I’m just back from a very short weekend in Oxford. We braved the elements in order to listen to a Saturday evening concert given by an orchestra in which my daughter-in-law plays. The concert was excellent, especially the solo rendered by a professional tuba player (at some point I’d like to find a place for him in a crime novel), whose personality radiated around the church venue. He had generously, and at very short notice, agreed to stand in for the talented young woman who usually plays; she was unable on this occasion to do so, because of illness. I felt for her, since she really loves the piece, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Tuba Concerto, and the concert would have demonstrated just how good an instrumentalist she is.
However, with his supple virtuoso fingering on visual display and tuba tones at the challenging upper register of the instrument as aural evidence of his musical skills, her replacement held the audience in a trance. A couple of times, the deepest notes sounded, causing the very masonry of the building to vibrate, and we were all aboard a seabound vessel, under way and making way down the shipping channel to wide musical horizons. I think that there could not have been a single person in the audience who did not want to learn to play the tuba, there and then!
Not only did he stand in for that piece, but, having recognised that the orchestra was a tuba player down for Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 in D (‘Polish’) after the interval, he volunteered for that, too, instead of jumping ship and heading back to London. Such generosity of spirit and such willingness to support an orchestra in need of help charmed us all and I was reminded of the fellow feeling of writers I have come to know since making my way into crime fiction. There is plenty of evidence on the social networks of the sharing of ideas and of asking for and receiving much-needed information: a community of like-minded individuals who value each other’s work and are happy to help promote it.
If this tuba player makes it into my writing, however, he won’t be the man I watched on Saturday… but he will have a tuba-sized personality.