I wasn’t going to write a blog this week, being on vacation and all, but sometimes circumstances dictate what we do and don’t do, and after the events of the last 2 days a blog must be written.
Last week I wrote about how to increase your chances of obtaining a contract for a show. I pointed out that using these methods I secured 9 shows for Phil within the 6 days between Christmas and New Years.
In past years I used to phone the people that hired Phil as soon as I got to Kitchener and told them we were in town and would be there as arranged. This year, deciding to join the electonic era I emailed all my contacts, telling them we had arrived safely and would be there to do the show as planned. I left phone numbers, which they already had, where they could reach me if they had to for any reason.
The first show was Monday afternoon.The receptionist informed me that the activity director was not there, but she was expecting us and pointed towards the piano. We had performed there before and Phil had notes from the previous time that it was an electronic piano that had major issues so they had brought a piano up from downstairs. The piano the receptionist had indicated was the same electronic one. We figured they must have fixed it but soon discovered that they didn’t, or did and it broke down again, in spades. It just didn’t work. Middle C and the 5 notes after it didn’t play at all, as well as the vast majority of the other notes. No that’s not quite true. Sometimes one or another of those notes would play and then the next time you tried the same note and it didn’t play. You could never be sure whether or not there would be any sound. Phil made up his mind he could not play on this piano.
The receptionist came over to the piano and tried it out for herself. “Some notes work, she said. You don’t have to play anything fancy. Other piano players have used it.”
We asked when was it last used and she had to admit it was a long time ago. She said she was sorry but there was nothing she could do about it. She was just the receptionist and was not in charge of it and expected that the people who made the arrangements were the ones to look after these things. And that was that! I totally agreed with her, but there were a lot of people who were waiting for a concert, and we should try to resolve the situation somehow.
We informed her that last time we were here the piano from downstairs was brought up. She reluctantly got up and spoke to the man who was washing the dining room floor and asked if he could bring it up. “Well, what if I bring it up and that one doesn’t work either. ” Seeing the logic in that, Phil and I and the receptionist went downstairs to check it out. The piano worked, but Phil said that it would be extremely difficult to move as it had delicate legs with tiny wheels on them and it was on a rug and there was a danger of the legs breaking. The man upstairs heartily agreed with Phil. Moving the piano upstairs was not an option. “Why can’t we have the show downstairs?” I asked.
“Because we’re having a private party there during that time slot. But, we do have an organ downstairs which can be placed on a dolly and we can bring that up and you can play on that.” replied the receptionist.
“No, I can’t” said Phil
“Why not? It’s the same thing.”
Then the girl who was running the afternoon hour suddenly appeared (not the person who hired him), asked if everything was OK. We quickly informed her of the situation. She tried the piano and agreed there was no way anyone could play on it. She tried phoning the activities director but could not reach her. She said it was no use hanging around as she had to clear the area by 4:30. We were supposed to start at 3:30 and by this time it was it was 4 o’clock.
She then talked to the receptionist, who finally came around and understood the situation. They said we would be paid just the same. – and that was Concert Number 1.
Concert No 2. Yes, they were expecting us, and I was thrilled to see a real piano, except that it was not the one Phil was destined to use. They had just got it and it hadn’t been tuned and also needed some repairs. Phil was directed to an electronic piano. Phil checked it out. It worked fine. Except for 2 things he subsequently discovered. One, before the concert; the second, after he started playing. The first thing was the pedal. It worked in reverse. When you stepped on it, it cut off the sound and when you took your foot off it, it sustained the sound, which is the exact opposite of how it is supposed to work. He told his audience this and that there would be no pedal. Not terrible, but a little disconcerting to the piano player who is used to using a peddle. Then as he played I found myself in a dilemma. For some reason Phil was not playing as well as usual. His singing was great as he was using his Happie Amp and his voice came out loud and clear, but the piano wasn’t as loud as I thought it should be, and I am the one who is supposed to tell him if his sound is okay. If I would tell him to put up the volume on the piano, then his mistakes would be more evident so I didn’t advise him to turn up the volume. I couldnd’t understand why he was playing the way he was, but soon all was to be revealed.
Phil made a confession to the audience. He wasn’t playing as good as he should be because the keys of this particular piano were narrower the the standard size and his fingers were the same as always and he found himself hitting 2 notes instead of one. (Maybe his fingers got fatter after Christmas dinner at Joan and Romaine’s.) Also the feel of the keys were like an accordion key board, very soft and very difficult to judge the the amount of pressure to use so the dynamics were just about impossible to control. A very good ragtime friend calls these pianos, PSOs. (Piano Shaped Object). So it was not his best concert although everyone enjoyed it, just the same.
On our way to Concert #3 we were singing that old Christmas classic, “I’m dreaming of a real piano, just like the ones we used to know…” And lo and behold, there was a real piano. And that was the one that Phil was to play. It was a wonderful old piano. The only problem was that the person who hired Phil wasn’t there and didn’t tell anyone he was coming. But the person left in charge was lovely and told us everything would work out. She arranged it all in short notice and it was a wonderful concert.
When we got home, I went directly to the phone and called the 6 remaining places to make sure they knew we were coming.
I learned 2 things. Whenever I start on my campaign to get shows for Phil, the first question I always ask is if they have a piano. From now on it will be followed by a second question. Does it work?
The next thing is to phone weeks BEFORE and then again days before, and to make sure to remind the person to let others know about our plans if they won’t be there.
Tomorrow: Concert 4.
Hope you had a very Merry Christmas and we wish you a Happy & Healthy New Year!