For our podcast this month, we’re pleased to present Sunday Writers’ Club member Caroline Stevenson – chatting with her outdoors near Stephansplatz in the historical heart of Vienna. Listen in and find out about Caroline’s musical career and interest in writing, and listen to Caroline reading her short story “Lucky Concert Earrings”.
Writing inspired by the SWC creative writing prompt: Write about your “lucky pulling pants.” In other words, a favourite item of clothing worn for superstitious purposes – maybe for confidence, good fortune or flirtation.
Lucky Concert Earrings
Lucky Concert Earrings
By Caroline Stevenson
My lucky concert earrings came into existence for the purposes of violin playing. 5 years ago, an orchestra project I was involved in was partially sponsored by a jewellery store, and in one rehearsal we got to pick out a piece of jewellery we would adorn ourselves with for the concert at the Mozartsaal.
The cellists and the woodwind players picked the long, draping necklaces, their necks having the freedom to serve as the perfect display model. Not all violin players are disturbed by having a band of metal between the underside of their violin and their collarbone, but I find it an unwelcome distraction. Same with bracelets and rings: they amount to unwelcome and wieldy extra weight for my skinny wrists and fingers to have to contend with when grappling an already complex passage of music. Earrings can provide a percussive accompaniment if they dangle too far down and scrape the varnish on the top of your instrument. But my especially commissioned earrings passed the Goldilocks test: they were just right. Not too long, but just long enough to stand out and sway from side to side along with my motions, as though caught in a light breeze. If you happen to be sitting bang in front of the horn players and you reach a fortissimo section, it can feel like a strong gale has spontaneously materialised two feet behind you, and the earrings will dangle forwards appropriately at a roughly 90-degree angle. These earrings consist of strings of white pearls which form an oval shape; they complement any outfit, but are particularly well matched to standard all-black concert attire.
Sure enough, the fledgling concert of this newly-founded orchestra turned out to be a success. The earrings weren’t responsible, of course, but who doesn’t like to wear something they associate with a positive experience? This association with a happy memory was the main motivation for wearing those earrings for the next concert, and for the concert after that, and soon they began to feel like part of my uniform. I started branching out and wearing these earrings for performances with other ensembles. I played for a theatre performance where not only did I get to dress up as a 1920s flapper-girl and these earrings were oh-so-adaptable, and not only did I get to play some Classical hits, but by channelling my instrument and exploiting it to its full extent, I was a one-woman sound box playing the part of various minor but vital roles: I embodied the clacking of horse’s hooves, doorbells, creaking wooden doors in the dead of night, you name it. We had six consecutive shows and before the fourth, I was busy playing tour guide to my parents who were in town. After a successful sightseeing programme and much to-ing and fro-ing, I said my goodbyes to them and headed to the venue where, just before reaching the entrance, I realised that my earlobes felt lighter than they would normally do in this scenari — oooohhhh shit! I had only forgotten to put on my lucky earrings. They hadn’t officially garnered the title of “lucky earrings,” but the lurching sensation of dread when realising I would have to play without them revealed that they had, slowly but surely, accumulated a superstitious power over me. I irrationally began to doubt my ability to play the octave shifts or the more nifty sections with my usual confidence, and my palms began to get sweaty at the mere idea of playing without my Goldilocks sidekicks. I felt strangely naked all of a sudden. I may as well have rocked on up to the theatre without my dress, I thought to myself.
But that thought made me stop to consider: let’s suppose I did actually play naked. What would an audience member’s lasting impression be? Upon leaving the theatre, would the gaggle of show spectators heading towards the U-Bahn be more likely to say to one another “that was a bold move, having a nude soloist, though that really ought to come with a warning in the programme. I mean it wasn’t even an avant-garde piece”, or would they say “Shame about that bum note from the violinist. Do you know, that really impacted on my enjoyment of the performance as a whole. I wished I’d stayed at home.” Of course, it was incredibly unlikely to be the latter response. And so, my attitude to the impending performance crystallised. I accepted that feeling of being naked, and in my mind’s eye, I played undressed. And in an inverse way, knowing that no one would really mind a bum note in such circumstances served to improve my playing, precisely because I allowed myself the freedom to play a bum note, and because the fear of the bum notes had gone, I diminished the opportunity for them to rear their badly-tuned heads.
So I guess the lucky earrings, in their absence, taught me a useful lesson. Namely that feeling “exposed” can be turned to your advantage. And this epiphany turned out to be well-timed. The next gig offer I received was for an all-immersive sensory concert experience at a sauna. For hygiene purposes, no jewellery allowed.
Sunday Wrters' Club member
You can find out more about musical theatre “Let’s Fly Away” where Caroline plays by visiting their Facebook page.
And you can book in for a night of musical entertainment with “Let’s Fly Away” when they play at Kulturpark Traun by visting the website.
Portrait of Caroline courtesy of Markus Raffeis