The days when concert pianists either had to commit to memory an entire concerto or make use of a page turner are, thankfully, over.
Technology in the form of iPads or similar tablets are gaining popularity among even high-profile soloists who can electronically flip through the score during the performance without faffing around with bits of paper or having a helpmate.
We noticed this happening on June 29 at the final concert in the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra’s winter programme in the City Hall when the brilliant Stellenbosch pianist Luis Magalhaes played Prokofiev’s fiendishly difficult Piano Concerto No 3 under the baton of Bernhard Gueller.
Before the smiling, reed-thin pianist,(husband of Nina Schumann and partner in their well-known duo TwoPianists), walked on to the stage, we watched the new Steinway Concert Grand Piano being hooked up electronically with an iPad score on Luis’s music rack. In recent years, many software companies have jumped on the digital score bandwagon, developing apps that make it easy to read and annotate musical scores on a tablet device.
We heard there was probably an electronic pedal on the floor which Luis could press to turn the pages. If so, this would have been an improvement on the days when the pianist still needed a free hand to tap or swipe the screen to flip to the next “page” – tricky with sometimes dozens of pages to turn during a concert.
As yet orchestral musicians still follow the age-old practice of one violinist or cellist stopping to turn the page while the other plays on. Sticky pages and scores that don’t lie flat are some of the potential hazards of which the audience is usually blissfully unaware.
A special moment occurred at the Friends of Music after-party when Bernhard Gueller spoke of his unhappy visit to Cape Town a year ago to conduct the doomed series of concerts for tenor Johan Botha. This time round Gueller was delighted to be here as the CPO’s new principal guest conductor who had completed his first, four-concert series and with more dates to follow.
What a horrid, torrid night last Tuesday turned out to be. It started pleasantly with an early supper to ensure we’d not be late for the 7.30pm start of Paul Slabolepszy’s new play Suddenly the Storm at the Baxter’s Flipside Theatre. The night ended with us wandering forlornly around Tokai unsuccessfully trying to find an ATM that would accept David’s Standard Bank card and let us know how much money had been scammed from his account.
On Wednesday morning at the Blue Route branch we learnt that the bank’s fraud department in Joburg had detected a suspicious withdrawal of R17 000 to the Wine Tasters’ Guild and closed his account, but not before
R23 000 had been syphoned off in another illegal transaction.
A case of fraud has been made with the Kirstenhof police and now we wait to see when the bank will reimburse us. We are told they carry insurance for this sort of thing.
An ironic aspect of this disturbing experience was that on the same day R17 000 was syphoned off supposedly for the Wine Tasters’ Guild of which we are long-standing members, I paid the modest sum of
R200 to the guild for our next meeting on Wednesday July 19. Then Boela Gerber, Groot Constantia winemaker, will lead us through a tasting of the top 10 pinotages.
Paul Slabolepszy’s play Suddenly the Storm which proved an enthralling night of drama, was our first experience in the Baxter’s Flipside Theatre, so called because it is at the rear of the main stage of the Baxter Theatre, the venue used for its big productions.
I thought the Flipside was upstairs near the Golden Arrow Studio, only to find that the entrance was next to the downstairs booking office where a passage leads to a venue with a fairly wide but shallow stage and 203 tiered red seats.
This is a handy size for an intimate play but a tad chilly because of the high ceiling, so the cheerful; red blankets provided were welcome. However, soon the action hotted up as we were drawn into the lives of the three main characters Shantell
(Charmaine Weir-Smith) the funny common, young and greedy wife of the unpredictable and violent Dwayne (Paul) and Renata Stuurman, as the poised enigmatic visitor Namhla on a secret mission of revenge.
Throughout the performance we were kept aware of the impending storm both physical and allegorical that finally hits the theatre with menacing force of emotions and torrential rain. A brilliant touch was the post-storm gentle drip drip drip into a bucket from the leaking roof. It sounded like the real thing we’ve all known in our homes and added so much to the authenticity of the spent emotions of the actors.
I often admire the speed with which the team of men grab the dustbins from outside our houses and, after they’ve been emptied, hurl them back to our front gates. Or, more often, into the middle of the driveway. But I saw something even more impressive this week.
A council truck was going up Tokai Road collecting the blue bags with rubbish from the pavements. A man dangling with one hand from the back of the truck was able to able to lean out and grab with his other hand a blue bag from the road and hurl into the truck. All this without the truck slowing down or the man falling/getting off. I followed the truck the whole way up the street just to enjoy his circus act.
Maybe if we start telling people that the brain is an App, they will start using it.