Since my wrist recovered earlier this year I have been steadily getting back into playing again. I began orchestral playing again this season and have been invited as a soloist to perform a concerto next season which I’m delighted about. I have also started taking deps for weddings, parties and other functions again on my electric violins. This weekend just gone I had one such function crop up, and my husband was also out working so we had to factor childcare into the equation.
Well that was the first hurdle. My husband was working in Eastbourne and myself in Guildford so we both had a bit of a journey (my sat nav took me past lakeside and bluewater 1 week before christmas, not the most sensible route!). In order to allow for traffic and be set in time we had to leave at 4 and 4:30 respectively and neither of us would finish and get back before 1am. So the shortest time I needed childcare for would be 9 hours. Now I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but our childcare comes at a charge of £7 per hour so I was looking at £63 childcare fee’s before I started. Then add to that the guzzling petrol tank for the journey and what’s left doesn’t muster a particularly inspiring fee for being out of the house for 9 hours.
All my life if a gig has come up, I’ve looked in my diary and if I’m free and want to play then I just say yes. As a gigging mummy there is a whole other set of criteria that have to be considered. First, is my husband working that night or home? If he is home then I can say yes and if he gets a gig too then we worry about it as it comes up. If he is also working then I can only really say yes if I can find suitable and available childcare. So these days I need to work out what time a gig starts and finishes, what time I need to leave the house, what time I’ll get back. Then I have to find out who is available for childcare before I can commit. Once I’ve calculated the cost of the petrol and childcare I then have to consider if it is financially worth my while to be out of the house for 9 hours not to mention have the stress of the late night (no lie ins with my early bird boys!).
None the less, I have to say I still absolutely love playing live, I don’t play my electric violins so often these days – they certainly don’t get out of the cases unless I am gigging, and while I play I’m not thinking about what I’ve bought the kids for christmas, how many chairs we’ll need when everyone comes round, when I’m going to fit the food shopping or doing the business accounts in. I’m absorbed in the music and I am not Karen the mum, wife or business woman, I’m just Karen playing her violin again for that period of time. I wear a fancy frock, a bit of make up and I communicate with people musically rather than verbally and watch all the punters (sorry, couldn’t think of a more appropriate word!) having a lovely time and enjoying themselves.
This weekends event was a wedding, a winter wedding in a gorgeous Tithe Barn, but rather than enjoy a quick saunter round on arrival, due to my escapades in getting on the road I only arrived in the nick of time. As I dashed to the stage and started unpacking my fiddles I asked who I was depping for, was it the flautist or the usual violinist as I am called to dep for either. Both came the response, neither of the main instrumentalists were there, which meant I was going to have to take my fair share of playing the proper dots rather than widdling around on fanciful harmonies as the mood took me. Not to worry I thought, we have Clive on mandolin, and another couple of flautists, not to mention the solid rhythm section of guitar, bass and drums. But oh no, as I quickly sound checked my fiddles it transpired that the guitarist had broken down on route to the venue and so wouldn’t be joining us, and he also had one of the other flautists in his car.
Dang. That really seemed to put the stress levels up on the poor old band leader, but to be fair, for me as it isn’t a regular gig anyway it made no odds. I’m depping, I turn up, I play the tunes, it doesn’t matter who is and isn’t there. And besides, it was quite nice to hear some different arrangements coming through, I loved the simplicity and beautiful textures of all linear instruments rather than the chug chugging of the rhythm guitar. But then Twang, dear old Clive had a string on the mandolin break and that did put a slight spanner in the works. We were now down to me, drums, bass and some flute harmonies while he worked out how to re-string it (in his defence it was a borrowed mandolin and he’d not had to change a string on it before). Could it get any more challenging?
What a trouper. In the interval the flautist who had been stuck in the guitarists broken down car arrived, she’d managed to convince someone to come and meet her on the motorway and bring her on to the gig. Not only that, but she’d had the foresight to bring one of the guitars with her, so Clive was able to do a quick switcheroo and start the second half on guitar. Back to a more traditional band line up with guitar, bass, drums, melody and harmony. Except the guitar was detuned by about a tone. Our band leader helpfully took it upon himself to pop the guitar round his neck and tune it up, and in his haste/stress proceeded to break a string, so yet again Clive was sat there re-stringing an unfamiliar instrument.
Finally we launched into the second half with a decent line up, and it sounded fabulous. The
punters guests were delighted, one of them came over and told me this was the 6th time he’d been at a function with this band and he loved it. I politely said thank you but that it probably wasn’t me, I was a dep, but the dear chap was adamant he’d seen me before. It transpires we had played at his wedding 3 1/2 years ago and he remembered me clearly as I was heavily pregnant at the time. Well he’s absolutely right, I now have a little one aged 3 yrs 5 1/2 months, and I also remember playing his wedding as it was literally 2 weeks before I gave birth. They’ve been rebooking the band for functions ever since, and tonight was his best mans wedding.
Well what a flash point to look back at. The gigging experience pre-being a mummy (literally 2 weeks), and the gigging experience post being a mummy. A lot more complicated, a lot less financially rewarding, masses more tiring (the next day is like a hangover), BUT the marvellous experience of making music, and sharing the pleasure with others is exactly the same, roll on the next gig!
Posted by: karen