawfully and that Butterfield Trust (Bermuda) Limited must fulfil its obligations.

The Salle Modulable Foundation has won its case before the Supreme Court of Bermuda: the withdrawal of funding for the Salle Modulable by Butterfield Trust (Bermuda) Ltd. (Butterfield) in October 2010 has been ruled unlawful. The presiding judge has found that a contract of donation governed by Swiss law was entered into in the summer of 2007 and that Butterfield must meet its obligations arising from it. If the Salle Modulable Foundation submits a feasibility study, adapted to the new circumstances, for a venue with flexible arrangements for experimental music theatre in the City of Lucerne, Butterfield is bound to honour the promise of finance it originally made in the amount of up to CHF 120 million. The feasibility study will be updated and adapted as part of the New Theatre Infrastructure Lucerne (NTI) Project.
Butterfield’s counter-claim was rejected in its entirety. The judge has not yet made any final pronouncement on other questions. This will entail a further hearing. The judgment may yet be referred to the Bermuda Appeal Court.

Hubert Achermann, Chairman of the Salle Modulable Foundation, says: “Naturally we are very pleased with the outcome and believe that justice has been done. Our expense and effort have paid off, and I thank everyone who has supported us in these lengthy proceedings. Still, we remain far from our objective. First, we expect the opposing party to accept this judgment and desist from further time-consuming and costly legal proceedings. Then we have to produce an updated and authoritative feasibility study, in co-operation with the Canton and City. For this purpose, we can build on the work done so far. We have a fine opportunity to create something unique for Lucerne, as the City of Culture and Festivals, and for its institutions, not least in memory of the great patron, Christof Engelhorn.“ 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

An extraordinary winner at the RCM's 2014 Chappell Medal competition

I was lucky enough to spend yesterday adjudicating the Chappell Medal - the Royal College of Music's top award for pianists. With me on the jury were the pianists Margaret Fingerhut and Charles Owen and we were prepared for a day-long feast of music from the creme-de-la-creme of the college's students. What we hadn't anticipated was being completely blown away by one extraordinary winner.

John Granger Fisher from Brisbane, presented the kind of programme you don't see every day in concert halls, let alone a college contest. He opened with the Haydn Sonata in B minor; next, the Brahms Paganini Etudes, both books thereof; as interlude, the Chopin C sharp minor Etude from Op.25; and to close, Balakirev's Islamey. We were put in mind of the story that Murray Perahia tells about Horowitz: at one of Perahia's consultation lessons, Horowitz said to him, "If you want to be more than a virtuoso, first be a virtuoso." John - a modest and unaffected performer - made the gargantuan demands of the Brahms and Balakirev look easy, wrapping them up with stylish phrasing and classy finishing touches. His virtuosity knocked us over. More than that, he simply moved us to tears.

We were delighted to award second prize to Riyad Nicolas from Syria, a fascinating, accomplished young artist who is very much his own person and excelled particularly in Ravel's 'Scarbo' and Ligeti's 'Fanfares', as well as some gorgeous Scarlatti; and third to Jun Ishimura, who drew us into her beautifully coloured and shaped performances of Beethoven Op.109, the Chopin B flat minor Sonata and Ravel's La Valse. Prize for the best undergraduate went to the highly promising Aleksander Pavlovic from Serbia and we much enjoyed the performances by Dinara Klinton from Ukraine whose Prokofiev Sarcasms were glittery, original and well projected, and Hin-Yat Tsang from Hong Kong, whose tone quality and sense of love for the music were exceptionally beautiful.

Here's John's biography from a competition he entered last year.

