Mr Mcfall’s Chamber

Mr Mcfall’s Chamber: An Everyday Occurrence

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Thu 5 Apr; RSAMD, Glasgow, Fri 6 Apr


Even though 250 of them are featured in the classical listings in this issue of The List alone, the behind-the-scenes story of what it’s really like being an orchestral musician rarely gets much exposure away from the immediate ranks of those who do it for a living. In a life that can swing from fraught insecurities one minute to the heady buzz of a mind-blowing performance the next, it is drama beyond the realms of fiction. Taking a friend’s true life story, Dave Heath’s new chamber opera delves into its joy and tragedy, its humour and pathos and tells how three people, almost unwittingly, become intertwined to the point of destruction.

‘It’s basically about a bloke who is on tour, has an affair, the girl gets pregnant and his wife throws him out,’ explains Heath, who has been commissioned from Mr McFall’s Chamber. ‘He’s 45, used to be a big-time oboe player and is now depressed and alcoholic.’ For Heath, a real concern is how orchestral players are, as he puts it, ‘at the bottom of the food chain.’ The training and talent required to be an orchestral player is immense. What they might have to put up with, however, whether poor pay and long, unsocial hours or inefficient managements and arrogant conductors is what Heath attempts to bring to light. Not only does his opera have a go at such conditions, but also, with genuine compassion, highlights the impact they have on musicians’ physical and emotional well-being.

Heath conducts for real and plays the part of a pretentious German maestro. ‘I’m trying to make the point in a funny, not nasty, sort of way. It’s a bit of a political wind-up, but has already resulted in someone actually resigning because they thought it was based on their life.’

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