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Press Release: 24 August 2007
The new violin
Turnham Green to Zurich
Venice to Rome via Stockholm
Kampala, the Tender Talents Magnet school
Australia to Hong Kong
Taipei to China
Buenos Aires to Miami
USA, Canada and back home
Turnham Green to Zurich
A photographer rings up. He’s heard the Mark Lawson interview and would like to take some pics. I do a brief interview with a journo from the Times. He rings back while I’m out and speaks to Jane but has to go to print before he can speak to me. When the article comes out there are a couple of minor inaccuracies; I lead the London Mozart Players, not the RPO and I can only surmise he got the bit about ‘one of the world’s greatest violinists’ from my mum..
The article certainly does the trick. The day before we were fretting about not having any media interest. Now all three phones start ringing off the hook. I’m recording with the LMP and dash off to hastily arranged interviews between recording sessions.
BBC Breaksfast, CBS, ITN, BBC News 24, the Today Programme and RAI all call, as well as numerous papers. Jane drafts in help to tidy the house, in preparation for the CBS and ITN crews that want to film inside.
Somehow I get my bag packed and get to bed at 3am. Up at 6.30 to prepare for the day. Cycle down to the tube station to do a spot on Today from the radio car before being whisked off to White City for Breakfast News. The black marks under my eyes present something off a challenge to the makeup department but the interview is fine and I’m soon on my way back to Chiswick for a few last minutes at home and waiting crews from ITN and CBS.
The house is now mayhem. The crews stay out of the way with the skill of a corps de ballet. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing and there are last minute emails to deal with. Miraculously we leave the house, on schedule, at 10.15.
At the local Bedford Park Festival, Torin Douglas announces me to the crowd come to see me off and I play a little bit. I’ve still not had a chance to get used to the fiddle and my ampified rendition of the E major prelude sounds like a bee in a jar, but the assembled throng are charitable in the truest sense of the word, and our money collecting buckets are soon overflowing.
As we walk over the road to the tube it suddenly dawns on me that I’m about to leave Jane and the kids for the longest time I’ve ever spent away from them. Aware of the assembled cameras and unsure where to look I adopt a Zoolanderish middle distance stare which I hope doesn’t look too affected.
At Covent Garden we’re greeted by a smaller crowd and our own policeman. After a short stint there it’s down to Waterloo where I do a quick busk at the Jubilee line entrance before where, ominously, I am almost completely ignored by passers by.
A bundle of Euros from the buckets are stuffed in my hand and I grab some pounds ‘just in case’. I say goodbye to Jane at the terminal and a few hours later arrive in Paris where, I am greeted by an old pal, Bobby.
It is clear my fifteen minutes of fame are over. I queue for an hour to buy the vital Interrail pass and then we set out to meet two of my sisters-in-law, Nathalie and Sasha who show me to my first pitch, Place des Voges. Bobby, who is 82 and recently came close to losing a leg after being bitten by a spider, struggles with the many staircases at the Metro stations along the way.
I stand in the middle of the park. I am used to having my audience waiting before I come on stage. Getting the fiddle out and starting to play with no-one there feels a little like diving into a pool, not knowing whether there’s any water in it. Not a great pitch. The gaggles of Parisians, sat on the lawns, look on in bemusement but don’t move. Or applaud. A tourist approached and films me for several minutes, then moves off, leaving my case still un-annointed.
I move to some nearby arches, where there is a little bit of an acoustic though fewer people around. After about fifteen minutes I have just over €4 in my case though half of this has been put there by my supporters.The next morning I discover I have left my razor at home. Day one and I am already on the road to breaking one of three sacred promises I made to my daughter. Off to the Eiffel Tower. Moved on after seven minutes. No money. Set up pitch nearby. Play for twenty minutes. Bobby saunters over and a thespian streak emerges as he ostentatiously places €20 in my case. No on else is convinced and we move on with, now with a few coins to show. Musee D’Orsay yields about €15 in 45 minutes and, by now parched and starving, I walk to St Michel passed table after table of diners settling down to lunch and glasses of chilled beer. At St Michel I guzzle a goats cheese baguette washed down with a bottle of water before finding a pitch very close to my first busking spot in the 1970s. This is better and after I’m joined by the very attractive Nathalie and Sasha, trade picks up. We move on to Notre Dame – hopeless – and then the Pompidou centre where business is a little better but not great. My take for the day stands at just over €97, about a third of what I need to be earning.
I’ve been told there’s a concert at the Chatelet Opera so I dash across on the Metro, a strap on my rucksack breaking on the way there, only to find the building fermé.
Up at five the next morning and on to Zurich. I’ve been trying to get hold of a friend in Zurich over the weekend. He returns my call shortly before I have to change trains at Basel to say that he’d not realised I was coming. I’ve arranged to meet another mate for coffee at Basel station and we briefly discuss my diverting to Lucerne. Oliver rings the Lucerne concert-hall manager but since there is no concert happening that evening I press on to Zurich. In Zurich, I have no licence to busk on the streets and, I am told, there are no concerts going on, so no possibility of busking outside any halls. It's not looking good, in other words.
I decide to ring Mirion, another friend, who I haven’t seen for a couple of years. Mirion, who plays with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, is a big man with a slightly melancholy air. His greetings seem almost overenthusiastic, as if he needs to prove you are welcome. His hospitality and interest are entirely genuine and it is great to see him as I traipse up the many stairs to his apartment.