John Granger Fisher

John Granger Fisher
Age: 27
Origin: Australia
Education: Hartt School of Music University of Hartford, Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University
Competitions and Awards: Queensland Piano Competition (First Prize), Yamaha Australian Piano Competition (First Prize), 4MBS Chamber Music Competition (First Prize), John Allison City of Sydney Piano Scholarship, Florence Davey Piano Scholarship, Queensland University Postgraduate Award
John Granger Fisher was born in Brisbane, Australia in 1984. He began piano lessons with his mother at the age of four. In 1997 he commenced studying with John Winther at the Young Conservatorium Queensland. In 1998 he began studying with Natasha Vlassenko. From 2006 to 2008 he studied with both Natasha Vlassenko and Oleg Stepanov.
John completed the Bachelor of Music (Advanced Performance) with First Class Honours at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University. He has been studying at the Hartt School of Music since September 2008. He has taken lessons from Oxana Yablonskaya and Boris Berman.
John has won first prizes in a number of competitions including: the Queensland Piano Competition (2001), the 5th Yamaha Australian National Piano Competition (2001) and the 4MBS Chamber Music Competition (Trio) (2004).  He has also been awarded the Queensland Conservatorium Postgraduate Award (2006); the Florence Davey Piano Scholarship (2007); the John Allison City of Sydney Piano Scholarship (2008) and the Hephzibah Menuhin Memorial Scholarship (2009). He received the second prize in the 2009 Louisiana International Piano Competition.
In Australia, John has appeared in the Tyalgum Festival of Classical Music, Kawai Keyboard Series, 4MBS Beethoven Sonata Series, Mostly Mozart Concert, Ithaca Auditorium Brisbane City Hall and the 4MBS Mozart on the Move Concert Series. He has appeared as soloist with a number of Australian Orchestras. In 2009 he toured with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor”.
John has also maintained a keen interest in accompanying and Chamber Music. In 2005 he accompanied the Queensland Chamber Choir in a performance at the Queensland Parliament House. He has performed in a variety of chamber music ensembles and is involved in the 20/20 chamber music program at the Hartt School.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Interval drinks: brewing a revolution?

The clever old Barbican has launched a free app with which you can order your interval drink in advance, from 48 hours earlier to 30 mins before the concert begins. More info here. And you can download it here. Well done, chaps. Fast may this spread.

It's not a minute too soon - we all know the score. You have a 20-minute interval. You spend 15 minutes of it queuing up, another 2-3 processing your drinks order (finding, pouring, paying), and then you have 2-3 mins to down the liquid before you go back into the hall (being a classical audience, you are expected not to take said drink in with you). Alternatively you might have arrived early to spend 15 mins queuing before the concert to order your interval drink. And you can't help wondering, having been to sensible places like Germany, why we can't do as they do and have a whole rack of ready-poured helpings of the most popular drinks - red & white wine, beer, orange juice and water - so that people can just pick one up and hand over the cash pdq, which would save person-hours, aggro and the usual headache of having to choose between a drink and a trip to the loo.

Speaking of which, please can someone invent an app to create faster access to the Ladies Room?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Thinking of Kiev

Following Kiev developments with much anxiety. Updates can be found here. 

It is about 20 years (!) since I went there with a close friend whose family was from the city originally, but had emigrated to Israel in the 1970s. She hadn't been back since she was about eight years old.

It was a powerful week that I will never forget. We were overwhelmed by the warmth, hospitality and profoundly cultured outlook of the people we met; they lived often in conditions of what we in the west regarded as quite some deprivation, but never lost their sense of dignity and perspective for a moment. I was bowled over by everything we saw - from the beauty of the cathedral to the numb horror of the monument at Babi Yar.

The depth of the metro seemed incredible: you'd get on the escalator at the top without being able to see the bottom. And back in the open air I adored the magnificent monasteries and the sound of their bells, which is pure Rachmaninov (guess where he got it from)...and we visited the Great Gate, which is really rather small compared to Mussorgsky's picture of its picture. Inside crumbling concrete high-rise blocks, astonishing things included the fact that the lift actually worked - getting into it was a little frightening, though - and the sheer quantity of cockroaches, as I just didn't know you could have that many cockroaches in one place at the same time...

