I think I am allowed to say this…
Many musicians have an obsession to detail. It is kind of obvious if you think about it; take a violinist in a symphony orchestra – in an average year she/he will give about 130 public performances (plus rehearsals) – at the BSO that would equate to over 300 different pieces of music… that means several hundred thousand notes to be played… that means several hundred thousand notes of different pitches, lengths, intensities, difficulties and combinations… that means several hundred thousand notes of different pitches, lengths, intensities, difficulties and combinations and all of which have to be done at exactly the same time (and to a tolerance of let’s say a few 1/100ths of a second) as the other 13 violinists in the section.
It’s kind of remarkable when you actually think about the detail of what an orchestra does on a daily basis; 70 to 100 highly skilled people using a variety of techniques and equipment to realise in sound the vision of one person (a composer), written down in graphic notation (music) and subject to the interpretation of one other person (a conductor) but with the collective insights and experience of everyone involved. It is no surprise that Sir Alex Ferguson said that the greatest team work he ever saw was in a Symphony Orchestra.
Faced with all this, is it any surprise that musicians become fascinated (occasionally obsessed) by detail?
This manifests itself in interests outside music too and is one of the many reasons why musicians are such interesting people.
For me, since I was a kid it has always been cars. Every Wednesday I would get up early to ensure I was the first one to read my Dad’s ‘Motor’ magazine when it came through the letter box. I used to cut out all the bits from the newspaper about Formula 1 and stick them on a massive sheet of thick brown paper on my bedroom wall. When I got my first car (Austin Allegro…) I used to clean it all the time, come sun, rain or even occasionally snow. You get the picture.
You may now understand the extent of the joy I feel every day due to the brilliant relationship that the BSO has with Sandown Mercedes-Benz Group where I am able to drive a fabulous M-B everywhere I go representing the BSO. Given the orchestra covers an area of 10,000 square miles as its territory, the car is seen right across the South and South west and at our 35-40 different performing venues each year.
I love the challenge of ensuring I park the car in as visible place as possible (you may have noticed) – kind of why not – and all the better if I can get it close to the BSO instrument lorry.
So the cars. I have been driving the E-Class Cabriolet, nothing better when the sun is out although the ‘soft-top’ is so good that you notice little difference from a hard top car in terms of noise. Engine wise the E350 I have at the moment is fabulous fun – the B3081 back from Bristol a couple of weeks ago at night was a joy – but overall I’ve enjoyed the E250D the most as it has great torque for safe overtaking on our legendary road network, but you can still average over 45mpg plus on a long journey.
And then there is the incredible detail and back to where we started. To quote Mercedes-Benz – “Applying a loving attention to detail, our engineers pull off the feat time and time again of developing new Mercedes-Benz models embodying the brand’s hallmarks of fascination, perfection and responsibility” – for me this is just the same with a world-class orchestra playing Prokofiev or Beethoven.
There is the obvious detailing like a beautiful analogue clock set within a contemporary dashboard or the fabulous seats or the intuitive Sat Nav or the overall driving experience but it goes beyond that; I have become particularly fascinated by the way that new technology, which monitors how efficiently you drive, helps you achieve excellent mpg whilst also keeping up high average mph – the perfect combination. As it requires you to drive very smoothly, it is also great for passengers.
I might have to drive between 60 and 260 miles after a concert at night so the computer system that monitors ones driving and warns you when you are getting tired, though really spooky sometimes, is a great reassurance and aid to safe driving.
So, huge thanks to Sandown Mercedes-Benz Group for enabling me to apply my love of cars and driving to the fascinating life of running a great Symphony Orchestra, and for enabling me to show that the Mercedes-Benz mantra of ‘the best or nothing’ is equally applicable to the amazing musicians of the BSO, bringing great music and cultural engagement to 10,000 square miles of the South and South West.
BSO Chief Executive