From our string quartet diarist Anthea Kreston:
My God, sometimes it is so hot while we are playing a concert. These past tours – with the temperature flirting dangerously close to 100 degrees outside – inside the hall (or castle or church or barn), it feels like I am standing on a hot plate while under a glass dome, and someone has generously offered to shine a heat lamp directly on to my head.
It’s different in the States, where musicians and audiences are used to being exactly the same temperature every day,
regardless if there is a blizzard or a forest fire outside the building. Our little climate bubble. Here, the outside and inside are actually related – and retrofitting a 900 year old castle for climate control just isn‘t high on the „to-do“ list.
So I do everything I can. Pare down my outfit, drink lots of water, try to cut the rehearsal short before the concert, put my hair up. But – there are still a gaggle of spotlights (fore, side, back and above) trained on us, and by half-way through the first movement, the sweat is running down the back of my legs, and the fingerboard is glistening. It’s just gross. I basically have to wear my daughter’s snorkel equipment to safety open my backpack when I get back from tour. My feet swell to twice their normal shape, and I start to make bizarre mistakes. I try to pace myself, but that just isn’t realistic. Not with Bartok. It’s now or never out there. All for one, and one for all. This last concert I just stood in a cold shower during intermission.
It feels like my brain is inside a cloud – and I have no choice but to just let go and have my body do what it knows how to do. A study from Loughborough University showed that a 5 percent drop in water levels can cause 25-30 percent loss in energy and even a slight drop of 3 percent can cause ‘fuzzy thinking’ and brain fog. I have no idea how much 5 percent is, but I can imagine that completely soaking through a concert outfit by the end of the first piece must be up there somewhere. But there is never a moment when I can give less than 100 percent. No how no way – I am way too stubborn and proud to admit any weakness. And can you imagine ‘fuzzy thinking’? Haha – not an option.
I am forever asking the stage manager to open the windows, leave the church doors open – anything. But, once the music starts, we are closed back into our little heat cocoon. It’s noisy out there. In Lübeck, I just went out to the audience myself and started to open the massively tall windows, and before I knew it, the overly heated audience was all up helping, sticking umbrellas into the windows to keep them open. It was nice, in the slow movement of Bartok, to hear the bells of all the different churches chiming for the 9:00 hour, commingling with the stagnant chords of Bartok 2. The breeze, and the sounds of music and the marking of time made it all a bit more possible.
So – they have our water and towels ready for us back stage – and the summer season is coming to a close. Come winter, those old castles will have a little symphony of hot water clanking in the pipes, and the hiss of steam from the radiators.