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On being a fledgling presenter

Mon Sep 19 2011

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‘They face away from the audience and the instrument is covered in felt. They play in the most tender and devastati……

Jon Jacobs at the mini pub Night Shift

OAE photographer Joe Plommer appears to be able to capture a moment with his camera and present it in entirely different way from the way my memory recalls it now (above). He’s made me appear relaxed. I was far from it. And there were moments when I looked at Maggie (right) and was certain she probably wondered what the hell I was saying.

That’ll be the internal dialogue. I bet you.

Maybe it was the drink. Between you and me, I’d had a glass of red wine before arriving at the Star of Kings pub to ‘compere’ the OAE’s inaugural Mini Night Shift concert. I had a strong black coffee while I waited for the rehearsal to finish, and then a beer before my first moment on stage delivering the very important message: “Ladies and Gentlemen, the gig will start in ten minutes time.”

The truth is that I’ve always rather fancied doing this line of work. As I’ve said before, Alistair Appleton makes it look really easy. Surely, if I try and cultivate a similar image that should do the trick, shouldn’t it?

That was my thinking selecting the checked shirt I received the day before on my birthday. But by the time approximately 200 people had packed into the pub and the band had marked out their territory on stage, I quickly began to realise this was going to be a good deal more difficult than standing in front of a camera and waxing lyrical about the best way to listen to Beethoven 9.

What represented the massive learning curve for me in what amounted to my first stint behind the microphone was to what extent the presenter is incidental to events on stage. And in an intimate space like the Star of Kings that was a point which became even more important, not least because Matthew Truscott, Maggie Faultless and Robin Michael are all such dab hands at introducing the music anyway. Matthew especially seems more than happy to whip up the crowd into a mild frenzy (the line about ‘wives always end up killing their husbands’ certainly resulted in a discernible collective intake of breath).

But while I look on another shot from last night and think that maybe Bachtrack’s review of me appearing a little uncomfortable may have been partially correct, I’m struck with the cheeky nerve I appear to have had tweeting while the players were doing their thing.

I suspect they must have been playing Handel. I still don’t get what everyone gets so excited about where Handel is concerned. That said, serve me up some Purcell – like the 10 Sonatas in 4 Parts (but only available on 3 – don’t ask me to explain the story behind it, I don’t recall) – and you’ve got me hooked. And, as memory serves me everyone else in the room got it too. The cheer at the end of both sonatas played was overwhelming. And when a whole room full of people express that kind of appreciation at the same time you know you’re right.

And that perhaps points to the underlying joy in the Mini Night Shift and the thrill I experienced. Everyone got to stand close to the players (some even had their pictures taken with them). But I got to stand even closer. And there is something undeniably thrilling about listening to musical performance when you’re a couple of feet away from the instrumentalist. I felt engaged in what was going on, almost like I was playing the music myself.

So on that basis, I quite fancy being the presenter again. If only because I get to hear the music better than any other Mini Night Shift attendee. If you’ll still come, of course.

Jon Jacob

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