When fixing performers, always check what they do first

It may seem an obvious point, but it does happen: performers are fixed who don’t, or can’t, do the part for which they have been hired. Not because they haven’t practiced; because the fixer (or the conductor) got it wrong.

I’ve written before about an acquaintance who was fixed by … well, let’s not mention names … to sing a Brahms German Requiem for an insultingly low fee. What I neglected to mention was that they were hired as a soprano soloist, to sing the beautiful soprano aria ‘Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit.’

However (and here’s the rub),  they’re an alto.

Moreover, there are no alto arias in the Requiem. None at all. There’s plenty for the alto to sing in the Alto-Rhapsody, certainly; but not in the Requiem.

Oh dear. That should have rung alarm bells, even before the miniscule fee was mentioned. It’s no good hiring an alto to sing soprano.

History is littered with stories of singers being booked to perform, who turn up on the day and find the conductor asking them to sing a solo aria that’s not written for their voice-part, or who find that there’s actually another aria that they’re expected to sing, which they weren’t told about.

Fixers: please ensure the musician you hire is able to perform the part you are expecting them to. If you are also the conductor: please check the score before hiring the soloists. Singers: always double- (and triple)-check that the fixer (who, on some occasions, can also be the conductor) knows your voice-part, and has declared all the material they are wanting you to learn. Negotiations are not possible on the day; at least, not without a very great deal of stress…

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