Breaking Conductors’ Down by Gesture and Body Part

I’ve never taken any music lessons in my life, but sometimes, if fact often, I find myself “conducting” while in my car with my loud music on. Only using one hand while the other remains on the wheel, my arm and hand swing around and up and down to the tempo. I have no idea what the traffic behind thinks. I’ve wondered how many others have done some “air-conducting’ LOL. I found this brief (but longish) overview of a conductor’s gestures and body movements. Hope you find something of interest in what it all means.

The Maestro’s MojoBy DANIEL J. WAKIN

A composite of images of Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic, as recorded by computer in a motion-capture sequence.

ARMS carve the air.

A hand closes as if to pull taffy. An index finger shoots out. The torso leans in, leans back. And somehow, music pours forth — precisely coordinated and emotionally expressive — in response to this mysterious podium dance.Concertgoers, who train their ears on the orchestra, inevitably fix their eyes on the conductor. But even the most experienced listener may not be aware of the subtle and deep connection between a conductor’s symphony of movements and the music emanating from the players.So in an attempt to understand what is going on, we interviewed seven conductors as they passed through New York in recent seasons with an eye to breaking them down into body parts — like that poster in the butcher shop with dotted lines to show the different cuts of meat — left hand, right hand, face, eyes, lungs and, most elusive, brain. The conductor’s fundamental goal is to bring a written score to life, through study, personality and musical formation. But he or she makes music’s meaning clear through body motion.

PhotoXian Zhang, who sculptures musical lines with her baton. Credit Julie Glassberg/The New York Times

“If you imagine trying to talk to somebody in a totally foreign language, and you wanted to express something to that person without the use of language, how would you do that?” the British conductor Harry Bicket said. “That’s really what you’re doing.

”Every baseball pitcher has a different motion, but all pitchers want to retire the batter. Similarly, every conductor employs a singular style, but all want to elicit as great a performance as possible. So our breakdown has inherent generalizations.

In the end it must be remembered that the art of conducting is more than just semaphore. It is a two-step between body and soul, between physical gesture and musical personality. The greatest technician can produce flabby performances. The most inscrutable stick waver can produce transcendence.

“You can do everything right and be of no interest at all,” said James Conlon, the music director of the Los Angeles Opera. “And you can be baffling and effective.”

RIGHT HAND

Traditionally (for right-handers, at least), the right hand holds the baton and keeps the beat. It controls tempo — faster here, slower there — and indicates how many beats occur in a measure. The baton usually signals the beginning of a measure with a downward motion (the downbeat). An upward movement prepares for the downbeat. Conducting manuals say the upbeat and downbeat should take the same amount of time, and that interval should equal the length of the beat. “The upbeat is the preparation for any event,” said Alan Gilbert, the music director of the New York Philharmonic.

Setting the right tempo for a musical passage is critical. No less an authority than the composer Richard Wagner, also one of the first modern conductors, said the “whole duty of a conductor is comprised in his ability always to indicate the right tempo.” Yet a conductor is not a black-coat-and-tails-wearing metronome. “One of the big misconceptions of what conductors do is they stand there and beat time,” Mr. Bicket said. “Most orchestras don’t need anyone to keep time.”

But the baton can also shape the sound. The nature of the downbeat — how abrupt, how delicate — tells the orchestra what kind of sound character to produce. The baton can smooth out choppy phrases by moving through the beat in a more sweeping way. A more horizontal motion can create a more lyrical quality, said James DePreist, the former director of orchestral and conducting studies at the Juilliard School. A downward stroke that imitates a violin bowing movement, Mr. Bicket said, can color the attack. Even when beating time through long-held notes, Mr. Gilbert said, the conductor should be trying to communicate the sound quality through the movement of the baton.

A predecessor of Mr. DePreist’s at Juilliard, the conducting master Jean Morel, taught that the right hand and wrist should be “thoroughly self-sufficient,” said Mr. Conlon, a Morel student; it should “do everything — time, expression, articulation, character — so that you could then apply the left hand and withhold it at will.”

Xian Zhang, a master of sculpturing musical line with her baton, demonstrated this while rehearsing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola with a student orchestra at the Juilliard School. Her stick movement closely matched the music’s character, turning delicate for gentle passages, small for accompanying strings, larger for a horn and oboe melody. Her arm strokes grew broad at vigorous lines. Sometimes the uplift of her baton seemed literally to draw out the sounds.

