Musical horror stories!

Lots of people believe that the life of a professional musician is filled with glitz and glamour and yes, it can very well be, but as has been seen in the news this week it can also be fraught with difficulties, as people travel around the world and do their best to keep on top of different countries’ rules and regulations.

Here at the Two Moors Festival, we were very concerned to hear that BBC Radio 3 presenter Petroc Trelawny – who has taken part in previous Two Moors events over the years – had been detained for not having a work permit for his role as compere at the Bulawayo Music Festival earlier this month.

Incoming reports regarding the situation seem a little confused – one minute he’s been released and the next officials are refusing to cancel the arrest warrant. Here’s hoping the matter is resolved as quickly as possible. This case has got us thinking, however – what other incidents have we seen in the last 20 or so years where musicians ran into a spot of bother as they toured around here, there and everywhere?

Festival artistic director Penny Adie used to take the winners of the BBC Young Musician competition out on tour around the Middle East and she really has seen it all – and then some! “Most of the tales have to do with travel,” she says, with a smile. “Losing baggage happened several times. Sarah Williamson, for example, arrived in Bahrain with nothing. The airline gave her £20 for a toothbrush. And Liz Couling had to borrow concert clothes in Doha.”

Travelling with a marimba was also a bit of a nightmare, Penny recalls. Not only did it weigh 96kg in a flight case but several people at customs requested it to be unpacked, assembled, played upon and – once they were satisfied that it was in fact just a musical instrument – allowed it to be packed up again. Other countries also spent a goodly time searching instruments for bar codes, she continues.

Keeping an eye on price tags might also be a good idea, as violinist Magnus Johnston soon found out on the Middle East tour. According to Penny, he once had to fork out £7 for a KitKat from his hotel minibar!

Money and musical instruments aside, people were often struck down with serious illnesses while away, Penny says. “Pianist Harvey Davies once got terrible food poisoning before a school workshop, as did flautist Adam Walker. Adrian Spillett stubbed his toe badly on a boat on the al Bustan beach and had to walk onto the concert platform in socks in front of HRH Princess Alexandra and Omani royalty.”

So, as you can see, a life on the road may not be entirely all it’s cracked up to be – although it’s certain never to be boring!

Do you have any musical horror stories you’d like to share?

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