Interview with Duncan RiddellConcertmaster of the Royal Philharmonic of London
Every musician has at least one of those stories—a performance nightmare; a laugh-out-loud blunder; a silly snafu while on stage. For Duncan Riddell, Concertmaster of one of England’s most prestigious orchestras, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London, you could say that his moment was nothing short of sheer madness.
While on tour in Annecy, France, Riddell debuted a certain made-to-measure dress shirt, designed especially for him and purported to be 100-percent cotton. Much to his dismay, the only thing 100 percent about the shirt was its chance of transparency when exposed to sweat.
We couldn’t help but want to hear more about Riddell’s accidental exhibitionism and the time he nearly single-handedly turned a classic orchestral concert into a wet T-shirt contest.
Here’s what he had to say:
Tell us a little more about your, ahem, wardrobe malfunction in France.
Duncan Riddell: “The Annecy concert was held in a modern church, one side of which was a wall of glass. However, the church was nearly unbearably hot so a decision was made to performs ‘jackets off’ to alleviate the discomfort. Little did I know that my made-to-measure shirt would become totally see-through when wet.
But could anyone really notice the sheer quality from your place on the stage?
Oh yes, indeed. In fact, adding insult to injury, this performance was streamed live online to a global audience. The Royal Philharmonic was receiving—in real time—several texts and emails from friends around the world asking why the Concertmaster (me!) was wearing a transparent shirt!
" The Royal Philharmonic was receiving—in real time—several texts and emails from friends around the world asking why the Concertmaster (me!) was wearing a transparent shirt! ”
What did you do?
During the interval, I did my best to dry the shirt, but to no avail. Fortunately, a colleague—a few sizes bigger than me—had a extra shirt and I was spared the embarrassment of returning to the stage as if I was entering a wet T-shirt competition.
So, that custom shirt clearly failed you. Why is having the right shirt so important?
Like so many professional musicians, I am naturally particularly physically active during performances. Therefore, how a dress shirt deals with the production of excess moisture is key. And, of course, comfort and range of movement is of the utmost importance, too.
"One of the most relevant revelations for me about the Gershwin is how relatively dry I feel throughout a performance. No more see-through shirts for me.”
What do you make of Coregami’s performal wear?
“Now, having worn the revolutionary Gershwin dress shirt from Coregami for many months, I have found it to have both form and function—all while being extremely comfortable. Of course, one of the most relevant revelations for me about the Gershwin is how relatively dry I feel throughout a performance. No more see-through shirts for me.”
What else makes Coregami’s Gershwin your go-to shirt now?
“The simultaneous ability to look smart and haul a lighter suitcase...
Touring is a large part of our schedule at the Royal Philharmonic and it is not uncommon to be packing for a prolonged tour with 16 or more concerts to be performed all in different cities. In the past, this presented the dilemma of how many dress shirts one can reasonably fit in a suitcase. Now, this problem is solved for me. The Gershwin shirt can be washed, dries overnight, and the next morning, it looks perfect without the need for ironing so there is less need to pack so many shirts. That is a real game changer.”