Some conductors prefer at times, or all the time, not to use a baton. Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who becomes the music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra in September, is one. His training came mostly with choirs, for which batons are rarely used.

“Basically the hands are there to describe a certain space of the sound and to shape that imaginary material,” Mr. Nézet-Séguin said. That imaginary body of sound sits in front of the conductor, between the chest and the hands, he added. “It’s easier when there is nothing in one hand.” He started using a baton when he began guest-conducting at major orchestras, because they were more used to it.

Valery Gergiev is another conductor who often does not use a baton. His technique was on display at a rehearsal of the London Symphony Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall in preparation for a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3.

Mr. Gergiev sat in a chair, generally immobile. Almost all the action came from his right hand, which was often flat, with thumb parallel, like an alligator’s jaws. His left hand did little but was used occasionally to point and to cut chords off. Mr. Gergiev doesn’t so much beat time with his right hand as waggle his fingers in character with the music. His fingers were usually outstretched, palms down, and his wrist cocked upward at face level. Sometimes he formed an O.K. circle with his thumb and forefinger, and waggled the other three fingers. As the tempo sped up, his wrist tended to become floppier.

In an interview Mr. Gergiev suggested that waggling his hand, which he called a habit, might have derived from playing the piano. “I’m a pianist, and sometimes I ‘play’ texture,” he said.

A baton can work against a singing sound, he added. “Most difficult in conducting is to make the orchestra sing, and this is where both hands have to basically help wind or string players sing.” Hitting the air with a stick, he said, is like fencing: “I don’t think it helps the sound.”

LEFT HAND

The left hand, having turned over rhythmic duties to the right, serves a far more elastic purpose. Crudely put, if the right hand sketches the outlines of the painting, the left fills in the colors and textures. The right hand creates the chocolate shell of a bonbon, and the left hand fashions the filling. Its main practical use is to give cues to sections or individual players about when to enter and when to cut off, often with a pointed index finger. A pulling in of the left hand and a closing of the thumb and fingers can cause a phrase to taper away. A quick downward cupping clips off the sound.

Mr. DePreist ran through the sometimes inexplicable left-hand practices of others: William Steinberg would rub his fingers together, as in the universal symbol for money. Antal Dorati would make jabbing motions, as if he were “keeping a ball of sound up and floating.” Eugene Ormandy often kept his left hand curled around the lapel of his tailcoat while the Philadelphia Orchestra, Mr. DePreist noted, produced “torrents of sounds.”

Mr. Nézet-Séguin is one of the more physically expressive conductors, perhaps, he said, because of his small stature. His left hand is in constant motion. He tries to keep it sideways to the orchestra, he said, so the heel of his hand will not seem a symbolic barrier to the musicians.

At another Juilliard rehearsal Mr. Nézet-Séguin indicated entrances by making an O.K. circle or flicking open his index finger, for a lighter attack. A rising index finger with each beat indicated more volume. At loud chords, he cupped his hand upward. A downward cupped hand called for a sustained line. Pounding martial chords yielded a fist. A flat hand, palm downward, called for smoothness. Repeated entrances came with pistol shot motions.

Mr. Gilbert notes that professional musicians do not have to be told when in the measure to come in. He often prepares for a cue by looking at a player ahead of time, to establish a connection and to build energy. The purpose of a cue “is to have people join in at the right time in the right way, in the flow,” Mr. Gilbert said.

FACE

After the arms the most important part of the conductor’s arsenal is the face. “I feel as if my face is singing with the music,” Mr. Nézet-Séguin said. Engaging the musicians with a look can relax and encourage them. On the other hand, some conductors, like Fritz Reiner, kept their expressions unchanging, and his recordings are “completely electrifying,” Mr. Bicket said. Remaining without expression can be helpful for musician morale.

“To editorialize facially your displeasure or your frustration is not helpful to anybody,” Mr. Bicket said. Yet raised eyebrows can be subtle conveyors of dissatisfaction. The face becomes all the more important when the hands are otherwise occupied, as when a conductor simultaneously plays a keyboard, a common practice of early-music specialists like Mr. Bicket.

