What Your Accompanist Thinks On The Day Of Your Recital

throwcase jo ramadan guest post accompanist

Today’s special guest post is by Jo Ramadan, one of the leading accompanists in the UK.


I’m very much looking forward to two wonderful recitals today. What a pleasure to make fantastic music with such fab singers.

Despite the life of uncertainty, the hours on trains and in rickshaws, the constant worry as to the structural integrity of unknown piano stools, the fear of deeply offending the gods of good taste, the prospect of having to sight read Harawi one dark Friday morning with a contact lens missing and with an overwhelming sense of Fish and Chip/Real Cutlery shortage anxiety/terror, the ocassional regret at already being IN an orchestra pit (where do you push the conductor?), Handel Da Capo arias not sellotaped together, Handel Da Capo arias sellotaped together, Handel Da Capo Arias, singers who can’t decide between the almost identical composers Schubert and Schumann, the fact that I will never play Rach 3 unless accompanied by an orchestra and pianist on the CD I play along with, my reflection in the music stand, my right side being the second of my bad sides, the difficulty of keeping understanding pets, the ever-present danger of explaining to a doctor that my back pain was caused by volumes 1, 2 and perhaps even 3 of the complete Strauss songs and that if Peter Wishart is the cure I would happily try paracetamol instead, bring your own keyboard, the tedious people at concerts who go to be seen rather than coming to see me who is trying to be seen, the need to get good at Klanging and the avoidance of people who seek to further their career by dropping more than Klangs, critics always and for ever as they can be human bile spewers with laptops and an abundance of bitterness, old masters who tell you the metronome mark above which you are dead to them (by post), solo pianists stealing our jobs and then doing them Horrifically badly, halls that encourage this just to sell tickets (to a crime), being asked to skip the intro to Morgen in a song class, having to play the intro to Morgen as the first item in a concert, being conservative with choice of fragrance lest I should make singer/audience/myself sick/confused/aroused, eternal risk of flipping out and sitting down and launching into Tiger Rag because I am too cool for this shit, it is still the best job in the world!

The moment that first chord goes down and the singer does their magic, there is no better feeling, and if there is, I don’t want to know about it!

Happy music making, and remember, if it aint broke, dont fix it!

Love from me. x


You can follow Jo Ramadan on Twitter, or find out more about him here.

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7 Responses

  1. eloisehellyer says:

    Unfortunately, accompanists have one of the most under-appreciated jobs in the world. They have to be great artists in their own right but then have to play “second fiddle” (or so it seems) to whatever musician they are accompanying, putting up with changes in rhythm, forgetting or putting in repeats, etc. This doesn’t only have to be the world’s most under-appreciated job, but also one of the hardest! I remember one of my violin teachers, who was a soloist before World War I, telling me how much he counted on his accompanist. In those days, he toured with a pianist who accompanied him with the piano reductions of all the major violin concertos – not an easy job. Of course, the soloist played from memory and when there was that occasional lapse, the pianist would bring him back to where he was supposed to be so cleverly, my teacher told me, that the audience would never notice unless they had the score in front of them. I remember him singing the praises of this pianist – whom he never named. I see with pleasure that the lot of the accompanist has improved much in the last 25 years – sometimes equal billing (!), but I fear the general public still takes for granted the great art and
    skill of these pianists as well as their patience. Let’s have an international Day of the Accompanist!!

  2. eloisehellyer says:

    You think I’m kidding? At recital time parents sometimes complain about how much the pianist is getting paid for “3 minutes’ work.” Then they find out why when their children make a mistake, forget a repeat or have a good old-fashioned memory lapse. They never complain more than once!!

  3. eloisehellyer says:

    Anyway, I have a good idea how hard an accompanist’s job is and I love you all! Where do we start lobbying??

  4. eloisehellyer says:

    Excuse me, but surely you’re joking! How can anyone play with a recorded accompaniment?! You do that for fun at home, perhaps, but how can you make music with someone who isn’t listening to you??? Are there musicians on this examinations board?? I guess appreciation for accompanists is not the same the world over. We really do need International Accompanists’ Day.
    Dear me, this has ruined my day! That, jet lag and someone making horrible, snide, incorrect comments on a social web site about something I wrote – but this is the last straw!!!

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