The following is part of the opening chapters of a novel I have written based on my youthful experiences. It is based on Schubert's song cycle Die Schöne Müllerin which tells the tale of a young miller who falls in love. You can find the earlier chapters on this blog. One day I'll put the whole thing up as a iBook.
The Beautiful Miller Maid
Chapter 2, part 3 Where
Pansy Salmon was told to teach Antoinette the Wagner. Pansy, an aged spinster, who worshipped Simon was so jealous of this tiny girl that she followed Tring’s instructions to the letter. Pansy gave Antoinette just twenty minutes instruction. Considering the male children had had six weeks to pull The Pied Piper together this translated into virtually none.
Trevor reported that Pansy said Antoinette was fine but unmusical. Can’t play the piano but has a good ear.
The night of the Wagner Gala arrived cold and wet. It can rain in Devon and as tempus fugits there was no time for even a full run through for Antoinette. Trevor Tring saw to that. Antoinette was being asked to perform in front of one of the most knowledgeable musical audiences in Great Britain without a full run through. No one had bothered. Nobody had told her anything except that it was the most prestigious concert of the whole festival and she was a very lucky girl.
Antoinette was bright enough to realize that this was totally unfair on her but she had better try to put on a show.
Trevor kept Simon busy with the members Royal Family who were present until the last few minutes before the house was let in. It was bucketing down with rain and they could not be kept out any longer. The Churston Church hall was basic.
Then the stage manager realized that nobody had given Antoinette a run through.
“Mr. Tring” said Nigel Field “You must give the little girl and run thorough”
“She’ll be OK! I’m too busy and so is Mr. King. Let the audience in”
The Stage Manager was not afraid of Mr. Tring. “I am not opening those doors unless that child has a run through. Are you mad? Get Mr. King on this stage immediately and have a run through!”
“There isn’t time. Pansy says she knows it. It won’t matter if it is a disaster. I mean I did tell Simon not to do it! The girl is a dancer after all, not a musical bone in her body. Open the doors”
So Mr. King was prized from the Royal Family and was forced to rehearse. Never suspecting that the last time and only time Antoinette had sung this was yesterday morning for twenty minutes.
This was the first time Simon had spoken to Antoinette since the audition. Yes he had seen her as a child in the opera but this was the first time he had actually seen Antoinette as a person.
She was wearing a very pretty grey dress with a fluffy pink petticoat so fashionable in the 1950’s and she had the cutest of shoes, little gold sling backs with a slight high heal and her hair that had been hidden in the horrific costume was clean, shiny and softly curled. She was poised and confident and Simon could hardly believe his eyes. This was not the little 14 year old he had expected. In fact she looked closer to 17 than 14. Here was a young beautiful, poised young lady who was on the brink of adulthood. She was tiny though, just 4ft 9 ins and in school uniform and the ghastly Pied Piper costumes she looked about 12.
Antoinette looked startlingly pretty and fresh and not at all flustered. She looked rather annoyed. Simon immediately felt guilty. He should have rehearsed with her properly and now there was little time and in fact no time for a proper run through. Damn Tring.
“Look Antoinette, time is short, there is a bit of an introduction which I haven’t time to play for you but when I nod come in four bars later.”
They then proceeded to sing the work through once without the introduction and that was it! Antoinette faced one of the toughest musical and social audiences one could ever face with one rehearsal and a half run through.
A very nervous Antoinette waited through the first half of the concert and the rain was dashing down. David came along to help and encourage in an ironic way as he was miffed at not having been chosen. David was not used to playing second fiddle and never did again.
The special item was scheduled as the first on after the interval. It was not on the program so the audience got a coup de theatre as the curtain arose with Simon King seated at the piano and a beautiful young girl center stage with four young children behind her. Tring had been right about this bit!
A gasp of pleasure was heard from the audience and while the Presenter the Royal Duke and cousin of the Queen, gave the introduction one could hear the audience working out that the pretty young lady centre stage was the little girl from The Pied Piper. She stood amazingly still while the long introduction of about three minutes was played.
During this introduction Simon himself began to get nervous. He realized that Trevor had set him up and he was furious and he could hardly stop now and say ladies and gentlemen Your Royal Highnesses, I have to withdraw this item as I haven’t rehearsed it and it would be unfair on the young lady that is before you but he would dearly have loved to. For once Simon King was nervous.
“Oh my God I should have warned Antoinette that the introduction takes three minutes” thought Simon a bit too late. “I hope to God she comes in!”
The Duke who was Simon’s greatest hetrosexual friend and one of the few lovers of serious modern music in The Royal Family went on and on with his introduction for about 5 minutes. It was interesting, but for Antoinette and King it only put off the moment of truth. Would she come in?
“Your Royal Highnesses, Ladies and gentlemen I give you Richard Wagner’s birthday tribute to his wife.”
King caught Antoinette’s eye as he began to play and she looked at him and for the first time they were alone together.
To be continued tomorrow!
To be continued tomorrow!