In those days everyone was still adjusting with some surprise to the lack of Iron Curtain and experimenting with the new openness, dipping their toes - and often more - into the notion of capitalism. Pianists turned into marketing managers. Smart cars were still rare, but existed. New blocks with smart flooring and plate glass windows rubbed shoulders with the Soviet era towers near the sprawling Dnieper. We ate blinis and Russian salad and probably got through a fair bit of vodka; our hosts opened some Soviet Champagne, which tastes a little like fizzy dry sherry, and washed it down with huge amounts of cake. We heard an extraordinarily gifted young pianist in a celebratory concert at the conservatoire; she was about ten, so she must now be 30. I hope she is still playing.

I often think of our friends there and wonder how they are and what has become of them. Sending you love, wherever you may be.

In tribute and in hope, here is some of that bell-laden Rachmaninov... played by Martha Argerich and Lilya Zilberstein. It is from his Suite No.1 and it's called "Russian Easter", but please note that this is a musical statement, not a political one!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Jonas's Winter Journey

The CD you've been waiting for is out at last - the official release date in the UK was yesterday - and sure enough, it's a humdinger.

Winterreise is a piece that has scared us, devastated us and left us musing on Schubert's state of mind: why was he drawn to create art that evokes emotions so far beyond despair? I was in a seminar group for it during my student days and we analysed it every which way, but there is always a kernel within it that eludes such treatment. You can see how Schubert manipulates the key structure to carry you downwards with the protagonist; you can  understand that the dancing lilt of 'Täuschung' is a recycling - it pops up in his opera Alfonso und Estrella in a totally different incarnation (thank you, Christian Gerhaher, for recording this) - but do we really understand what drove Schubert, how his genius was fired by such snowy bleakness? Of course not. We know how he burrows into the dark recesses of the heart - but we can never truly know why.

There are of course many fine interpretations on record, some of which you need to feel very strong to hear - my previous "benchmark" is the one by Matthias Goerne with Alfred Brendel at the piano. But this new disc by Jonas Kaufmann and his pianist and mentor Helmut Deutsch can leave you wondering if perhaps it is worth winter existing, even with the snow in the US and the storms here and the wind and the rain and the darkness, just so that Schubert could write this work and they could perform it. It is not just the depth of Kaufmann's conviction that makes it special, but the skill with which he projects the meaning: his diction is of course magnificent, but he is able to fill each word and every phrase with colour that holds the entirety of its emotional import. This is truly extraordinary. I reckon you don't need to understand one word of German to follow this story. It's the clearest possible demonstration of just how music becomes a universal language in every sense.

Here are the artists to introduce it on film, on JK's website.

Intriguingly, the makers of this film are of the Wunderlich family. Yes, that Wunderlich. JK has plenty to say about the great Fritz in our interview, so watch that space...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Just listen to this!

The American cello prodigy Sujari Britt hadn't crossed my radar until five minutes ago. Please just have a listen to her; she's a serious musician with fine teachers, a musical family and a genuinely astonishing gift. In this engaging short film, when she's asked "So you could play the cello forever?" she responds: "I can - and I will."

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Time for the Queen to have a musical mistress

Brilliant piece in today's Independent on Sunday by Claudia Pritchard: as Max steps down as Master of the Queen's Music, it's time that a woman held the job. Judiths Weir and Bingham, Sally Beamish, Roxanna Panufnik and plenty more could all be in the running.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ooh, I've got a mystery Valentine!

JDCMB has received a mystery Valentine!

Well, a mystery to you. When/if I think of a suitable return message, you'll probably guess correctly...

Mademoiselle Jane Huré, to whom Gabriel Fauré dedicated his Chanson d’Amour in 1882, has surely by now earned a right of reply. It would go something like this: 

“Let me get this straight. You love my eyes.  And my forehead. You’ve mentioned each of those three times. Does that mean you actually love me - it's far from obvious! You call my voice strange, but you seem to like that too, right?. And there's this as yet undecided area you like... somewhere between my feet... and my hair? Plus you say you want to kiss me on the lips?  And you've got some wishes, rising up towards me? Hm. I’d better see those..."

