Falling Off Stages


Dear Readers,

I have a sneaking suspicion that one day I will fall off of a stage. I don’t know where or when, or what the circumstances might be, but I find it difficult to believe that I will make it to old age without once losing my footing and plummeting into the audience. This doesn’t worry me. It simply seems an inevitable experience. I have already come close.

There was the time when I skated across not one but two freshly waxed landings in new shoes during curtain calls in full view of a gasping German audience. I have tripped on concert gowns onstage more times than I can count. Throughout the years, my heels have caught in small floor gaps as I’ve performed – at least ten times while playing, and probably five in mid-stride. Once, blinded by a spotlight, I marched straight into a velvet drape. The floor space I’m frequently given to tread on- and off-stage is no more than 12″ wide, on slick surfaces with a full dress obstructing my view.

Last week in San Francisco, I was sure my time had arrived. The orchestra risers left just enough room to walk safely, barring any mishaps, but that – shall we call it – catwalk was divided right down the middle by a structural crevice running only a few inches from the yawning, dark abyss in which the audience was seated. Miraculously, I managed to keep my feet where they were supposed to be. But such miracles aren’t available every week.

The stage was the only thing scary about San Francisco. The SFSO was really fun to work with, open and engaged through rehearsals and concerts; James Gaffigan, the conductor, was a great colleague; and I had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving and birthday in the Bay Area, with a road trip to a beach in the morning and a Chinese feast for dinner. Earlier in the week, I joined a couple of friends – Hauschka and Tom Brosseau – on their show at the Hotel Utah as a surprise guest. I met up with my uncle and aunt another evening, and I saw my cousin at one of the concerts. I also got to catch up with some old friends in the orchestra and went on a hike.

Now I’m in Germany for my next performance-and-recording project: a disc of Bach arias (the ones with violin solos) with singers Matthias Goerne and Christine Schaefer. Rehearsals began today, in a 7-hour marathon. I’ve been wanting to do this project for a long time, so it’s wonderfully satisfying that we’re all finally here, in the same city, with the first concert two days away.

Hilary