The eyes themselves “are the most important in all of conducting,” Ms. Zhang said. “The eyes should be the most telling in musical intent. The eyes are the window of the heart. They show how you feel about the music.”

A squint, for example, can convey a distant quality to the music, Mr. DePreist said. One trick to creating a good orchestral sound is to look at the players in the back of the string section. “You’re getting them in the game,” Mr. Nézet-Séguin said.

Mr. Gergiev uses the same technique with a back bencher, he said: “Looking at him means I am interested in him. If I’m interested in him, that means he is interested in me. Correct? Everything I do, I try to do relying on expression and visual contact.”

 Valery Gergiev also often conducts without a baton, waggling his right hand in character with the music. Credit Hiroyuki Ito for The New York Times

 

Sometimes it is just as important not to look at the musicians, especially during major solos. “That’s a big part of the unspoken conducting secrets,” Ms. Zhang said. It can keep the player from being nervous. And then there is the rare case of the conductor who leads with closed eyes and produces great performances, as Herbert von Karajan often did.

Leonard Bernstein was one of the most physically expressive conductors in modern times, which sometimes earned him the scorn of critics. But he was also capable of conducting with the subtlest of facial expressions, as evidenced by a classic YouTube video in which his eyebrows dance, lips purse and eyes widen.

BACK

Mr. Nézet-Séguin said he became conscious of back posture by watching videotapes of Karajan. Mr. Nézet-Séguin was working at the time with Carlo Maria Giulini. “The main difference of their sound was due to their human attitudes, which was expressed by the back,” he said. Karajan’s basic posture was “very proud, shoulders back and in command.”

“You’re expecting things to come to you,” he added. The quality could be cold, majestic, aloof, marbled.

But the lanky Giulini would lean forward as soon as the music started, “a gesture of going toward the people, giving them something, serving,” Mr. Nézet-Séguin said.

“It’s a body language which is very telling,” he added, and connected to Giulini’s warm interpretations.

Ms. Zhang pushes forward to achieve more intensity from the orchestra. Sometimes she leans back to have the musicians play softer. Or she leans forward to cover the sound, she said, “like putting out a fire.”

LUNGS

Conductors often speak of the importance of breathing: of inhaling in time to an upbeat to prepare for an entrance, much the way a singer draws a breath before starting. “The strings have to be encouraged to breathe” as well as the winds, Mr. Nézet-Séguin said. “It makes the whole thing more natural.”

For Mr. Bicket breathing as conducting is a necessity. If his hands are otherwise occupied playing a harpsichord or an organ, his cue for entrances often comes with an audible breath. The nature of that breath can affect the playing. A sharp intake creates a harder-edged sound.

BRAIN

In the interviews the conductors made it clear that for them body movements take a back seat to mental preparation and musical ideas residing in another body part, the brain. Conductors have to be “somewhat unaware” of what they are doing with their bodies, Mr. Nézet-Séguin said.

Giulini taught that “the clarity of a gesture comes from the clarity of your mind,” he added. Confusion comes from that split second of hesitation, when the mind is deciding what gesture to show.

Ms. Zhang uses a technique adopted from her mentor, Lorin Maazel: “a mental projection.” A clear mental image of the sound you want to hear makes for a clear entrance. Mentally projecting the pulse and the sound, she added, “leads one’s own hands.”

As Mr. Conlon put it: “You can discuss gesture and physical comportment endlessly, but ultimately some intangible, charismatic element trumps it all. Nobody has ever bottled it. To which I say, ‘Thank God.’ ”

Source: Breaking Conductors’ Down by Gesture and Body Part – NYTimes.com

Between Boredom and Brilliance – Part Six

Emma 2009

 

Chapter Six – Tasks Are Handed Out

 

“As you might well know, my dears, a newspaper is a difficult project to realise. I will need all of           you to pull it off successfully. I have composed a list and lined up all the tasks that need to be tackled. First and foremost, there is a great need for someone who can manage our funds.”

Emma’s gaze skimmed over the small gathering.

“Funds?” a deep voice sounded, all of a sudden.

In utter astonishment, four faces turned to George. The ladies had forgotten that he was there with them. Emma was the first to recover.

“Oh, my love, I had no notion that you were still in the room. You startled us, you know.”

