The chorus stood straight but for one boy in the front row, swaying and clutching his willy through his trousers. They were singing the Pilgrims’ Chorus from Tannhäuser at our school’s house singing competition. Before him, the whole school (myself included) was collapsed in mirth. The louder the laughter the tighter the boy clasped his flies and the more wayward became his sway. Neither he nor anyone on the stage had the faintest idea why the audience was reacting in this hysterical way. It was a cruel episode, which no one present will ever forget. The boy was suffering from stage fright and I don’t suppose there was a pupil among us who had not experienced similar feelings at one time or another. The previous week I had vomited before a race. I frequently lost my way in school debates and once shouted ‘fuck’ in front of an audience of prim parents and school governors when my fingers ran away from me during a competition performance of Schumann’s Humoreske.
So I have a great deal of sympathy for Sara Solovitch, who is consumed with self-hatred because of her irrepressible fear of performing in public. She is an amateur pianist who earns her living as a medical writer and journalist in Philadelphia. She claims (and we have no reason to