From The Back Desk - Gavin Edwards, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

In the first of a new series of interviews, we talk to the OAE's Gavin Edwards about the real life of an orchestral musician. Horn player, Haydn fan and partial to throwing a TV out of a hotel window? Find out more as we grill him...

Gavin Edwards Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenmen

Name: Gavin Edwards

Instrument: Horn

Ensemble: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Academy of Ancient Music, Classical Opera Company, Gabrieli Consort, London Chamber Orchestra, Royal Opera House and many more.

Why did you decide to become a musician?
When I was 4 I saw a concert on television and was impressed by the horns, how they sounded and looked, so I wanted to become a horn player. Later the social aspects of playing in orchestras became a huge bonus and working at very high levels with fantastic musicians, playing wonderful music. What could be better?

What's the one performance from your career that sticks in your mind?
Playing Schubert's 9th Symphony in Stefan's Szall in Graz with Simon Rattle and OAE. This symphony can go on a bit, but everyone was knocked out by how it flew past. Also Haydn's Creation in Munich, with Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music. During 'Graceful Consort' I looked at the audience. They were all sat there with their mouths open, completely wrapped up in the moment. Magic!

What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you on stage?
During a performance of a Haydn Symphony, a very quiet section, I dropped the rim of my mouthpiece, which clattered down some wooden steps, then fell behind the first violins and started to roll in a very large circle, gradually getting smaller and faster, whilst the audience watched it, their heads and eyes moving with its turns. The conductor (Paul Solomon I think) winced and grimaced and I sat there wondering how I was going to play without my mouthpiece and if I would ever work again.

If you could work with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?
Haydn. Papa Haydn. If it was only one, he'd be the man. A lovely warm gentleman and so inventive. Plus he had his own vineyard in Eisenstadt.

In concert, have you ever thought, "I can't actually play this bit very well, I'm going to mime and hope no-one notices"?
So often wish I had! Sadly no.

Could you give us an example of the downside of the profession, something that the average concert-goer might not know about?
It's the best job I can imagine, but we all have to stop sometime. That will be sad.

Does the touring lifestyle bring out rock star behaviour in the orchestra?
On my first ever tour back in 1988 things were a bit dull until one evening I heard a noise, and saw a TV falling out of a window, still turned on with Mark Spitz Swimming in the Olympics on it. That looks like fun, I thought, so I found the room and had one of the best tours. Mostly though, we look for good museums or country walks and enjoy good meals.

Have you witnessed any serious diva strops in your time as a musician?
None that I can remember, most top musicians are very easy going and a real pleasure to work with.

What's the biggest challenge facing musicians like you these days?
Budget cuts and financial disasters have hit the classical music industry hard. Fees for musicians have actually dropped over the last ten years, sometimes I feel that soon we won't be able to afford to go to work. Newcastle Council has just cut its arts fund massively. I doubt it will be the only one to do so.

What's the best thing about being a musician?
I work and play with my best friends, in amazing places. Playing the work of geniuses, and making people happier. Beat that!

You can catch the OAE in concert on April 19th at Kings Place, and also in their Night Shift concert on the 23rd, where they'll take classical music to the pub.

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