Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Brief Guide to Page-Turners

Amid the crunch of recital preparations, many pianists forget to secure a page-turner, leading to last-minute recruiting from friends, friends-of-friends or from random strangers in the recital hall. Unsurprisingly, when the only real qualification is 'warm body', using potluck volunteers often has mixed results. The most common kinds of turners, both good and bad, are listed below* with corresponding identifiers for easy reference.

Crowders sit unnecessarily close at all times (sometimes practically in your lap).

Helicopters hover with a hand on the music, regardless of incredibly slow tempos or flat-laying scores.

Human Obstacles attempt to turn from the bottom RH side of the music, blocking the view and inspiring thoughts of violence.

Music Civilians are mystified by the black and white dots scattered on the page and find what you do closely akin to magic. They are usually terrified of making a mistake and stare at you, unblinking and tense, for each nod. Oddly enough, they are one of your better options.

Space Cadets are either caught up within the music or contemplating what to have for lunch as you turn your own pages. They may also forget to show up to the concert at all.

Heart Attacks turn the pages too soon or too late (sometimes two at a time . . .) They incite panic and frantic slapping of pages.

turn with enough force to rip music or fling scores to the ground.

Silent Critics
are usually pianists of equal or higher chops. They're great at turning, but unfortunately also cause acute self-consciousness with every wrong note and bad fingering.

are a category I have never experienced, but a colleague of mine once worked with someone who liked to hum along with the melodies during performances.

The Best Page-Turning Award goes to:

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Page-Turner
. The ninjas among page turners, they sit completely out of one's peripheral vision. They rise with smooth motions approximately 1-2 lines from the bottom (depending upon tempo), turn the page lightening-quick and retreat back to invisibility without a whisper of sound. Their non-presence allows you to focus on the performance instead of on enabling someone to allow you to perform music.

And let's not forget:
Terrifyingly Clueless with questions like, "Which side should I sit on?"

Please feel free to add any suggestions from your own experiences.


Unknown said...

Although I aspire to CTHPT and feel I succeed most of the time, I have had my moments in lesser categories. Perhaps there should be a category for page turners who get lost in scores with extensive cuts, additions and revisions, turn the page too early, then when the pianist whips the page back, cowers in fear, humiliation and a complete inability to ever find the correct place again for the entire rest of the piece.

I could go on and on, because I've spent a lot of time on both sides of the music rack ...... but I'll just say that I am enjoying your blog very much and getting a lot of chuckles out of your words. Thanks!

But let's not leave the pianists out of the blame game. Why not categories for them? Some of my favorites (as page turner) would include the 25 pages of unattached xerox copies which fell to the floor like winter snow when the first page was carefully (but not carefully enough, obviously) turned......... or what about the pianist using a POCKET SCORE of a Beethoven piano trio with pages that had to be held open continuously by the page turner (moi) who not only could not read the music because her glasses were at the wrong prescription for the distance but was looking directly into a spotlight just behind the score for an hour and a half, resulting in a blinding headache that lasted for 3 days?

Leah said...

This is hilarious. That's all I have to mention!!

Perry said...

I once had a "Participator" page turner - he read the French text of the song cycle under his breath the entire time. If my hands hadn't been so preoccupied with Debussy, I would have smacked him.

Your post is hysterical, by the way.

mindy said...

I would suggest a sub-category of Heart Attacks, reserved for Singers who are (regrettably) recruited as page-turners. They inevitably wait until the last word on the page has been sung, regardless of the difficulty of the accompaniment, how many times or how vigorously I nod, and the myriad of other small signs I send (throat-clearing, a nudge with the left knee, etc.) that it is beyond time to turn the frickin' page.

Billie Whittaker said...

My responses:
Li’l Ned, How about a category called "Walking Wounded", the traumatized page turners who never fully recover from a bad turn, hindering any ability to be useful for the rest of the recital?
-Thank you, I’m always think that at least I’m amusing myself, if noone else.
-For the pianists’ blame issue, I think a category of “Unfortunate Innocents” could describe turners presented with lose-lose musical situations.

Leah, Glad you enjoyed my ramblings!

Pmasd, Nice variation on the category (I shudder at the thought of performing with that in my ear, by the way).

Mindy, I think that’s actually a whole new category, “Blissfully Ignorant”, who are so convinced of their own ‘turn schedule’ that they have no idea how close they’ve pushed their pianist to homicide.

Anonymous said...

I nominate "The Dangler", i.e., those who wear cardigan sweaters, unclipped ties, scarves, fringe, etc. while turning pages. My most recent experience with The Dangler was at an international convention with everyone wearing nametags on lanyards - including my page turner, whose lanyard kept grazing my left arm with every page turn. - Michael Dauphinais

Billie Whittaker said...

I like it, there should definitely be a category for Dangling Participants.

Paul Carey said...

Love it. Though my playing days are pretty much in the past ( I compose now and have no need for a page turner- but often a need for a vodka gimlet)I remember some really crazy encroachers who would get so much in the way of any notes I needed to play in the lower bass as they turned. And I think your comment about the "civilians" being a good bet is spot on- the good ones just wait for your nod and then get 'er done!

Funny post!

Paul Carey

Unknown said...

Awesome! I love it.. thanks for sharing..

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