1546. Miranda’s tam-tam
© Bruce Goodman 26 June 2019
Miranda was one of those relatively rare women who rose to become the head percussionist in the city’s symphony orchestra. Hitting drums and triangles in the city orchestra had for years been a sole male entitlement. Miranda changed all that.
Her interest in percussion had begun when her dear grandfather passed away. Miranda was only seven, but she played Mary had a little lamb beautifully on the recorder. She was the only member of her family, apart from her grandfather, who showed any interest in music. Thus it was that Miranda became the possessor of her late grandfather’s kettle drums.
Miranda took lessons, and over time amassed a large collection of percussion instruments, from wee rose-wood claves to a huge bass drum. Her collection was missing just the one thing: a tam-tam. The gong that Miranda had in mind was huge. It would have to be imported from overseas. And it cost a pretty penny: around twenty thousand. The terrifying crescendo of a roll on a tam-tam would be worth every penny.
Not long after the arrival of the gong, Miranda saw an advertisement in the local paper. The local Repertory Society was staging The Mikado. Did anyone have a small gong? Miranda responded by saying that she had a large tam-tam but she would have to come and play it herself – because of its value.
The excitement! The local amateur orchestra was over the moon. Daphne, the head violinist, told Miranda that it was indeed a profound honour, and she entered into Miranda’s confidence: “Watch out for the oboist. He’s a lecherous rake if ever there was one. He can't keep his hands on his oboe.” And indeed, that was true. He was all over Miranda in the first five minutes. He even patted her bottom during a scene change in the rehearsal. Miranda turned on him. “Keep your hands to yourself, you little weasel,” she sneered.
The next day Miranda arrived for the rehearsal. She had left the tam-tam in the theatre overnight. It had been overturned. It was lying flat on the floor. It had split down the middle. It was useless. Clearly someone had picked up the great gong stick and walloped the tam-tam with all their might – rather like has been done for decades in the opening titles of the films of General Film Distributors. The tam-tam and its stand had fallen over.
Given the expense, the city’s symphony orchestra has now been minus a tam-tam for the past thirty-two cultural seasons. After all these years, Miranda still wondered if the oboist was involved.