There IS a private concert at the Tonhalle, Zurich’s main concert venue. I have sat on that stage leading orchestras many times but, today, have to plead with one of the organisers to be allowed to play in the foyer. After five bars, a more senior member of management stops me and I am ejected. I set up on the steps outside and, after 20 minutes, have attracted a single contribution of 2 Swiss Francs.
Undaunted, we depart and walk along the Limat river to a small square where, although there is limited passing trade, the acoustic is reasonable and I decide I will at least do some practice. As people walk past, hands go into pocket but, instead of wallets, mobile-phones emerge and I realise that I am becoming invisible. Eventually, one or two people stop to listen and I have a little audience, never more than five, but at least someone is listening. After an hour and a half I have about 50 SwF which, with a contribution from my hosts, takes the days taking to nearly 100SwF.
I find a supermarket and join the homeless and drug addicts in Zurich Bahnhoff as I wait for the night train to Vienna. One man shouts, gesticulates, leaps about and harangues passers-by, all of whom pretend he is not there. He, for all his desperate efforts has become truly invisible and it is clearly driving him mad.
Vienna is a different story. I have been invited to stay at the ambassador’s residence and am greeted by Antonio, his butler. A relaxed morning with briefings from amazingly supportive staff is followed by a brief foray to an internet café. I meet the ambassador for lunch during his break from the round of International Atomic Energy Federation talks that are going on this week. He has organised an informal concert for the next day.
I don’t have a licence to busk in any of the best spots although I am allowed to play in other locations. I spend an hour walking around. I ask whether, as a member of the LMP I might play in Mozart’s house but this is not possible. Eventually, I decide to risk it in St Stephans Platz outside the cathedral and play for about an hour. A group of kids come over and surround me so I decide to tell them about what I am doing. They pepper the fiddle case with coins and soon I have another small audience. I sell a couple of CDs and eventually move on to the Kozerhaus, where one of the managers agrees to my playing outside. Once again the audience is sympathetic and moderately generous.
At home, poor Jane is frantically updating websites and dealing with phone calls. She’s sounding quite exhausted and I know she’s trying very hard not to show what must be considerable anxiety.
The next morning is taken up with an interview for the TV station Wiener Heute. Whilst waiting for them at Karlsplatz, I am accosted by two policemen demanding to see my licence. Linda, from the embassy is at hand and after they are satisfied that I am allowed to play there, move off, declining to make any contribution.
I meet Guenter Pichler, the leader of the Alban Berg String Quartet for lunch. While we are eating, BBC World Service ring up, asking if I could play a snatch of Bach down the phone, which I do while Guenter acts as sound engineer.
The rest of the day is taken up with changing plans. As I’ve been earning much less than I’d hoped, we can’t afford to buy an air ticket to get me to Rome as originally intended. I spot that Jeffrey Tate is conducting in Venice the next day so a frantic and eventually successful effort is made to contact him. We get through and it looks like the opera house may agree to my playing in their foyer.
That evening, we have our Ambassador’s busk. John MacGregor more than lives up to his reputation as a fine pianist and the rest of the party are made up of the Medlam family and Oscar, a very talented violinist studying in Vienna, I’d met in Cyprus the week before.
We have a very appreciative audience and I have the chance to explain what it is that I am trying to do. After the concert, they show their gratitude and we find €955.11 in our collection box. I’m nearly back on track. On the train to Venice to be precise.
New members join the team
We’ve got two new helpers. Warren Morson has joined us as project manager of Round the World and Bach, and will be in the control room when I’m on my travels. Warren has a degree in Music and Arts Management from Middlesex University and until recently was Label Manager at Street Jam Records. He will be helping me part-time, and is currently co-ordinating the CD production and travel arrangements for the first leg of the trip. Warren comes with extensive experience in arts admin and would be an asset to any team, but not for another six months! He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Matthew King will be working on fundraising for Musequality. Matthew graduated from York University in 2004 and spent two years at Barclays Bank in international student finance. He joins RSM Robson Rhodes as a trainee chartered accountant in September 2007. A keen musician, he has recently worked on fundraising projects at the English National Opera and assisted at numerous music camps for young children. Matt’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org
3 April 07
The Musequality trustees are;
Sir Humphrey Maud, KCMG, who, when not playing the cello, was British Ambassador in Argentina and, later, a Deputy-Secretary General of the Commonwealth. Sir Humphrey is now Chairman of the Commonwealth Disaster Management Agency.
Maureen Howley, MBE, recently retired after a distinguished career at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Jeremy Bradshaw who currently holds the position of Compliance Director, with responsibility for embedding BP's Code of Conduct and compliance & ethics programme in the Group's global Exploration and Production business. His work takes him to a range of countries with special economic and social challenges, including Russian, Azerbaijan, Angola, and South Africa.
Jeremy is a keen amateur violinist. He plays regularly with the Kensington Symphony Orchestra and is an active member of its management team.
David Juritz (That’s me)
Lots of supportive emails are coming in with some really great ideas. I'm still looking for a way in to China and Japan where busking is illegal. Am thinking of trying some shopping malls as possible venues. All suggestions gratefully received!
David next to Elle Macpherson
Well ... next to a picture of her on the pages of So London magazine.