George’s mouth twisted to suppress a smile and instead, he endeavoured to keep a straight face. “I am here, indeed, my love. I thought it best to offer you the vast experience I gathered as a landowner and manager of an estate. You will need some very specific skills if you want to accomplish this task.”

Emma’s brow furrowed which made it even more difficult for George to keep a serious expression on his features. She was so adorable when she was angry. Oh, and she was becoming angry very quickly, he saw.

“My dearest,” she said in a clipped tone of voice, “there is no need for you to waste your precious time with us, women, and neglect your many duties. If you insist on concerning yourself with our little project, I shall give you a full account of our actions after dinner tonight. By then, I will have outlined all the issues and dealt with them to our mutual satisfaction.”

Emma raised her chin in defiance. She needed to be in charge here but her husband – confound it! – was having difficulties hiding his mirth. Tongue in cheek, George challenged her with mocked gravity.

“You speak of funds, my sweet. Where are you planning to acquire them? Are you providing for the money, then?”

“Of course, I am!” Emma snapped and immediately regretted that she lost her temper in front of her friends. “Yes, I will provide for the funds that will create “The Highbury Chronicles” but I expect the project to gain its own profits after a time.”

The committee members of “The Highbury Chronicles” had hitherto followed the exchange between the consorts in baffled silence, but now Anne Weston could no longer contain her thoughts.

“Emma, George, I beg you, this is leading nowhere! Let us stick to the problems at hand and follow up Emma’s suggestion that we assign the various tasks to the persons most suitable for them. A treasurer is what is wanted first, is it not?”

“Quite so, dearest Anne,” George agreed in an enthused manner. “I have just the right person in mind, as a matter of fact. It must be Miss Bates, there is no doubt about it!”

Emma’s jaw dropped. She gasped so violently that she choked and coughed in order to conceal her displeasure about George’s suggestion. Fortunately, there was someone present who was even more bewildered than Emma.

Miss Bates’ plain face had gone white as a sheet with bright red blossoms of excitement colouring her thin cheekbones.

“Oh, erm … oh, my! Oh, I’m sure I’m … oh, dear, oh dear … Mr Knightley, how wonderful that you think me – of all people – little old me capable of managing the funds!”

“Yes, Miss Bates,” George acquiesced, “you are the perfect person. Have you not managed to keep you and your mother out of harm’s ways, only with your skilful management of your little household? In my opinion, the committee must be called upon to grant you a salary for the talents you will apply. I propose a monthly compensation of five shillings. That would be to begin with, mind! As soon as the newspaper begins to prosper, you should have a raise.”

At this point, poor Miss Bates swooned in her chair, and Anne and Harriet hurried to her side to assist her. Emma – still baffled – now began to ponder over George’s proposal. Miss Bates may be poor but she had indeed managed to keep her head above water for many years. Always she kept a decent tea table when Emma visited and her clothes were always pristine and not too old-fashioned, although she did not have the money to buy new ones. Instead, Miss Bates was forever altering her old clothes so that they had a more modern outlook. Emma, for the first time in her life, understood a little bit about Miss Bates’ unfortunate circumstances and she was forced to admire the woman for her courage and optimism. George was right, as always.

After she had rung for tea, Emma informed her companions that Miss Bates would indeed have the control over the Chronicle’s finances which would be a hundred pounds a year, to start with.

Harriet Martin was then assigned with the task of local news gatherer as she was the one that went into every corner of the small country town of Highbury on behalf of the farm’s business. And finally, Anne Weston would be the editor of all the stories that each member would gather when they happened upon one. Not only stories of things that passed but also of matters of daily life in Highbury, the little facts of Highbury life itself.

There would be tales of babies born, of young people marrying and of good old people dying. There would be sorrow in those tales but also joy.

Emma Knightley would see to that. There would always be joy and the blessing of living in Highbury, the best of villages.

 

“Are you pleased with the way the committee meeting went, my love?” George Knightley asked his wife when they retired after dinner.

“I am! We are in business and have you noticed how everyone is having fun with it? But, my dearest, I must thank you for your support and help. You handled everyone just the way that was needed, including me.”

“Oh, did I?” George took the brush out of Emma’s hand and began working on the long golden strands with slow strokes. Emma sighed and leaned back in her chair while George gathered her hair and draped it over the chair’s back before continuing his labour of love.

