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Tales from London

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Johnny Laville Johnny Laville | 12:04 UK time, Friday, 3 September 2010

I'm Johnny Laville from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBC SSO) and I'm going to be posting to the Scotland's Music blog on behalf of players from the BBC SSO. Our first post is from Principal Second Violinist Greg Lawson. Read on...


BBC SSO violinist Greg Lawson

The orchestra has descended upon London and will be gathering at the magnificent Royal Albert Hall in the morning for the next Prom. I arrived at the station and getting off the train my memory took me as it always does, to the first time I ever came to London.

I was sixteen and had never been to anywhere bigger than a department store in Newcastle. The night before my adventure I was sitting in a pub with my brothers playing fiddle and mandolin in a session and word had got around that young Gregory was going to London. That kind of thing happens in small North Eastern towns that are made up of one front street with houses and shops either side, and open country at either end. It's the countryside that you identify with more than the town. Anyway, I had just finished a set and 'Old Bob' who sat in the corner listening and talking quietly to his bottle of Newcastle Brown (other beers are available) came over to me with something to say. This caused almost as much of a stir as me going to London because no one had ever heard Bob speak out loud before.

"Young Gregory...." he breathed "..ah hear the's gannin' te Lunnen the morra'"
"Aye, that's right Bob, ahm a bit excited" I said, aware that the whole room was going quiet as everyone leaned discreetly towards us.
"Ah went te Lunnen once ya naz?!" he continued, and every eyebrow in the room went up together. No one had ever imagined him having been anywhere.
"Is that reet Bob?" I asked, self consciously trying to control my eyebrows. "Aye, an ah'll tell ye summat" he said with a conspiratorial air, looking from side to side and leaning a little closer. The whole room creaked as everyone else leaned closer too. In the background of the bar, someone even said "Shh!!" Unaware of his audience, Bob continued. "....Ya want te be dead careful young Gregory," he paused to take a swig from his Brown Ale and everyone in the room licked their lips. "..... because Lunnen has got a REALLY BIG FRONT STREET!"

Some people's eyebrows stayed frozen where they were and some dropped into a confused frown. The silence that followed Bobs carefully considered pearl of wisdom fashioned from his experience was a strange mixture of confusion, respect and a kind of endearing affection.

His advice passed on, he nodded and returned to his seat to mutter quietly into his bottle once again and the room slowly but gradually assumed an air of normality. Bobs words however, stayed with me and continue to do so every time I come to London. I wonder what kind of limited but profound experience Bob had in one "front street" of London. Perhaps if he had discovered that it has in fact, thousands of front streets, he may have never recovered. Nonetheless, I all ways feel a bit overwhelmed on his behalf and although I have travelled the world with music, I'm still a slightly nervous novice when I come to London.

The BBC SSO on stage at the Royal Albert Hall

Slightly nervous is not the state you want to be in however, when you walk out onto the stage in the Albert Hall and see so many people so far away that they look more like figures in an impressionist painting than people. You have to convert the nerves to excitement in order to not turn round and just go straight back to the dressing room. It's an amazing site as you emerge from the tunnel from backstage into this enormous space and that's where I leave Old Bob. This is no time to be careful. The care has been rehearsed, now its time for risk and passion and performance. At the end of the concert as I leave the building I'll pick Old Bob up again and we'll head off to the pub nervously hoping we don't get lost.

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