Caveat Emptor

A couple of months ago, minded to attend a BBC Proms performance of the Britten War Requiem on September 6th, I went on line and bought a ticket.  Or thought I did.

This was the last time Peter Oundjian conducted the Royal Scottish National Orchestra as their Musical Director.  He closed the RSNO 2017-18 season on June 2nd in Glasgow with a performance of Mahler 9.  On that occasion, the (also outgoing) orchestra’s chief executive encouraged the audience to make the trip to London.  If you have trouble getting a ticket, he said, let me know.

I Googled “BBC Proms” and rather carelessly visited the first listed website.  To make my trip worthwhile, I also purchased a ticket for the all-Berlioz Prom of September 5th, featuring the viola player Antoine Tamestit, and the stupendous mezzo Joyce DiDonato.  I organized to stay two nights with the Royal College of General Practice, and one night with the Royal Society of Medicine.  I bought an airline ticket and a rail connection from Stansted.

I was slightly puzzled that my Berlioz ticket was going to be sent to be my Royal Mail, while my Britten ticket was electronic.  I printed out the Britten ticket.  It was not the seat I had booked.  The printout was for a cheaper seat in another part of the hall, and it bore somebody else’s name.  I got on the chat line naively assuming that this could be sorted out.  Apparently my only options were to use the ticket, or attempt to sell it on.  I got into a somewhat protracted chat-room conversation which ended up in a loop going nowhere.

I phoned the Royal Albert Hall Box Office.  They asked me what website I visited.  I told them.  They said, “Oh God, that lot.”  This was not encouraging.  I also remembered the RSNO Chief Executive’s kind offer, and contacted his office.  They were very sympathetic, but didn’t have any tickets.  I resolved to start again, and contacted the Royal Albert Hall Box Office to buy a ticket.  During the transaction, my Kensington Gore interlocutor suddenly said, “It’s a practice fire alarm.  Got to go.”  It was at this point that I decided I wasn’t meant to travel to London.

My dear colleagues in the RCGP and the RSM were very good.  I got a full refund bar a £5 administrative fee.  I did try and get my air fare refunded, but in fairness to the budget airline, they did say up front that refunds in event of cancellation would not be possible.  So the entire exercise cost me £127.02.  I didn’t make any further attempt to contact the ticketing people.  I didn’t want anything more to do with them.  I resolved to put the whole thing down to experience and not worry about it.  I received several e-fanfares, announcing the imminent arrival of my (snail mail) ticket for the Berlioz.  Not that it mattered any more, but it never arrived.  Today I got a questionnaire from the budget airline asking me how I enjoyed my trip.  Endless compulsory fields on a scale of one to ten.  I found a box for free text and wrote, “I never made this journey”, and pressed “submit”.  Of course it was inadmissible.  So I pressed “delete”.

The great cellist Yo-Yo Ma was on the Andrew Marr show this morning, returning after the summer break.  What an engaging and kindly smile he has.  He played the Prelude from Bach’s first cello suite.  Yo-Yo Ma has played to a host of American presidents in the White House.  Mr Marr asked him if it was stressful to perform to the great and the good.  He replied that he was stressed when his performance failed to make a connection.  He was convinced of the power of music as a source of good for humanity.  He used to think that, in terms of human transactions, music should have a seat at the table.  Now he thinks that music is the table.  Music is trust.

So I will carry on listening.  I’ve been working very hard trying to finish a book.  I’m a dull dog and I’m very grateful to a passing New Zealander who dragged me out of myself and asked to be entertained.  I took her to two organ recitals, on in Dundee’s Caird Hall, and one in the Glasgow Art Galleries.  I really know how to show a girl a good time.

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