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Another Back Desk interview, this time taking in a fit of the giggles and a strict flautist's diet... We chat to Emily Beynon from the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Name: Emily Beynon
Ensemble: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Why did you decide to become a musician?
I simply couldn’t imagine NOT playing music. And if there was a chance that I could perhaps earn my living doing it, then I had to try!!
What's the one performance from your career that sticks in your mind?
What an impossible question - there have been SO many wonderful experiences! Maybe Ein Heldenleben with our (then) brand-new chief conductor, Mariss Jansons in 2004. Or playing Ravel’s Daphnis & Chloe in Carnegie Hall in my first season in the orchestra (1996). Or Bruckner 8 with Haitink back in the days when I played in the European Youth Orchestra (EUYO). Or Mahler 9 with Danielle Gatti last season... you see my problem!
What's the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you on stage?
Getting the giggles. It’s happened twice; once playing Berio’s Opus Number Zoo for wind quintet during an informal chamber music concert for an EUYO course. The players have to recite fragments of text (about animals) in their bars' rest and in the movement about mice, the squeaky voices got us all giggling - I don’t think I played a note, but we repeated that movement as an encore!
The other occasion was altogether more serious; I was on trial for co-principal flute of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. We were playing a piece by an Australian composer who asked the players to, again in their bars rest, emulate the sounds of being caught in a bush fire. We hadn’t rehearsed these 'sounds' perhaps because it’s almost unbearably horrific to even imagine. Anyway, in the concert, the noises I heard around me drove me to a fit of giggles... but I was far from being alone, and when I heard a guffaw from someone else trying to suppress their giggles, it just set me off again.
If you could work with one musician, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would love to have had the chance to work with Carlos Kleiber - a great hero of mine.
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"?
Not really mime, but I have to confess that there have been one or two occasions when 'faking' a particularly fast and 'note-y' passage was simply the only option!
Could you give us an example of the downside of the profession, something that the average concert-goer might not know about?
On a concert day I have a long list of foods that I have to avoid; coffee (for nerves), orange juice, milk, yoghurt, chocolate, sweets (for their affect on my saliva!), salt (in case it swells any small cracks in my lips), nuts (however hard you brush your teeth, there’s always a risk of a tiny piece getting in the way at a crucial moment)...
Does the touring lifestyle bring out rock star behaviour in the orchestra?
Not really - we’re quite a civilised bunch really!
Have you witnessed any serious diva strops in your time as a musician?
Oh yes... but my lips are sealed.
What's the biggest challenge facing musicians like you these days?
Most pieces we play have been recorded. So in concert, that recording perfection is expected. So perhaps it’s hard at times to dare to take risks - we imagine that the audience just wants it to sound like the CD they have at home.
What's the best thing about being a musician?
Being paid to do the thing you love. Travelling and seeing the world at the same time is also a huge bonus.