Malvern, cello-playing and BOOK GIVEAWAYS 

‘Why bother?’ my husband Simon wanted to know, when I said that I had been asked to audition, in Worcester Cathedral no less, for the English Symphony Orchestra’s conductor and principal cellist.

My own view was, ‘Why not?’ (Remember: I was young and keen then.) Also, when else was I going to get to play solo cello in Worcester blinking Cathedral??

Also, I loved to drive. I rather fancied myself a pretty ace driver, to be honest.  And in the 90s there were no speed cameras, no traffic to speak of – it was a genuine pleasure, to finish a concert in Malvern and then to power on home, letting the concert tension peel off of me, at 90 mph speed, like the skin of an onion.


And so I drove to Worcester, and played and was gratified to hear, the next week, that I had made the list. One of the first ESO gigs I got was in heavyish snow.

And yes, I was mad. I was prob. certifiably insane, given that – twice – police stopped all traffic, urging us not to drive on, but to turn back instead… nor did I have proper tyres for the job. But it was a concert, and only three cellos… For my fatheaded younger self, a duty. And, in those days pre-mobile phones, still more so.

Failing to show up was unthinkable!!!! And so… to an audience of about thirty-five doubtless freezing, Worcestershire-ites, I bloody well showed up. And bloody well played. And the fixer thanked me, brokenly, with tears in his eyes, as no other cellist had contrived to display quite such a level of innate stupidity. Only me.

The rest, as they say, was history. I have been cello four for over two decades. 

Twenty years ago the English Symphony Orchestra had a ton of work. We had excellent concerts in Malvern and the local cathedrals (Gloucestershire Cathedral, where the Hogwarts of Harry Potter was filmed, was one.)  We had recordings. We also had foreign tours – mostly Germany and Austria – mostly conducted by Yehudi Menuhin… Have never forgotten watching the German audiences leaping to their feet as Menuhin appeared, something I have never witnessed, even with Ashkenazy and the Royal Philharmonic.

The reason behind the German audiences’ passion was still more moving, once I discovered it. It was not that Menuhin – though a born violinist and a great soul – was a conducting genius, because he really wasn’t. Instead, he’d been the first Jewish artist willing to tour Germany, post-WWII. 

A greatness of soul the Germans were not about to forget. 

For me, the English Symphony Orchestra, then as now, always felt special. I used to drive up from London to the Malvern hills just as day was breaking, just for the pleasure of watching the light soar over the hills… Maybe it was the Edward Elgar connection. Maybe it was the undulating quality of light. 


So why, after decades as cello 4, and despite my massive admiration of Ken Woods, the current Artistic Director, am I resigning from the orchestra?

  1. I live in blinking Kent, and my days of relishing the M25 London orbital road singlehandedly are long since passed. This is particularly so post 10 p.m., when one generally gets shoved into a single lane twice or even thrice a night. 
  2. I’m now a novelist much more than a cellist. Those burned-out, brain-dead days-after-the-concert-eve-before now matter
  3. As my husband and I are lucky enough to live in Crete for part of every year, I’ve been obliged to turn down an embarrassing amount of ESO work for ages. Only Ken’s great good-nature would have put up with my in-and-out running over the last couple of years. 

In other words, I’ve gone from the only cellist to show to being the great cellistic no-show, lol.

And so, with a massive THANKS to Ken Woods – and to that glorious quality of light soaring over the Malvern hills…  I’m off.

Though I love the ESO and I always will.

PART 2: GIVEAWAYS (with offers…)

“Why on earth do authors give away copies?” I was asked by one newsletter reader “It only makes readers feel that books ought always to be free!”

Well, as with “free days” on Kindle Direct, that particular genii has left the bottle, I’m afraid. Savvy readers already know that, if they simply follow an author on Bookbub, Amazon, or Goodreads, they’re likely to strike it lucky on their giveaways. And, as giveaways can include writers as famous as James Patterson or Colleen Hoover, why should passionate readers not take advantage? 

But it’s especially worth it if you’re not selling like Stephen King etc., because new readers risk nothing with a giveaway. If they love your novel, they’ll seek out your other novels. And if they don’t happen to love you novel, they still haven’t lost even a penny. 

