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Best pranks


Lydia Leong
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In another thread, donuel wrote:

I have seen; players fall backwards off the riser, a piccolo player pass out from the conductors insistence on playing it just one more time in one breath, the baton fly accross the orchestra into the bass player, the oboe player succumb to the stomach flu in mid phrase,the soundman get full feedback in his head phones, and more than one conductor melt down. High jinx is another matter for a seperate thread.

So, on that subject: The best musically-related pranks you've been witness to, or heard about?

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The best one I have seen was a conductor stepping up to conduct the Flight of the Bummble Bee. He raised his baton then lowered it, turned to the audience, excused himself and left the stage. He returned a few minutes later with a small case in his hand. Then he raised his new baton, A FLY SWAT and conducted the work with it. The crowd loved it. It was hard to keep a straight face as we in the orchestra were not even expecting it!

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I went to college at what was at the time, a "normal school" and there were several non-music majors offered for study. The students who were in music appreciation classes were obligated to attend a certain number of our performances, which we hated as much as they did. They usually slept (soundly) through our work, since they were forbidden to chat. One day we were playing an oratorio and the orchestra was in the pit. As usually happened, the first row of student spectators had stretched out for a cozy nap and their feet stuck under the pit wall, in our faces. We tied their shoes together, connecting each student to the next, as they slept, then ducked out to the side door to watch them fall all over themselves when they were dismissed to go to the next class.

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In a master class earlier this year, Ida Kavafian told a charming story of her creative attempts to postpone practicing when she was a very young child. Once, while examining her instrument instead of using it, she noticed the interesting looking piece of wood that seemed to be propping up the top of the violin. She inserted a pencil through the f-hole and poked at it until -- surprise, surprise -- the soundpost collapsed. It served her purpose as she was without her little violin for quite a few days! It may even have been worth the punishment that was imposed.

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I was about 10th chair in my middle school orchestra (before I became serious about violin) I was the person that started the third row of violins, so I sat left of the principle stand.

The assistant C-Master was particularly mean to me all the time. She made some remark about why was I sitting next to her, I didn't deserve to (this was at a concert)

That's what pissd me off. There was a brief period before the concert when they both walked away. I then went into their folder, and stole a piece of their music. It was a piece where they both had brief solos.

They would know it was me if I stole all their music, so this was better.

The piece came and my plan went beautifully. The concertmistress, whom I really had no grudge against, had memorized her part. She had no trouble. The assistent CM didn't fare quite as well. It was probably the most beautiful thing I've ever heard her play. Out of tune, lost, scared-sounding. It was music to my ears.

There's my prank. Not proud of my actions, but it sure was fun. smile.gif

DM

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I was once playing Henry Wood's British Sea Songs (non-British folk might not know this as it's only ever played in the Last Night of the Proms or similar event.) The clarinettist, in the middle of his solo, broke out into the opening wail of Rhapsody in Blue to everybody's delight. I've also seen a baton fly across the stage, and two violinists totally miss their entry in Ravel's Bolero (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.)

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I saw a fellow playing the Paganini Caprice many years ago at the Indiana Violin Competition. During an up-bow stroke, the bow got out of his hand and flew toward the ceiling. He ran to catch the bow and continued to play and did not seem to miss any note. That made a very good showmanship not even Paganini could do that.

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I remember a conductor telling me a story once. I think it was Leonard Slatkin(I think) conducing Beethoven 9, and the orchestra(I forget which) had hired extra basses. I guess Slatkin was known for his extra small pattern, and this annoyed one of the hired basses. One rehearsal, he thought he'd be a bit of a joker, and he brought in a mini telescope and tripod, so he could see the pattern. Upon seeing this, Slatkin stopped the orchestra, and wrote something on a tiny piece of paper on his podium. He held it up to the bass player, and in tiny tiny letters it said, "You're fired." I was rolling when I heard that one.

Kreisler13

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In my student days at Tanglewood, the composers got an afternoon with the orchestra to try some stuff out-- and it was all over the map in style. The composition teacher did the conducting and he knew most of the music for having corrected it, but there was also some sightreading involved by him (as well as us).

Anyway, at the end of one set of excerpts, he comes on some new material ("OK... in 7, moderato-- let's try this...6,7") and out pops the "Turkey Trot" from Leonard Bernstein's Divertimento, which we had played/read under the composer earlier that summer. The tune was so cheesy and out of context that everyone had to cheer, and consensus was that the student had done the better orchestration!

[This message has been edited by Stephen (edited 07-25-2000).]

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A friend of mine was playing in the pit orchestra for a modern opera about the French revolution. There was a climactic scene where all the starving peasants were on stage singing "Give us bread! Give us bread! We are starving!"

At this point someone from the pit heaved a loaf of Wonder Bread up onto the stage. Understandably, everyone in the audience (including the singers on stage) roared with laughter. I only wish I could have been there to see it!

