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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Giving Hans a Chance. By John von Daler

                    I had taken a job playing my violin in a quartet in a televised variety show. The work was interesting with lots of shifts in style and mood; the pianist, bassist, drummer and I played jazz, classical, and musical numbers. One act, however, had no accompaniment.
                A great Danish actor was going to read a story by Hans Christian #Andersen out loud.
                The afternoon of the evening the show was to be broadcast we went through all the numbers on the set with everybody: lights, sound, cameras, even our clothes got attention. We worked hard and I was looking forward to a little break when the actor's moment came. I decided though to remain in my place on a bar stool by the grand piano to listen to his rehearsal.
                He was an impressive man with lines in his face like the furrows in an Icelandic lava plain. His voice had been shaped and tempered through the years, so when he spoke, the vibrations crashed like giant waves on a deserted beach. He moved with elegance and authority; he could probably have played "The Invisible Man" without losing the undivided attention of his audience.
                Today he entered our hectic arena barking commands, as if his five minute performance had placed him in charge of the whole crew.
                "Get more light on my chair, fewer colors, just more light! I want two pillows at my back in the armchair! The music stand is ugly. Get another! Where's the sound man?" He looked around the circle of faces like an executioner at the Bastille. A little, balding man in overalls came forward, his face screwed into a dazed, questioning look. No words came from his half open mouth.
                "The mike! Put the mike between my right nipple and my mer-i-di-an!" he bellowed, "and run the wire under my sweater and around my right side into the back pocket where you can place the sender!" The little man fumbled at the actor's sweater. "And no tickling!" Everyone laughed.
                Then the actor sat down on the armchair with his Hans Christian Andersen book, a beautiful old volume, in hand.
                "Where are the cameras!" he shouted. Three men stepped forward. He pointed at the one in the middle. "You stay. The others take a break." The producer who had been watching from the sidelines now took a few steps forward with a smile on his face.
                "No clipping, no cutting, no pictures of my silhouette, no sneaky peeking from behind the chair! One camera, straight in front of me. Nothing else!" He glared at the producer and the man withdrew his smile as he signaled the other camermen to draw back.
                "And one last thing," said the actor as he settled back in the chair to read, "The violinist on the bar stool is to straighten up and listen to every word of the story while he focusses on me!" And he turned and peered at me over the back corner of his chair. "This is about H.C. Andersen and nothing else! People who have to pee should do it before I start, because this studio will stand still for exactly five minutes!" He turned around again and opened his book.
                Need I say that the reading turned out wonderfully: quiet, intense, focussed? We attended to the words and nothing else. Now is that not what we are supposed to be doing here, there, and everywhere? Focussing on the essential?

My book, Pieces: A Life in Eight Movements and a Prelude (WiDo Publishing) is now available. Order through, the publisher or your local bookstore. Click to buy Pieces below. Please feel free to write a short review of the book in your own language at or GoodReads. Thanks for your support!

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