Reports are suggesting that Britain's most prestigious orchestras are today precariously positioned with huge drinking problem plaguing them - sometimes, with even drunk musicians performing on stage!
Bill Kerr, the orchestral organiser of the Musicians' Union, revealed that there has been "regrettable incidents" involving alcohol and musicians drinking to overcome boredom and pre-performance nerves.
AdvertisementKerr spoke at the Association of British Orchestras' annual conference, saying that musicians drank because they had few other distractions while waiting for performances.
The drinking ranged from a pint to steady the nerves to full-blown inebriation on stage, and one incident involved one of the UK's most celebrated opera and ballet orchestras "and its heavy brass section".
"They should have been sacked really, but they would have been very hard to replace," the Scotsman quoted him as saying.
He explained that the players were involved in only one of three works being staged that night, and performed drunk.
"For musicians there can be so much captive time, a lot of time and not many distractions. Frequently the only place to go is the pub," he said.
"For these musicians there wasn't anything for them to do, and it was a red rag to a bull.
"You might say they were grownups, but there was nowhere for them to go. They rebelled, it got out of hand. It's indefensible and reprehensible, but it's human nature," he stated.
Another conference delegate recalled an incident in which a percussionist had fallen off the back of a high stage while drunk.
Chi-chi Nwanoku, a bass player with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, said that at a performance at Glyndebourne Opera House in East Sussex, a colleague who was a recovering alcoholic started drinking at a period of great emotional strain.
"He was drinking and eating extra strong mints, but it didn't hide the smell. His playing got worse and worse and worse. I was trying to cover up for him," Nwanoku said.
There is little research into the prevalence of drinking among performing musicians, and thus it is not known whether it has increased alongside alcohol use generally or has decreased and become more socially unacceptable, like drink driving.
Experts say stage fright is one of the main reasons as to why musicians drink alcohol before a performance, while group culture is another. Anecdotally brass players drink more than other sections of the orchestra.