Last week I wrote here about going on stage and I evoked the “lucky charm”. Today I will focus on pre-concert rituals as well as these charms. Some do not have rituals or lucky charms, and others elaborate complex rituals which become totally obsessive. Star’s whim or real necessity?
I’m not, compared to others, prone to ritual behaviors before a concert. No extraordinary demand, but I have a couple of habits : I need to iron my shirt by myself before the concert or clean the piano keyboard, for example. Loneliness and silence before playing are also part of my routine but I guess it’s more a matter of concentration than anything else.
However, I have (or rather had) some good luck “stuffs” that I needed to ensure the quality of the concert. First, as ridiculous as it sounds, I used to have my “magic” socks. Yes, I always wore the same pair of socks since an especially successful concert. I decided it was lucky socks, absolutely necessary to perform but I lost them… It was a real disaster, impossible to find the famous socks, and I was forced to play with others and finally, the concert went well. So, I am now freed from this belief and am able to play wearing any pair of socks.
Second must-have item: my pocket-handkerchief. Useful when it ‘s getting too hot under the spotlight, but also to dry and clean the keyboard, my handkerchief is my fetish object and leads me to special rituals: ironed at the same time as the shirt, I check several times its presence in the inside pocket of my jacket before the concert. Once on stage, the first thing I do is putting the piece of cloth in its place, always the same, on the piano frame just before the tuning pins on the right. Certainly my way to make of this stranger piano my piano during the concert.
Nothing special for me as you can see, but some musicians have more complex requests. I saw a conductor requiring 100 roses in his dressing room before playing, or musicians yelling at managers because of the size of a dressing room. But I must say that some organizations allow unimaginable things: cameras not covered by contracts, microphones that immortalize a performance without authorization, really bad piano, lack of staff and poor organization. Although this is not happening all the time, these incidents occur, and often lead to last minute cancellations by artists, then vilified by the press and the production. This is not always fair, and increases the number of our requirements to avoid having to fight against this kind of inconvenience.
We must understand that the soloist is subjected to high stress, and these rituals, requirements and lucky charms which can seem strange are often an unconscious way to hold their own against pressure. Some know how to evacuate stress without becoming “tyrants”, while others do not …