In common with most Austenesque authors, I’ve done giveaways with all my books. I’ve done GoodReads giveaways (expensive but brilliant), LibraryThing giveaways (not very expensive but not so brilliant), BookFunnel giveaways and StoryOrigin giveaways. (From Goodreads, especially, you get reviews. If you put your book in a giveaway a couple of months before it’s published, you can launch your new book with tens, and even as much as a hundred reviews on day one!!!)

Here are a couple of giveaways I’m involved in this September: 

A fantastic selection of books featuring strong female leads, from regency fiction to World War II!!!!

And here’s a multi-genre September giveaway with something for everybody:

 I also recommend LitNuts, Bookcave, and Booksweeps giveaways: Booksweeps sometimes offer up to 30 free books AND a free eReader! 

Not to mention  our own AlwaysAusten giveaway!!

It’s supposed to be easy to use rafflecopter to run your very own giveaway, though I must admit I haven’t gotten round to it, yet. 

But I will, one of these days – now I’m not battling the M25 motorway to see the early light breaking over the Malvern hills…



7 responses to “Malvern, cello-playing and BOOK GIVEAWAYS ”

  1. Ginna Avatar

    I would love to know more about the why, and how, of living in Crete for part of the year. And I suppose, why not all of the year?

    1. Alice McVeigh Avatar
      Alice McVeigh

      Hi Ginna, Crete is mega-seasonal, is one reason. People IMAGINE it’s hot all year round – and it’s never really COLD, I admit – but Nov-late March is mostly chilly and – worse – full of rain. Now, if YOU had a house in London and a house in Crete, and everything in Crete grinds to a halt in Nov. while in London you can still go to the theatre and to concerts etc….(though London is every bit as full of rain, or even more so) – you’d pick London too!!!…

      And then, I am also a cellist, and I’m here to tell you that – sadly – when I am living in Crete, I have upped the numbers of cellists in Crete by 100%!!! (I keep an electric cello there, which is absolutely painful to play on, but better than nothing!!!) So, again, were we to move full-time to Crete, we’d get no music at all. 🙁 (My husband is a Professor Emeritus in music at the U. of London, and expert at all keyboards, so he feels this as much as I do.)

      As for “how” – well, we’ve owned our house since my in-laws’ passed, and got residency just before Brexit, as UK citizens. Now Britain has left the EU, it’s harder to get residency, but still possible. Though it has to be renewed every decade, so we have behave, lol. Yours, Alice

      1. Ginna Avatar

        As a cellist, you would get a kick out of a youtube video, called Pachelbel rant. Check it out!

  2. cindie snyder Avatar
    cindie snyder

    Wow! What a life you lead! I used to play clarinet but only in high school. Love the pics! It’s cool to look at the giveaways too.

    1. Alice McVeigh Avatar
      Alice McVeigh

      Yes, I love giveaways!!!! As for playing cello as a pro… it was great but also hard. The stress of foreign tours sometimes equalled their thrills and def. played a part in my infertility issues (all my thirties, squeezed out my daughter after seven IVFs and then had an IVF-induced v. early menopause!!!) But a great way to see the world and remind myself of my youth, as I’d grown up in USA embassies, in Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Myanmar. But the ESO was special – IS special – because I was in it the longest, so it’s personal. What tends to happen, in London, is that you’re working away with the BBC Symphony or similar and then their principal cellist moves to another orchestra, another principal comes in, and wants his own friends in his section instead… There are very few certainties in the music world, but the ESO – though it’s never been a full-time orchestra – was one, and part of my life for decades!!! You might like the novel I wrote about London orchestra life, While the Music Lasts. It was “big-five”-published by Hachette, decades ago, but I got the copyright back and rewrote it recently. (Only available from I’m working on reworking the sequel at the moment, so I’m into that whole world at the same moment that I’m leaving it!!

  3. Alice McVeigh Avatar
    Alice McVeigh

    I gotta say, I never heard this but it speaks to my soul. THANKS, Ginna!!!!

    1. Ginna Avatar

      It’s one of my favorites!
      In my family, we actually now say “They’re all named Johann!”

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