A Soft Spot for Buskers

Spring has arrived in Prague, suddenly, as it often does. On Monday there were snow storms, but yesterday it was 13 C and tomorrow it will be 21 C. Winter to Summer in just one week. Now the city’s buskers are playing with more enthusiasm, and without gloves. Everyone is smiling, just a little.

I have a soft spot for buskers, having been one myself, and though my repertoire was classical (very often the solo parts from concertos, with no orchestral backing) I don’t mind what they play, as long as they play it well. By well I don’t mean only accurately – see In Praise of Inaccuracy – but with musicianship, and an element of joy.

This is me, busking at Covent Garden Market in London in 1980. I’m on the right, in another blue shirt.

busking me

Sometimes, though, I want to silence them. There’s a young man who plays the recorder at the bottom of the escalator where I switch between metro lines, and he ALWAYS gets just one note wrong in his idiosyncratic version of Greensleeves (to others’ ears perhaps it sounds correct). But it’s not the wrong note that bothers me the most, it’s his listless, bored, perfunctory playing. Giving him a few coins may keep the wolf from his door, but I can’t think it could ever be a measure of his musicianship, unless you’re paying him to stop.

But the band I heard this morning just outside the I P Pavlova metro station, play with pleasure, or a convincing semblance of it, and it cheers me to hear them. I have a soft spot for buskers and also for this kind of Central European schmaltz (schmaltz as in music played  with maudlin sentimentality, rather than as in smothered with goose fat).

See and hear them here:

Buskers at I P Pavlova

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