We have all experienced it on both sides of the stage. A concert simply does not go well. The reasons for this are too numerous to count-everything from environmental, to physical, to emotional, to lack of preparation. The great drama of live performance is just that-it is live. And so it is scheduled. Often at a time when one may not want or be able to have to give a performance of stellar proportions.
So what do you say when your colleagues don't play well? How do you act when you don't?
First things first. Concerts require great courage and mental toughness. That is the given and something to always keep in mind. Respect is the least any performer deserves simply for getting up there and taking the risk. Few other people in any other field would have the guts to do so.
So, there you are at the reception, and your dear friend and colleague is putting on a brave face knowing he/she had just had a sub-par performance. Do you:
a. Say: well done, slap them on the back, and lie to their face?
b. Say: gee so sorry you just blew the evening?
c. Say: I really enjoyed your accompanist?
d. Defer talking about music with: What a great outfit!?
e. All of the above?
There are a couple of instances in which I did not meet my own standards. In one, my teacher at the time said, "I am so sorry. I know you play better than you just did." While that was difficult to hear, it cut to the chase as to how we were both feeling, and cleared the air for a frank and helpful conversation about the situation and why I would never ever put myself in the same position again
Another time I played the wrong fingering in an orchestra concert during a very exposed phrase. It was the kind of thing when you try so hard to match the pitch of your colleague-who was my teacher at THAT time-you play his note fingering instead of your own, and the result is ghastly. It was an Eb. Go ahead and try fingering the high Eb, and use the air as in a middle Eb. You will see just how horrible it was. I just wanted the stage at Avery Fischer Hall to swallow me. Two remarkable things: No ONE flintched. No one else in the section, the conductor, the audience. I wondered if I had actually done the dastardly deed! But at the end, another player said to me, "It's OK Joan. I don't think anyone outside of the section noticed." He was perfect: acknowledged the error,and comforted me at the same time. This happened decades ago and I am still grateful.
So how do you act when you have not played well? Sulk? Crawl off the stage? Don't show up at the reception?
First and foremost: give yourself respect. Standing up and playing is an act of courage, remember? No one on the stage plans to play or perform badly. We are all human, and that means we make mistakes. And as adults, it is difficult to be as prepared as we ideally would like. I often tell my students that if anyone wants to judge them, let that person live their life, and then play a concert flawlessly.
Now, we are not talking about blatant lack of preparation. But I am sure, dear reader you are not one of those. Why? Because you are most likely a flutist, and as such, most likely to be a "Type A" personality. As such, you would never not be prepared. You know I am right on this one!
So if there is a problem in a performance, and you need to help your colleagues through the awkward moment in the receiving line, use a distraction. Try:
a. I loved the acoustic
b. Wasn't the counterpoint interesting in the Prokofieff?
c. My accompanist, colleague, fellow performers are so much fun to work with!
d. How about those Phillies!
e. And this is the best: I'd love to have a crack at that fast movement again!
Complaining about conditions reflects badly on you. Why did you accept the engagement? Complaining about colleagues also reflects badly on you! Why do you feel you have to work with such idiots?
These few suggestions will make it so that you save face regardless of the situation, and never become the stuff of skuttlebut.
Good luck! Play well! Have fun! And be generous....