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Thursday, 20 February 2014

In the orchestra

Saturday, February 20th., Victoria Grove, Chelsea.

Another Promenade Wagner concert. At the interval, when the Wagner music was finished, Brown and I tortuously picked our way to the orchestra room, where he has many acquaintances. From a little conversation with Busby, the horn player, I learned a lot about rehearsals, the personnel of the band, and the conductor's popularity.Then we went into the orchestra and sat down by the drums. The serious part of the programme was now over, and both conductor and orchestra were larkish for the "Pinafore" fantasia. The conductor raps, consults each leader of a section in turn with a questioning nod and wink, and then, lifting both arms, he starts the great machine. The mere noise is cosmic! The booming of the tympani shakes the floor, the brass splits your ears, and the heavy, piercing crepitation of the (kettle) drum almost frightens you into running away. It seems as if the unfortunate conductor had created suddenly a monster impossible to control ... Then someone makes an utterly wrong attack, and a loud wave of laughter unsubdued runs across the orchestra. One wonders that the audience isn't shocked, but the audience can't hear it. Even the conductor laughs, winking at the delinquent - this piece is only fun. Yet it won't do to be too slack, and one sees the men bracing their faces to seriousness. They are at work, earning a livelihood. Beneath the mirth of Sullivan's music, there is a perceptible under-effect of solid workaday endeavour by industrious and capable men. When the end came, with a prodigious rattle of kettle drums, a bassoon player said to the kettle drummer, "You enjoy yourself, no mistake." "I do," was the answer, in great broad tones, "and I work hard." "No one seemed to know where anybody was that time!" another player said, passing me to leave the orchestra; he was charging a pipe. 

Additionally for February 20th., see 'A terrific wind'

All secure in the hotel. But terrific wind beating on the S. windows and general shaking. Go out. You then see hotels from outside. Blocks of stone and yellow light, immensely secure. very brilliant in lower stages. Aquarium a cluster of lights with its absurd little tower. Moon in cloudy sky. Little crowds at two points near pier. Vast sea of foam for about 200 yards out. Rows of little people in half-distance silhouetted like a long-toothed saw against this. I find the general look of these groups of people perhaps the most interesting. So small. waves breaking over jetty and over Marine Drive. Waves coming between jetty and pier, running along wall of jetty in a line like the curves of a long rope shaken to imitate waves. Noise of naked shingles. Plenty of suffused light about. Sheet lightning from time to time.

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