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Burly Brent takes up clarinet for TV challenge

BURLY rugby commentator Brent Pope is never nervous in front of a million-strong TV audience -- but he is suffering from stage fright.

The sports commentator, along with RTE Radio 1 talkshow host John Murray, has agreed to learn to play a musical instrument in just 12 weeks.

Brent told the Herald: "I grew up in New Zealand where everything is sports-based -- that was my upbringing.

"Nobody in my family ever considered playing an instrument. I always regretted giving something a try.

"I'm envious of people who could get up and play something, especially in Ireland -- everyone has a party piece." Brent was approached by RTE to take part in a new show called Instrumental and decided to try his hand at the clarinet. The aim is to encourage members of the public to go back to music.

The sports fanatic said that it was an "incredibly hard journey" over the past ten weeks as he tried to coax his fingers, which have been broken many times during his rugby career, into the right position.

He said: "At the start I was asked to try to play something simple like Twinkle Twinkle, but I felt extremely embarrassed.

"My nerves performing in front of everyone were unbelievable.

"I can be in front of a million people on TV but when it comes to playing an instrument, I felt extremely self-conscious. My fingers start shaking, my mouth dries up, I lose my breath."

Brent is preparing to perform with the RTE Concert Orchestra.

He added: "I'm multi-tasking on a superhuman scale -- when to put breaks in, the rhythm you need, the right notes."

Radio broadcaster John grew up with a piano in the house but never played it as he was too busy playing football.

He said: "I learned a mixture of the structure and theory. I had a wonderful teacher -- pianist Brian Connor from the RTE Concert Orchestra.

"I don't think I have experienced nerves like it. In the morning I can talk to hundreds of thousands of listeners and I don't think twice about getting up at events.

"The public performance element, even though that is my job I found myself that I was playing with other musicians, the inferiority complex is immense."

Instrumental is tonight at 7pm, RTE One.