 My mystery correspondent has also, helpfully, included a link to the Fauré sheet music.

Margot Fonteyn's lost kiss revealed

OH JOY, there's going to be a ballet season on BBC TV in March. Included is a programme of highlights from The Sleeping Beauty from 1959 starring Margot Fonteyn - and the above kiss sequence which has been long lost and resuscitated by a clever someone somewhere just in time for Valentine's Day. Other airings will include Good Swan, Bad Swan - Tamara Rojo on dancing Swan Lake; Darcey Bussell talking about her ballet heroines; and Dancing in the Blitz, about British ballet during World War II, including rare footage of Ashton's Symphonic Variations.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Today is the 20th anniversary of my mum's death. It still feels like yesterday. We miss her every day of our lives.

This is the Marietta Lute Song duet from Die tote Stadt by Korngold, sung in 1924 in Berlin by Lotte Lehmann and Richard Tauber, here rendered with superbly remastered sound. If you don't know the opera, it is all about coming to terms with loss. As Korngold's Paul discovers, you don't get over things. You can only learn to live with them, because there is no alternative.

If you want to see a video of the full opera, I can recommend a recently released DVD from Finnish National Opera - a production by Kasper Holten with stunning designs by Es Devlin, starring Klaus Florian Vogt as Paul and Camilla Nylund as Marietta.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Cello goddess" drawn into the afterlife

Maya Beiser, dubbed a "cello goddess" by the New York Times, is heading for London to play David Lang's concerto World to Come next week. Here's my interview with a fascinating and ground-breaking figure whose effect on the contemporary repertoire for her instrument is simply immeasurable. The performance, with the BBC Concert Orchestra, is on 24 February at the QEH, booking here.

Inspired by the effect of 9/11 - the composer was living close to the World Trade Center at the time - the concerto portrays the idea of a cellist and her voice being separated then reunited in the afterlife. It was originally written for solo cello with multitrack recording; he then orchestrated it for use in a ballet. This will be its UK premiere. Lang, whose music has a dark brilliance to it that stands out a mile, won the Pulitzer Prize for his Little Match Girl Passion in 2008. Together with Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon he was one of the founders of the Bang on a Can collective, and Beiser became a founder member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

Although he has risen to be one of America's most often-played contemporary creators, and on these shores was for a time composer-in-residence for the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Lang's music is all too rarely heard in London. It's high time one of our leading orchestras gave a go to an American composer - especially one who has a chance of raising audience interest. It's time to examine British preconceptions about American music, too. However did this spiritual and deeply unsettling piece find its way into a programme by the BBC's "light" orchestra (or should that be "lite" today?) alongside the likes of Bernstein's Fancy Free?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bach to the ballet

The second performance at the Royal Opera House of Wayne McGregor's brand-new ballet Tetractys - The Art of Fugue - had to be cancelled the other night due to an injury sustained by Natalia Osipova that afternoon. While we wait for her to get better - hopefully by tomorrow - here is my interview with McGregor about it for The Independent. It came out the other day while I was blogless in NY.

Um, in case you were wondering where I was...

...I've been in New York and - in between shopping, museum-hopping and seeing all my oldest and dearest friends - spent a rather pleasant hour in a press room at the Met with a certain tenor, who recovered from his bout of flu in time for a good chinwag. I've been trying to make this happen for years rather than months...and it was worth the wait.

JFK - Jonas Fluey Kaufmann, natch - is in NY preparing for a new production of Werther, which opens on 18 Feb, directed by Richard Eyre and also starring the glorious Sophie Koch as Charlotte (see the new issue of Opera News, just out, for my cover feature about her). HD cinecast is on 15 March. Be there. You'll like it.

It was also wonderful to see Glyndebourne's production of Billy Budd - imported wholesale, orchestra, chorus, Marks Elder and Padmore and all - receive a massive ovation at the Brooklyn Academy of Music the other night. New Yorkers, you have two more chances to see it this week. Here's a rave review from the New York Times.