“George, I am sorry for being such a headstrong creature. I should have taken your advice from the start. Fortunately, you were there to put things right.”

“My lovely Emma,” George replied in a husky voice. “I think this Chronicle project might prove to be the thing Highbury needs to gain a bit of liveliness. You were right to think this little town of ours is a bit dreary.”

Emma stood and retrieved her hair brush from her husband. She embraced him and looked into his beautiful brown eyes.

“Dearest George … please say you are not angry with me … I was so wrong and  …”

George Knightley, Esquire of Donwell Abbey and husband to the petulant Emma, née Woodhouse, silenced his wife with a kiss.

“My sweet Emma,” he breathed, “I will not be angry with you … on one condition.”

“And what condition is that, sir?” Emma replied, tongue in cheek.

“That I will be allowed to ravish you, this instant …”

“Then, by all means, sir, do your ravishing …”

 

Mr. Holmes (2015)

Mr. Holmes 2015Directed by Bill Condon. With Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hattie Morahan.

In the film, due out this summer, Ian McKellen plays a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes – a far cry from the younger version of the famous detective we’re used to seeing on our screens, recently played by Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC series Sherlock and Robert Downey Jr in the Hollywood blockbuster franchise.

Based on A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin, McKellen’s Sherlock has retired from detective work and retreats to his farmhouse with his housekeeper and her son. Here, 50 years later, he revisits his final case but finds his mental capacity isn’t what it once was.

Laura Linney acts alongside McKellen as his housekeeper, while her son Roger is played by Milo Parker. Mr. Holmes premieres at the Berlin Film Festival this month.

Releases

UK – June 19, 2015

US – July 17, 2015

Filming Locations

  • Sussex, England, UK
  • London, England, UK
  • Hatfield House, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England, UK

 

 

Peter Pan’s Early Life in ‘Pan’ Trailer

on  (Pic: Warner Bros.)Levi Miller in ‘Pan’ (Pic: Warner Bros.)Magical worlds, pirates, Victorian workhouses and the irresistible pull of Neverland. Such delights are on offer in the trailer for Pan, a look at the origins of the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.It’s a very different sort of film from, say, Finding Neverland, which tells the tale of how J.M. Barrie came to write Peter Pan. This takes a look at what made the boy Peter (Levi Miller) into the impish Pan, rather like the 2011 movie Neverland.This time around there’s able support from Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, Garrett Hedlund as a rather nice Hook (complete with hands plural), Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily, Adeel Akhtar as Smee, Amanda Seyfried as Mary and Cara Delevingne as a mermaid.This full trailer sheds a bit more light on the plot of the film, after this teaser was released last November:Pan is released on October 9

Source: Peter Pan’s Early Life in ‘Pan’ Trailer | Anglophenia | BBC America

 

Between Boredom and Brilliance – Part Five

Emma 2009

Chapter Five – A Meeting of Extreme Importance

 

 

 

Emma’s blissful state slowly glided into awareness as she began hearing birdsong. Irritated, she  snuggled deeper     under her covers. No, it was too early to rise, surely! She groaned when Maud drew  open the curtains and then         sat up with a start when she realised George would be there! No, no, no! She didn’t want Maud to come in while       her husband was lying nude in her bed! It was totally inappropriate!

However, the only one sitting up nude was Emma herself. George had already left. Emma was unsure if         she was relieved or saddened that he had gone before she awoke.

“Come, ma’am, you must rise. You have a visitor waiting downstairs.”

“Oh, pray tell who it is! Surely, it is not yet eleven of the clock?” Emma said, remembering that today was      to be the meeting for the news paper committee. She rose and stepped into her dressing room where her copper        hip bath stood waiting, delicious wafts of rose scented steam rising up from it.

“It is the vicar’s wife, Mrs Elton. She appears to be in an uproar because she refused Mr Knightley’s offer        for tea and did not want to sit down and wait for you. You had better hurry, ma’am.”

With a humph, Emma stepped out of bed and slid her feet into her bed slippers.

“I will not forego the pleasures of my morning ablutions for anyone and certainly not for that woman! She    called on me and not the other way round! Let her stew.”

Maud giggled while she helped her mistress into the bath.

