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MingLoo

Weirdest thing that ever happened to you in orchestra?

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Jon mentioned in another thread, actually stopping a concert because

of some difficulties in the horns. I was thinking of the strangest

things that had ever happened to me in orchestra:

Tulsa Philharmonic: trumpets are on bleacher like seats, standing up,

one trumpet player passes out and falls off the back of the bleachers.

Some university orchestra: boy in the back of the seconds has an

epileptic episode, and falls down and thrashes around towards the end

of a rehearsal. Poor fellow.

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When I played with the Georgetown University Orchestra, they put the percussion section sort of half behind the choir for Carmina Burana, and a choir singer fell backwards -- into the percussion section. Imagine the sound. As I remember it, it all happened so quickly that almost nobody in the orchestra actually understood what was going on, though.

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Two strange events were back in my youth orchestra days:

1. Principal oboist sliced open her leg while cutting a reed in her lap.

2. I got a nosebleed once and another violinist's dad followed me into the bathroom and implied that I was using cocaine.

The third was in a concert at Rice:

3. We were playing Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams and an audience-member was coughing and our conductor stopped us about 30 seconds into the piece turned around, explained to the audience member how to better cover his mouth, and then restarted the piece. My friends in the audience said it was one of the more terrifying moments of their entire lives.

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The third was in a concert at Rice:

3. We were playing Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams and an audience-member was coughing and our conductor stopped us about 30 seconds into the piece turned around, explained to the audience member how to better cover his mouth, and then restarted the piece. My friends in the audience said it was one of the more terrifying moments of their entire lives.

What year was that? Let me guess: '87, Ben Zander? (and I like Ben Zander!)

Actually, I bet it's much more recent than that. Was it in the new building?

I was there in the Larry Livingston, Ben Zander, Uri Meyer era. I was there for two and a half years; it took me that long to graduate. I hated leaving, it was so much fun. But I wanted to go to Chapel Hill to do some research, so off I went. Guy at Chapel Hill said to me, what are you doing here? Talked about somebody getting the "right hand disease" (in other words, the conducting bug).

There is a big distinction between private schools and state universities. More than once, I think my degree from Rice has been a negative in the equation. Have you ever experienced anything like that?

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Prof. Rachleff was the conductor in question. The concert was in '05, I think. It could've been '06.

I'm not sure what you mean about private schools vs. state universities. My degree from Rice has been nothing but an asset. I've found that in the northeast, outside of the music world, it is mostly unknown, but anywhere west of the Mississippi Rice has a lot of traction.

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Prof. Rachleff was the conductor in question. The concert was in '05, I think. It could've been '06.

I'm not sure what you mean about private schools vs. state universities. My degree from Rice has been nothing but an asset. I've found that in the northeast, outside of the music world, it is mostly unknown, but anywhere west of the Mississippi Rice has a lot of traction.

Oh, I'm not saying the degree is bad, or the school is bad, or anything like that; it's just that, in some instances, people may be resentful of it, because it is prestigious. If you've never experienced anything like that, I congratulate you.

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Interesting topic.

1. As a freshman in college, listening to the conductor of the community orchestra tell the audience that we omitted one movement of the piece we were playing because the orchestra as a whole didn't have the chops to play it. :) (Well he didn't use those words exactly but, pretty close to it.) I was shocked by that.

2. Ah the joys of playing outside in the summer. At an outdoor concert a few summers ago, the woman sitting in front of me had rather large beetle that was nestled in her hair. She had an updo that day. She didn't have a choice but to play an entire piece with the little critter crawling around in there. She got it out between pieces and thankfully it didn't land on me!

3. This was at a school concert with my elementary school students. My colleague was conducting a number for the orchestra that had about 50+ kids in it. I guess I didn't leave enough room (when I set up the stage) for the conductor because halfway through the piece the right side of his jacket wrapped around the stand of the first cellist, covering her music completely. The poor girl panicked, unwrapped his jacket off the stand and continued playing.

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Interlochen Arts Academy orchestra tour about 1978 or so. Rehearsal at Hill auditorium at the University of Michigan. Our conductor was Robert Marcellus who had played in the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell (Principal Clarinet). Mr. Marcellus says to someone "is Rudy still practicing?" There were two guys named Rudy in the 'cello section and they were both there paying attention not playing or saying a thing, so we were all a bit confused. Just then Rudolph Serkin walks out from back stage and shakes hands with our condutor and tells us how good it is to meet us and so on. You could have knocked us over with a feather.

