Our wonderful, ageing audiences

Although most people turn up at concerts on their own or in couples, occasionally there can be a coachload, frequently of older people, more often than not from a nursing home. On one occasion in Canada a few years ago such a scene set me thinking.

Stephen Hough. Photo © Sim Canetty-Clarke

I arrived at the venue that evening with some of the familiar worries most performers have in the hour before the curtain rises, and as I approached the stage door I saw someone being wheeled up the ramp to the front entrance from a bus parked outside. When I saw this man, my heart instantly lifted. It struck me as wonderful that he was there to hear Beethoven and I was the one who this evening was to bring that music to life. It sounds corny to talk about it being a privilege but that’s exactly what it felt like. Ultimately to be a musician is to be a ‘joy bringer’: we are Jupiters, one and all! This old man in his wheelchair was a reminder of the fact, often lamented,...