Just flew home from...JFK. Incredibly, only 5 hrs 40 mins.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Rameau 250: don't just sit there, do something!

Jean-Philippe Rameau died 250 years ago, so there's a nice anniversary to provide an excuse to spotlight him. He's an absolute magician - just as his later successors, Ravel and Debussy, would be. I'm a late convert to French Baroque: I've grown to love the richness of its musical invention, its startling originality, its mellifluous beauty and its dizzying range of emotion - excitement, humour, sparkle, pathos and more - and Rameau is one of its reigning triumvirate, alongside Lully and Couperin.

Recently the tenor Lawrence Olsworth-Peter got in touch to say that he is starting a new opera company especially for the anniversary, the International Ramaeu Ensemble, so I've asked him to talk to us about it. Roll up to St George's, Hanover Square, for their big launch concert on 21 February.

JD: Lawrence, please tell us why you’ve decided to set up a new opera company for the Rameau anniversary? What will be special and/or unique about it? What will you do that’s different from others? [if it is] What do you hope to achieve?

LOP: The first and foremost reason for setting up the International Rameau Ensemble was the stunning music that Rameau composed, mostly as official court composer to Louis XV. 
When I first heard it I couldn't believe how audacious his writing was that it made other baroque composers seem perfunctory! We are a group of baroque specialists who play all around the world with various ensembles including the OAE and London Handel Festival and we want to be the UK's first research led French baroque Opera company exclusively devoted to promoting Rameau and as it's his 250th anniversary this year we thought this is would be the perfect time to start it. We would love to bring Rameau's music to a whole new generation of music lovers who would never have had the opportunity to hear it live otherwise. 

JD: How effective has Kickstarter been when trying to raise money for the project? Is it a course of action you’d recommend to others?

LOP: Kickstarter is a great phenomenon and was really good as helping us raise our profile online. Over half of kickstarter projects don't meet their target as was the case with ours, but there are many other crowdfunding sites out there now; you just need to know which one will best work for your project.

JD: Please tell us something about Rameau? What do you love about his music? Which pieces should people start with if they’re not familiar with it? 

LOP: I was surprised to discover that Rameau didn't start composing operas until he was nearly 50 years old which, is in remarkable considering how many he wrote between then and his death in 1764. What excites me is how daring the music is and how he pushes the harmony, orchestration and singers right to the extremes of possibility. One of my absolute favourite pieces is 'Entree de Polymnie' from Les Boreades (I'd love to have this played at my funeral!) and the aria I love to sing the most is 'Lieux Funestes' from Dardanus so I would recommend either of those!

JD: Might this be a wonderful way to bring the great music of the French Baroque to a whole new audience? Why do you think this area of music hasn’t yet achieved the recognition it deserves in the UK?

LOP: Five years ago I had never even heard of Rameau's work even though I was already a professional musician and I think that is because music colleges haven't encouraged its performance and the British public are just not aware that his music exists. French baroque music in general is not regularly performed by music festivals, although there have been recent productions at ENO and Glyndebourne which is fantastic to see and we predict that it will increase within the next decade

JD: Please add anything more that you’d like to tell us about it?

LOP: I mentioned that we are research led and I believe that this is important so that people can see authentic performances of his work. One of our members is writing a PhD in Rameau orchestration under the tutelage of Graham Sadler who is who I is our honorary patron so we intend to also be a specialist training ground for young performers in this area.

Our big launch concert takes place on Friday 21st February 2014 at the beautiful St Geroge's Hanover Square where we will be performing 3 Grand motets by Rameau and we hope that you will join us and hear the music for yourself. We also have big plans for an Opera double-bill in the autumn so look out for that. For more information please visit

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Did you know...? 10 amazing life-lessons for survival in and beyond the music world

As my father liked to say, we live and learn. Often, though, we don't learn quite enough, soon enough, about this weird and wonderful place known as the music biz. Here - in no particular order - are some top life-lessons observed from the UK concert scene that can nevertheless apply to working existences far beyond it. May they help you leap-frog through life.

