Saturday, July 25, 2009

Elizabeth Harcombe on Page Turning

Northwest Reverb recently published an interview with pianist and page turner Elizabeth Harcombe about the ups and downs of page turning at Chamber Music Northwest. An excerpt from her interview with James Bash:
JB: Is there a rule of thumb regarding how far you sit away from the piano and the pianists to turn pages?

EH: My philosophy, in the job of the page turner, is to provide a sense of calm in what is typically a high-pressure situation. I don’t know how nervous our artists get, but I would gather that there are some nerves on stage. The last thing I need to do is heighten the nervous energy. I want to stay as calm as possible. I try to stay back as far as I can.

I really have to pay attention regarding what is coming up. Are there low bass notes coming up? I have to be careful if I reach over to turn a page when they are coming down the keyboard or we might have a collision. I have long arms, so that helps. So the fun comes in anticipating the turn. A slow movement or a fast movement will help you determine when you are going to stand. You don’t want to stand too early during an adagio passage and then have to hold that position. So I want to find the most appropriate time to stand, and I don’t want to draw attention to myself.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent blog on the gentle art of pageturning!
    I worked as a pageturner for the BBC when I was at college in Manchester, England, and I was always sightreading the pieces I was turning for.
    I was asked one day to turn pages for a concert, and I turned up, not knowing even who was playing. It was Ashkenazy and Perlman playing a Brahms recital. The hall was full, with 100 extra seats on the stage. I have never been so nervous.
    And at the end of the first movement, Ashkenazy leant over and said, "Can you stand up later, you're making me nervous".
    Not my finest hour...