Sue Cardigan: Page-Turner
It’s an honour, an absolute honour, to do what I do. Just being in the presence of all that lovely music. What a privilege! What an absolute honour! Only thing is, I just have to actually remember to turn the pages. It’s so easy to get distracted by all that loveliness. But no. All joking apart, you’ve got to be professional about these things. You’ve got to concentrate – to, as it were, focus. It’s not just about reading the music, you see. It takes a surprising amount of skill, a surprising amount of raw talent, really, to be a page-turner. You might not think it, but it does. What I always say is, you don’t notice a good page-turner, but you do notice a bad one! People usually laugh slightly when I tell them that.
For starters, you have to make sure your arm doesn’t get in the way of the music. Then you have to turn just one page, not two at once. Which, believe me, is not as easy as it sounds. Some of that old music is as sticky as a toddler with an ice-cream on a summer’s day. Before you know it, you’ve fast-forwarded the music and then you’re in the wrong place and you’re trying to unstick the music and turn back all at the same time and then it’s fallen off the piano altogether and the pianist is looking at you like you’re a piece of particularly horrifying avant-garde music and oh, it’s a nightmare. I’ve had to go and have a lie-down afterwards more than once, you know, when that’s happened. Not that it happens often, I hasten to add. I’m known as one of the best page-turners in the whole of Lancashire and that’s not a title I take for granted, believe me.
The most important thing, really, is to watch for that crucial but ever-so-subtle nod from the pianist. You have to be in touch with the pianist, with his body language. Oh yes. I’m very much in touch with Geoffrey’s body language. Geoffrey’s our pianist, you see. He plays for the choir, and he gives recitals at our church to raise money for the roof repairs. I live for those recitals. It all starts with the rehearsals. Geoffrey and I get to practise alone, in the church, just us two. I live for those rehearsals. I always make sure I wear my softest pullover for the moments when my arm – accidentally, of course – brushes against Geoffrey. Oh. It makes me shiver just thinking of it.
There’s a recital today, actually, so I’m wearing my best black dress from Per Una. What do you think? The way I look at it is, it’s subtle, so as not to distract from the “maestro”, as I call him – he loves that – but it’s also really quite glamorous, I like to think. It even has sequins around the neckline. Pretty racy for Clitheroe.
I won’t have any of the wine on offer at the back of the church, though, of course. No. Just an orange juice for me, so that I can concentrate. So that I can focus. I tell people, I say, I really mustn’t have a glass of wine thank you very much because I must concentrate, or focus, on turning the pages properly. I can see they’re very impressed when I tell them that.
But look who’s here today. Geoffrey’s wife, Marjorie, has decided to grace us with her presence, resplendent in that royal blue twin-set of hers. There she goes, talking and laughing and not understanding anything about the music, or how hard it is to play, or sing. Or turn pages. Not a clue. Just listen to that laugh. Like a goat with croup. It is going to take all my inner reserves of strength to get through this one, I can just feel it. Maybe I’ll have that glass of wine after all.
© J. Wyld, 2016
This one’s in memory of Victoria Wood.
[All of the characters who appear on MusicTypes are the product of my fevered imagination. None of them are based on real people, known to me or in the public eye, but are collections of human characteristics which we all, to some degree, share. They’re written with affection. I hope you enjoy them.]