Oct/Nov Q&A, Part IV
12/5/2008 (updated 12/5/2008)

I imagine you frequently encounter people, for example at post-show meet-and-greets, who seem to know you but whom you just can’t place. Maybe they even look familiar, but the name’s nowhere near the tip of your tongue. How does one handle such encounters gracefully? (continued)

I suppose the best line is ‘How nice to see you’, and never ‘Nice to see you again’ in case it isn’t again. I do OK with faces, but am hopeless with names, frequently confusing my own children. The worst sort of backstage visitor, who is deserving of the deepest contempt, is the person who is in the wrong place, i.e. they live in Dallas, you always see them in Dallas, and suddenly here they are in Rotterdam – how are you supposed to remember them when their associations have been swept away and replaced with a new set?

My favourite story concerns Thomas Beecham, famed conductor and wit, who was at an after-show meet-and-greet, and spotted, with dread, a familiar woman across the room coming towards him. Sir Thomas was famous for forgetting names. When she arrived at his side, he gave the non-committal greeting, ‘How lovely to see you!’ She replied, ‘Sir Thomas! How delightful!’ or some such. He was now stuck of course. ‘And how is everything?’, he ventured. ‘Oh, just fine’, she said. ‘And your husband – what’s he up to?’ ‘Oh, you know’, she said. He’s still King’.

When you recorded “Calvary Cross,” was there more of the performance that went on beyond the fadeout? If so, why was it cut short? Do you think of the wonderful instrumental passage that has shown up in concert after concert (although none I’ve attended, alas) as part of the song, as you understand it, these days? (continued)

The original recording did not have an instrumental section, I had not thought of it at the time; but I think live versions always had it, and I do think of that as part of the song.

Having read about your upcoming musical work about "a talent contest in Hell," I wonder whether you are familiar with Randy Newman’s “Faust” and/or Dave Carter’s song “Texas Underground,” both of which may have some thematic connections to what you’re doing. (continued)

My piece is really set in the Underworld, similar to the place in Greek Mythology, rather than out-and-out Hell. I know the Randy Newman, not the Dave Carter.

I get the sense that you’ve succeeded better than many other artists with the separation of ego and art. Such success is to both your credit and your benefit. How does an artist learn to be so unencumbered by ego? One can so easily come to crave acclaim, to be shattered by a bad review or even a mere shortfall in the audience’s understanding, to question whether people like you for yourself or for what they think they can get from you (anything from spiritual enlightenment to Teddy’s mobile number, I'd wager). This is a serious question, coming from a minor artist who wants to treat both her art and her life in a nourishing, salubrious way. Pam (continued)

You need a certain amount of ego to get up on a stage, and I like a bit of attention…but I get uncomfortable being the centre of attention in any other setting, and don’t crave much more than I have. That old praise and blame game is a distraction, anyway, and is never who you really are. My heroes are the great mystic poets, like Rumi and ibn al-Farid, and Hafiz and Attar, and probably Shakespeare and Homer were men of some spiritual insight and self-knowledge. So that’s the way I try to aim, even if I never get there.

P.S. Thanks for your time. And I’m sorry I have no sports questions. What I know about cricket is that there is something called a “leg before wicket” involved. And nice white trousers. That won’t get me far in this conversation.

At least you noticed the trousers.