Monday, October 21, 2013

Keep Calm and Play On

A friend posted a link to this article, detailing some of the nutty things people have experienced as musicians. I feel like most of us have at least one good story to tell, and the longer you go, the more you have. So...

- I was performing on a band trip in high school (probably my sophomore year - we went to Toronto) when half the band decided to come in incorrectly. I don't remember if they were early or late. I just remember the feeling of terror that accompanied being on stage, getting adjudicated, and falling apart. Urgh.

- I was performing at a college band concert when the very end of the piece (I believe it was Ticheli's "Blue Shades") was punctuated by a large cymbal crash. No, it wasn't written - the cymbal fell over.

- One of the college bands was going down to do a recruitment concert in Richmond. I was playing contrabassoon, and I mentally reminded myself over and over again that since those reeds didn't fit in my reed case, I needed to put them directly into the contra case. I didn't realize that I forgot until we were halfway there. To make matters worse, nobody carries contra reeds because hardly anyone plays them, and those people that play them generally make them themselves. Thankfully, there's nothing super necessary about a contrabassoon - the director just likes the extra oomph and buzz - but still mortifying.

- I was performing at the Virginia Music Educator's Association conference with my college Wind Symphony (the 2nd movement of Hindemith's "Symphonic Metamorphosis") when all of us - players AND conductor - got lost. I don't know what happened, but there was a collective, silent "oh @$^#" when the bass clarinet decided, "Screw it, I'm coming in," and everyone latched on.

- At my recital, I wore a strapless gown. It looked great, but I neglected to take into account the need to expand my ribcage when I tried on the dress. I was nervous as it was, and when I sat down (bassoons, cellos, tubas - we get passes when it comes to having to stand), adjusted my instrument, nodded to the pianist, and inhaled - suddenly I was having to use purely lip strength to get me through and I still had another 45 minutes to go. I made it, but I was seriously considering running back to the dorm to change during intermission.

- At the first concert of my 3rd year of teaching, the fire alarm kept going off. It was very polite and waited for the choir pieces to be finished before it went off. While the band was playing Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," I was so preoccupied with the thought that the alarm was going to go off that I miscued my trumpets. The band was in two different spots, so I cut them off, restarted, and then...the alarm went off. It was a lost cause.

And this doesn't even take into account reed issues, crazy key and time signatures, or odd directions (Percy Grainger accounts for at least 2 of those), but if I had to list all of those, it would be a very long post indeed, so embarrassing moments only.

My favorite, though, didn't happen to me, but I was a witness. The music trip my third year of teaching was to the Kennedy Center in DC. Since this performance didn't use a choir, the loft seats were available, and since most people would rather watch than be watched, they're cheaper than most. Plus, the students would get a chance to experience a little of what the orchestra got to see (and there would be major incentive to not be obnoxious). Wins all around! John Adams (living composer, not dead president) was conducting one of his pieces as well as Elgar's "Enigma Variations." During one of the slow movements, he got so into the piece that he accidentally knocked his glasses off of his face. They went sailing up and started flipping around above the stand. He managed to catch them, much to my surprise, and put them back on his face, but it was really hard not to laugh.

And finally, one story from a friend of mine who just had her baby today! She was singing at a friend's wedding in West Virginia. The weather was nice and the church was old, so they had the windows open for circulation. During the "Ave Maria," a bug started flying around her. She got to the next spot to breathe, inhaled - and sucked in the fly. So, in the middle of a song in the middle of a wedding, she turned, hacked out half an insect, and kept going. Gotta love it.

I have to admit, I have a certain amount of schadenfreude when it comes to things like this. It's good to know that it can happen to anyone so that when it DOES happen to me, I can laugh it off.

And on that note, I leave you with one of the funniest performances I've ever heard: 

So bad it's good.

No comments:

Post a Comment