Advent 19: Trills and spills

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A bit of L'Étoile du Nord used in Les Patineurs

In a class for Mark Morris’s company  a couple of years ago, I was playing the waltz from l’Étoile du Nord (that has to be someone’s nickname, surely?) better known as the opening number of Les Patineurs. During the exercise, I suddenly heard Mark’s voice booming at me over the top of the piano saying ‘HELLO??!’. Bemused, I carried on, looking somewhat nervously at him out of the corner of my eye since he was hovering near the piano still. A couple of seconds later, there it was again ‘HELLO??’ only this time I noticed he was doing that ‘I’ll call you’ sign with his hand, talking into an imaginary phone.

For another split second, I was even more bemused, and then I burst out laughing when I  realised he was ‘answering’ the trill in the particular section of the  music I was playing as if it were a phone ring (see above). Someone once said of Paul Merton that his off-the-wall sense of humour was so immediate and bizarre, it was almost like an illness, a pathological tendency to interpret something in the most unlikely but funniest way possible. There’s something of that about Mark Morris and music, which is why playing for him is such fun, and why I love his work.

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