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When the violist in my quartet got a new (250 year old) viola:

shortly after, I happened to be trying a violin by the same maker. As luck would have it, the violin and viola looked identical, fittings, wood color, chin rest, etc. Before she found out I was trying the violin, she left me alone for a few minutes. While she was gone, I put the violin in her case and hid her viola in a cabinet. When she came back, she unpacked her "viola" (wink wink) and started to put on the shoulder rest. When it slipped right off, she still didn't get it, and proceeded to change the adjustments on her shoulder rest. It wasn't until she plucked the strings, and upon hearing an E string, she began to cry. I immediately explained the joke, and later she told me that at the moment she realized that this was not her brand new (to her) viola, she immediately felt complete and tight panic, and could only picture her new viola inexplicably outside in the rain. I knew it was kind of mean, but I figured the opportunity was just too good to pass up, and there was no harm done. BTW - I have been on my guard ever since.

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This isn't going to come close to the trampoline in Tosca--that's the best I've ever heard and I can't wait to tell Mr. Wallack that one tomorrow! (Since I haven't practiced much this week--I'll have to have a lot of stories to distract himn.)

But: Mr. Wallack told me that once at an orchestra rehearsal that was much too long (before the union set limits on rehearsal length, or something along those lines), he tied a white handerchief to the end of his bow and waved it in surrender so the conductor could see it.

Another time under a different conductor, the strings had been instructed again and again to play more and more softly. Finally, Mr. Wallack turned his viola over and played the back of it with his bow. The conductor fussed at him for that, but Mr. Wallack didn't care.

If Mr. Wallack had a computer and access to the Internet, Lydia, he could fill this topic up with pranks, I'm certain. He was not exactly the best behaved musician on the block.

T.

PS: What was your teacher's name who played with Pittsburg in the 60's? Email me if you don't want to publicize his/her name here.

Thx.

[This message has been edited by Theresa (edited 07-25-2000).]

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Here's a story I heard from a reliable source.

Back in the days when Zubin Mehta conducted the L.A. Phil, he used to walk on stage, do a quick bow and the immediately give the downbeat to the orchestra. One night, Zubin walked on stage with the featured pianist and while the pianist was bowing, Zubin continued to walk to the podium and gave the downbeat. The pianist had to jump on the bench and catch up with the orchestra. After the second movement, the pianist started fussing with the piano. He motioned to Zubin to come and look inside the piano. As soon as Zubin got to the piano, the pianist started playing the third movement, and Zubin had to run to the podium and get the orchestra to catch up with the pianist.

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Opera seems to be the most fertile ground for such things. I knew of one case where there was some very elaborate stage fighting near the footlights (people rolling around, that sort of thing). The brass section amused themselves by making sure that some really raunchy centerfolds were within view of the stage at that point.

My favorite story (although I don't know if it's true-- it did see print) is of a Tosca who was a bitch on wheels through an entire production run. Rude to colleagues, stage hands, etc. Revenge came after her suicide leap off the rear wall. The stage crew had removed the mattress, and replaced it with a trampoline. Not a dry seat in the house after that one.

[This message has been edited by Stephen (edited 07-25-2000).]

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My former teacher played a joke on Sir John Barbirolli. They were rehearsing the last movement of Tchaikovsky 5th symphony. The 2nd beat of the 2nd measure of the movement is an E played by viola (and cello). My former teacher quietly tuned his G string down to E and came in with the violas, REALLY LOUD (he was the concertmaster of the orchestra). Poor Barbirolli literally jumped up from the podium upon hearing a loud E from totally different direction!

Another interesting one is attributed to Arthur Fiedler. Fiedler was getting bored conducting Sousa's "Star-stripes...", so he decided to conduct backwards (in other words upbeat became the downbeat and vice versa). And NOBODY noticed it!

Toscha

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Beecham wasn't well known for carefully choosing his words, he was conducting a cello concerto and the lady soloist was having trouble with her technique and the sound was very scratchy. He couldn't take it any more, he stops the orchestra and turns around to the lady cellist and says " madam, you have got this thing between your legs that can give pleasure to a lot of men, and all you can do it's to sit there and scratch it!"

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Beecham wasn't well known for carefully choosing his words, he was conducting a cello concerto and the lady soloist was having trouble with her technique and the sound was very scratchy. He couldn't take it any more, he stops the orchestra and turns around to the lady cellist and says " madam, you have got this thing between your legs that can give pleasure to a lot of men, and all you can do it's to sit there and scratch it!"

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There was also interesting story about Stokowski.

When he was conducting his transcription of Toccata and Fugue in D minor, the principal violist wore a Halloween mask. As he cued the violins (I believe First, Second, then viola, in that order) and turned to viola section to give a cue, "Stokie" froze for a moment, taken completely surprised by the mask! After this momentaraliy gap, he proceeded the performance.

Toscha

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