A Cunning Blog

Long words. Short words. Words that say something.

From the archive: behind closed doors

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A guest post from Jeremy Wilson, archivist to Dartington International Summer School

Being a Trog gives particular insights into the character and personality of artists, never more so than in the green room. Before going on stage some are quiet and withdrawn, some calm and relaxed, while others are unnaturally boisterous.

After the performance their behaviour may be even more revealing. When the violinist Henryk Scherying came off after a particularly long recital the Trog, offering him a glass, said, “you must feel tired after that…” The arrogant Szerying replied, “Does a High Priest feel tired after saying mass?”

A program from 1961. (Dad has all of them).

Coming off the platform for some it is elation, some ‘glad it’s over,’ other quietly content. One evening when a Trog commented on the beautiful encore that Paul Tortelier had just played he replied, “Ah oui. Mais comme l’amour c’est trop court.”

After a performance people can be quite angry with themselves or others. Quite often quartets or duos would come off arguing. The singer Mary Thomas, having performed a lesser composer’s imitation of John Cage’s Aria, stormed into the green room with a black face, hurled the score across the room – “RUBBISH” – then turned round with the sweetest smile on her face and went out to receive her applause.

Then there is the unpredictable. One day, in the early years at Bryanston, Elizabeth Schumann was waiting to go on stage to give a lecture and I, aged 19, was her attendant Trog. The previous lecture, John Clements speaking on the Chorus in Opera, was concluding with a record of the waltz from Gounod’s Faust. “Ah, Wunderbar!” cried Schumann, as she grabbed hold of me and waltzed all round the room with me. I subsequently begged that disc off John Clements and still have it to this day.

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Author: harryfiddler

Harriet Cunningham – aka @harryfiddler — is a freelance writer based in Sydney. Harriet wrote her first novel, about a runaway cat, at the age of 7. In the forty year gap between novel 1 and novel 2 she moved from London to Edinburgh to Sydney, ran an opera company, played violin on the opera house stage and sailed from Gove to Darwin. She is now a music critic and writer, best known as the critic who got banned by Opera Australia. She still hangs out at the Sydney Opera House, is still trying to get that novel published, and still plays the violin.

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