“She is wearing a trench in your Papa’s parlour floor with her pacing, as we speak. I know it is not my            place to say but she is a horrible woman indeed, Ma’am.”

Now it was Emma’s turn to giggle.

“You may say so only in the private of this dressing room, Maud. I won’t tell anyone.”

 

Dignity and distinction, Emma! Thus Emma admonished herself before she glided into the parlour as elegantly as she could. That odious woman would not see her stoop to the level that woman herself was on! She entered and saw the woman in question walking to and fro over the carpet while George was trying to make her sit down. In vain, Emma saw. Well, that would not do!

“Mrs Elton, good morning. To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?”

The vicar’s wife whirled around to face her hostess and barely managed a civilised curtsy.

“Mrs Knightley …”

Emma waved a hand toward the sofa and seated herself on the other side of the coffee table, the side where she could bask in the pearly rosy sun of midmorning. Mrs Elton’s mouth opened, then  closed again. She hurried to the sofa and plumped down on it in an unladylike manner.

“Can I offer you some refreshments, ma’am?” Emma asked, her face bearing an expression as if butter would not melt in her mouth. She quickly had to stifle a giggle when she saw George’s eyebrows lift in suspicion.

Mrs Elton waved away the offer with an impatient fluttering of her hand and – almost but not quite – snapped, “Mrs Knightley, I will not beat around the bush here! I know you have invited several ladies to a special meeting this morning. I am very chagrined that I was not included in this invitation. As the wife of Highbury’s vicar, I am entitled to have my say in every activity that concerns the welfare of our small community!”

Emma pasted a smile on her face that only showed her even white teeth and replied sweetly,              “But Mrs Elton, you must be sadly misinformed! I invited a few friends for a chat and a cup of tea, that is all. Nothing of what we will chatter about will be of great importance for Highbury’s community, I assure you.”

Mrs Elton’s brow furrowed while she digested this. It was, Emma thought, a most comical thing to watch the woman, dressed up as if she would be presented at court, and holding herself stiff as if she was meeting with the Prince Regent himself, but all that conceit vanishing as soon as she was confronted with something she did not understand. Mrs Elton, Emma mused, often did not understand the most simple aspects of social intercourse. She was too self-absorbed for that and thought herself to be the centre of the universe. It was time to put an end to this ridiculous spectacle, Emma decided and stood.

“Now, if you will not take tea, ma’am, you must excuse me. My dear sister and her husband depart

It took Mrs Elton several moments to realise she was being dismissed.

 

“My dears, welcome!”

Her arms spread and her face alight with pleasure, Emma entered the parlour where her friends had gathered for the committee meeting. George, to her astonishment, was there as well. Emma decided not to confront her husband right now, even though she did not care for him to be there. Later, when they were alone, there would be ample opportunity.

Instead, she hugged her sweet Anne – Mrs Weston, formerly Miss Taylor and Emma’s governess – and exclaimed, “Oh Anne, how delightful is it to see you! How is little Anna today? Have you brought her with you?”

“Yes, indeed, I have!” Mrs Weston replied. “But she was whisked away by Isabelle as soon as I stepped in. It seems your Papa has not yet admired her enough!”

“Good, good! Do sit down, Anne. And who have we here? Oh, my dear Harriet! How good of you to come!”

Harriet – now Mrs Martin of Abbey Mill Farm – curtsied while a rosy blush spread over her round young face. “Mrs Knightley, how kind of you to invite me.”

“Pish and nonsense!” Emma laughed. “No Mrs here, Harriet! Emma, it shall be. Sit down, my dear, sit down. Miss Bates, I’m so happy you could make it!”

“Oh … erm … Miss Woo … oh, so sorry, Mrs Knightley, I am sure I … oh, so delighted, what a pleasure, I’m sure … oh, oh …”

George, sensing the elder spinster’s usual embarrassment, came forward and took Miss Bates hand to bow over it. “Miss Bates, allow me to escort you and point you to a seat. Here we are, please.”

Fluttering her hands in front of her face, Miss Bates let herself down very gingerly onto a seat.

Emma surveyed her little company with fondness, before she sat down herself in front of everyone else, like it behoved a true chairwoman.

“Now, my fellow members of the board, I declare the first monthly meeting of “The Highbury Chronicles” opened. Let us do some good work here, if you please!”