1. Never underestimate the importance of a nice cup of tea. The success of a concert seems directly proportional to the alacrity with which the performer is offered refreshment backstage when he/she arrives. A well-run venue will offer its artists a cuppa pretty much as soon as they walk in. If you have to ask if one is available and the response is "No", chances are that your concert will be a washout, and not just because you're thirsty. Venues: remember, you never know when your performer might turn out to be, in fact, Miss Marple.

2. Be prepared. Be ready for anything. Think through outcomes; include all eventualities; and pack your survival kit. For instance, a concert kit for the UK, September to May or so, could include some/all of the following: bananas, chocolate, muesli bars, a bottle of water, a suit carrier/similar for your concert clothes, a blowy heater, an extension lead, a lamp (preferably with extendable stand), music stand(s), a travel iron, a spare pair of shoes, an umbrella, a bag of your merchandise plus a float of change (especially 1p coins if you insist on selling things at £6.99 rather than £7), hair dryer/hairspray, an iPad/tablet/music case fully loaded with your music/script, a recharger for your phone, a train/bus timetable, two pens in case someone goes off with one of them, a thermal fleece, fingerless gloves, make-up and ear protectors. And possibly a thermos, in case you ask for a cup of tea and they say no.

3. Be organised about your home life. Make sure you've fed your partner/kids/cat, watered any plants, turned down the heating, locked the back door, put the bins out, switched off the oven, unplugged the TV, ironed enough clean clothes for your trip, washed your concert outfit, told the neighbours the dates you're gone, and so on. If you're all sorted at home, you'll be able to relax and focus on your job without suddenly thinking, "Oh my God, did I leave the oven on?" in the middle of the Chopin B minor Sonata.

4. Plan ahead. If going by train, book faaaar in advance to get an affordable ticket - you might even have some fee left. Never agree to travel in a car if you don't trust it or the person driving it. Always plan to arrive earlier than you need to, in case of delays such as signal failure, leaves on the line, sheep on the motorway, etc. Besides, arriving at the last minute may leave you too muddle-headed to notice what's actually going on under your nose.

5. The harder you have to slog to get bums on seats, the less successful your concert will be. A poorly run venue will show no interest in promoting your concert and probably won't even have a piece of paper up saying it's happening. A well-run place, though, will most likely have an established, loyal audience that trusts it to offer good events. What's true at the bottom will probably be true at the top (see Miss Marple, above).

6. Switch off your mobile phone. You think it's embarrassing if one goes off in the audience? Try having it happen on stage.

7. If something is a success, everyone wants to take the credit. It's good manners to give credit where it is due. But someone attempting to grab limelight where it is not due - for example, by saying they organised something when someone else did it - is not only bad manners: it is dishonest, disruptive and upsetting to those whose efforts are being trampled on. (Conversely: if something is not a success, nobody will want to take the blame except, probably, those who least deserve it...) It's exactly the same in most other fields, of course - e.g., advertising: as this article says, this is your work and you need to protect it.

8. If you have to stay over somewhere, do not trust internet reviews. Get a personal, word-of-mouth recommendation. [Come to think of it, don't trust the internet for anything, ever, let alone bloggers ;).]

9. Put your work on a proper business basis that accords everybody involved the respect they deserve, clarifies the financial position from the start, and doesn't confuse the issue with personal angst, guilt-tripping, pressurising, and so forth. Stand up for your rights. If you don't, you've only yourself to blame, because you're being too nice...

10. We are mostly too nice. If we are too nice, we are used, exploited or walked upon. Or, in some cases, skated upon. Here's an extreme example. The Southbank Centre, as leaseholder of its land, would be perfectly within its rights to send in the police to clear the crumbling skate park so assiduously supported by our mayor - but it has always been too fair-minded and too nice to do that. The bottom line, though, is that if they can't get at the space to repair it, the QEH will eventually become unsafe and will be forced into disuse, which wouldn't even be good for the skateboarders.