Earlier this month, William Shatner turned 90. I related a couple of memories in a column. Many years ago, I met the famed actor in a green room, for, oddly enough, we were co-panelists on a TV talk show. (He was a star, I was a curiosity.)
Just before we entered the stage, I said to him, “This has to be like sitting in your living room or something, for you. You’ve done this for so many years.” He answered, “There’s always a certain anxiety.” I very much appreciated that, from him.
Readers of this blog are familiar with Robert Marshall, the musicologist, who is a professor emeritus at Brandeis. He also taught at the University of Chicago. Professor Marshall knows a great deal, obviously, and I enjoy quoting him. He told me a wonderful—and wonderfully apt—story.
In the mid-Seventies, the Chicago music department was running a series called “First Chair.” Principal players from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra would visit the department and talk. One such was Dale Clevenger, the eminent French hornist.
A student said to him, “Do you know the solo from the Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony?” Clevenger said, “Does the Pope know Latin?” The same student, or another one, asked Clevenger whether he ever got nervous. In answer, Clevenger said, “I’m going to play the Tchaikovsky excerpt. Come up here. I want you to feel my pulse while I play it.”
When he was through, he said to the student, “Did you notice how my pulse was racing? And this was a fairly easy solo—certainly not very high. And I am not playing in a major concert. It’s just us, having an informal get-together. Still, yes, it makes me nervous.”
A great illustration, for which I thank Professor Marshall, and Dale Clevenger. (And thank you, too, Bill Shatner.)