In the January 2011 issue of The Strad I discuss drink and drug use among string players, especially in symphony orchestras. It’s a problem that no-one wants to address in public and the more it is swept under the carpet the worse it gets. Here’s a taster:
Between us, we know what’s what. We have colleagues who hit
the bar before, during and after a concert, others whose nerves are so shot
their bathroom cabinet looks like a medieval apothecary’s and their nostrils
are in need of relining. The intonation goes and the family disintegrates. We stand
by as children suffer. And we say nothing. We deny that drink and drugs are
every bit as prevalent in classical music as they are in recovering members of
the Rolling Stones. We live a flagrant lie.
Why is that? Why does our particular form of music maintain
a pretence of Victorian rectitude under Sicilian vows of omerta while others
let it all hang out. Why does classical music gasp in shock-horror when there’s
a drugs bust in Nigel Kennedy‘s Bavarian hotel room and a few innocent players
are disturbed at their alleged spliffs.
Face the facts. American orchestras had their fastest growth
spurt during Prohibition because they were the best place to get a drink. The
Berlin Philharmonic served beer during concerts when they started out. Music is
culturally inseparable from light refreshment. We play, we listen, we drink,
sometimes to excess. No big deal.
I maintain we need more openness. Your views, please?