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10 reasons to hug your accompanist today

Robert Rowat

Soprano Victoria de los Angeles once said, "It's always really difficult to find someone who has the qualities to be a great accompanist," and we couldn't agree more. It's time to give the accompanists in our lives a little love.

Accompanists: those hard-working pianists who rehearse, coach and perform alongside singers and instrumentalists. Talented and reliable with nerves of steel, they're a cornerstone of the classical music industry, yet they avoid the spotlight. They're quick studies with vast repertoire at their fingertips, but sometimes they don't get the attention they deserve.

When things go as they should, accompanists are equal partners in musical collaboration, sharing fully in the artistry and acclaim.

That's not always the case, though.

We talked to some of Canada's best collaborative pianists — the A word is outdated — about their profession. It turns out they were eager to share (vent?), so we put together a list.

While you're reading, listen to CBC Music's classical serenity stream

1. They play 10 times as many notes as you

Sure, your sonata is hard to play, but look what the pianist has to do. 

Pianists often play more notes than the solo performer.

2. They walk onstage several paces behind you

Of course it's long-established concert protocol, but if people can clap between movements, maybe it's time for the accompanist to walk onstage first for a change.

While the accompanist contributes an equal amount to the music, the soloist often steals the spotlight.

3. They know your Starbucks order and your dietary restrictions by heart

Because it’s impossible to get through your dress rehearsal without a venti, sugar-free, nonfat, vanilla soy, double shot, decaf, no foam, extra hot, peppermint white chocolate mocha with extra syrup and a gluten-free muffin.

Accompanists can end up helping the soloist in many ways outside of just the music.

4. They do up your dress

"Enough with all the gluten-free muffins!"

Accompanists are the best line of moral support.

5. They cue your entrances if you get lost

You get distracted by a latecomer, you get carried away in the emotion of the music, you forget to count. It happens. Your accompanist is there with a subtle sniff, a few whispered words, and boom! you come in on time.

No matter what happens, your accompanist has your back.

6. They're your security guard when you're carrying around a $7 million violin

Who's your backstage ninja while you're busy signing CDs after your concert? Your accompanist, that's who.

Guarding your gear is just one of the long list of things your accompanist will do for you.

7. They're excellent navigators during long concert tours

Exit numbers, road signs, detours, one-way streets. So. Hard.

Turns out that accompanists are probably as good at navigating roads as they are pieces of music.

8. They can help you make a quick exit from the post-concert reception

"No, really, we'd love to talk to you about performing at your daughter's sweet 16 party, but right now we've got a flight to catch."

Accompanists would probably be a good wingman, too.

9. They know all the best restaurants

You: "That concert made me so hungry, but where are we going to find something decent to eat at this hour?"

Your accompanist: "Um, we have a reservation for three at 11:30 at the best table in town."

You: "Oh, you think of everything! Wait, a reservation for three?"

Your accompanist: "Ryan Gosling is here shooting a film, and he's joining us."

Your accompanist has probably already researched the wine menu, too.

10. They are your confidante and will take your freaky pre-concert habits to the grave

Nobody needs to know why you always bring a vibrator to your dressing room.

Your accompanist will make sure that what happens at the concert, stays at the concert.