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Reading Aloud

A concert

Aldous had agreed to having another concert in his grounds. He has a useful barn with good acoustics which can be turned into a concert hall of some description, holding about a hundred people. It had been quite a success last year. A lovely venue in a rural setting. Fields, woods.
Somebody said Glyndebourne. It must be nice having one’s property likened to Glyndebourne, if on a different level obviously. Let’s try and be up to it.

The village people were notified of the forthcoming event, asked to book early and warned that numbers were limited. No harm in exercizing a little pressure… It was no good anyway.
Hardly anyone booked. People had to be chased up and made to buy their tickets. One can’t really say “no” to somebody one is supposed to be friendly with. One can’t say “no” to somebody one works with. One certainly doesn’t refuse a free ticket – Aldous himself had bought up quite a number to give them away. Sometimes it was difficult to make people pay on the spot. It upset Aldous’ wife. It happened to me twice that people couldn’t pay £2 or so, because they had to “go to the bank in the morning”. I let them off, saying they could pay at the door. Aldous’ wife thought they were naughty and wrote “to pay” on their tickets.

Aren’t people sticky where money is concerned? How much had I taken so far, Aldous’ wife asked. I was afraid, not much. Anyway, it all helps. The organizers were apparently going to great trouble about providing refreshments. I heard they had paid out so much already. Just for food! Should they not cut down on that and let the musicians have more, Aldous’ wife wondered. She was glad it wasn’t her business. She had enough hassle preparing the barn. She was quite exhausted and started thinking was it worth it. She in fact might not have it again next year. She hadn’t asked me to help her, she kindly told me, because she knew I was busy doing good deeds. I was grateful for her consideration.

People would expect concerts in such venues to be in aid of something. Last year it happened, much to the organizer’s embarrassment, that in fact the question was asked: “What was the concert in aid of?” Really it had mainly been to support a few competent young musicians. The question of charity had not been considered. There was no evidence of it on the programme. Fortunately, somebody had had the foresight of making a donation of £7 to the Church, £7 that were left over, towards the restoration of the roof more exactly. So there was the answer: in aid of the Church. The person who told me chuckled. They’ve learnt their lesson for this year’s concert and printed on the invitation: “proceeds after expenses to charity”. It looks good, meets any honest citizen’s expectations and what is more, means nothing, being totally non-committal. The organizers decide about expenses and any amount left over depends on how well tickets sell. Everybody should be happy like that. To do things absolutely correctly, the name of the charity benefiting was printed on the programme. Very appropriately a charity supported by musicians.

Some time after the concert, Aldous’ wife told me they had received a number of letters from people who had much appreciated the music and even made donations. “Or for the kitty,” Aldous’ wife suggested. “It would be nice to have something in the kitty.” Is she thinking of next year?

Anyway, the concert was a success, and how about a report about it in the local newspaper? Aldous’ wife was all for it. The men would have to do that of course. Aldous was a little tired, but willing to contribute. Things that go on in a small village, in his grounds! He could write a report together with somebody else. However, this person was more than a little tired. Always willing to oblige, it is true. Had Aldous had the energy to grab him, he would not have resisted. As it happened, Aldous couldn’t be bothered, and his wife tried in vain, so she told me, to push him. Nothing came of it in the end. What a shame.

Aldous took the opportunity, on the night of the concert, for a little advertizing. What a chance having a hundred people in one room who wanting to sit down have to remove a slip of paper from their seats first! Because that was what he had done. People were bound to take notice of a slip of paper on their seats. What was the best way psychologically speaking of putting the message over to them? By making them aware in friendly terms of an important meeting. It concerned the future of their parish – much debated for a long time – and he was going to be one of the main speakers. At the end the reader was told in large print to take the date of the meeting down in his/her diary NOW. No harm in telling people clearly and helping them not to forget…

After the concert a lot of these papers were found left on the seats. “People didn’t even bother to take them with them,” somebody complained to me. I told him I had left mine, too. I had no use for it. The other person looked surprized and then laughed…