DLB

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1. Okay it was a PDQ Bach Concert so wierdness is the rule but this was genius. We were playing the Concerto for 2 pianos vs. Orchestra and there is a very, very long cadenza section. One of the trumpet players gets up, walks off stage, comes back in with and ironing board, sets it up, walks back out, comes back with an iron, an extension cord, and a basket of clean laundry and proceeds to start iron his clothes.

2. 1976 bicentenial. Youth Orchestra is playing a concert in a park as a part of a huge celebratory event, when out of nowhere a huge black cloud appears and down from it drops a tornado and a torrential downpour. We hardly had time to get off the stage, I got under the bleechers and held my viola up against the bottom side of one of the Aluminum plank seats to keep it dry (was successful though I got soaked, thank goodness no lightning strikes on the massive metal bleechers). The Tornado didn't hit anything thankfully, but it was a day I'll never forget.

3. I was concertmaster, and the orchestra was playing a piece that had a spot where mutes needed to be applied very quickly. I shoved my mute on with a litle too much vigor and knocked over my bridge, I quickly laid it in my lap, put the bridge back in place, did a quick tune and was playing wihin a few bars. Unfortunately the sound post fell too, so the sound was pretty poor. To this day I have not been able to find anyone to set that instrument up to sound like it did before. The maker, who had maintained it up until that time had just recently passed away. The 'master luthier' who reset it up for me told me the old soundpost was too short and the bridge was cut wrong, but his set up - though not bad - lacks the refinement of sonority, eveness, and response that the 'wrong' set up had.

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I thought of one more good one. I was attending a Fort Worth Symphony Concert. The orchestra was on stage, the lights had dimmed, and the audience awaited the entrance of the concertmaster. The wait was unusually long and finally a violinist bursts out from the wings. The audience starts to applaud, but then many realize that this is not the concertmaster just as he turns into the middle of the violin section to take his section seat. He sits but the audience is not sure what to do and there is still a smattering of applause now with some giggling. The violinist, thinking fast, decided to make the best of it and suddenly stands to his feet, faces the audience and takes a full bow. The audience burst into cheering applause and laughter. (He had broken a string just before the concert was to begin so the Cocnertmaster and conductor waited for him to change the string and get on stage.)

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When I was a wee thing there used to be a choir festival for all the little country schools in the region to get together and sing. It was held in the local civic theatre which happened to share its back lot with the local volunteer fire brigade, who used the highest peak of the theatre roof as the home for their emergency claxon. Of course the highest peak of the theatre was the back of the stage (you probably know where this story is going by now)

Opening night, all 150 or so of us are crammed onto the stage, the pianist et al are going through their warm ups, the choir mistress takes the stage, bows grandly and gives her little welcoming talk, raps on the stand to get our attention (as if she didn't already have it, she was terrifying) raises arms, we open our mouths to launch into something from Phantom of the Opera... and the claxon goes off. Luckily the smaller kids were down the front so the baritones at the back got the full blast of the air raid siren in all its glory.

It a few more false starts like that before it eventual stopped and we were able to sing, but try as we might we just didn't seem to have the same timbre as that damn claxon.

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Back in Junior high we had a cellist fall off the stage during a concert. She was fine - the cello, not so much.

We had an outdoor perfomance at a historical train station and I guess noone bothered to check the schedule. We had to stop in the middle of our performance to let the train go by, and resume after it passed.

During a tour in China, our principal trumpet fell ill and the conductor decided that he would play the solo introdution to the theme from Rocky. I'm sure he was a fine player in his day, but that was the most awful, crawl-under-your-seat-and-die moment as those horrible sounds blurted from his trumpet.

This isn't orchestra, but I played a string trio wedding gig on the island of Nevis where the cello was inadvertently stored incorrectly during the flight and as a result, the fingerboard fell off. We played on the 9th hole of the Four Seasons resort with a cello fingerboard rubber-banded to the neck.

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When I was in high school, I got tired of the fairly weak strings in the All-State Orchestra and tried out one year on trombone. I had just upgraded to my first brand-new trombone, complete with F-trigger attachment. No other trombonist in the orchestra or the band had anything like it. I was feeling pretty proud.

Being a brand new instrument, the slide was still perfectly well-fitted and moved like a dream--quite a lot more smoothly than my old trombone. I discovered this the hard way when I shot out for a note in sixth position and the slide flew off the trombone, sailed through the air about 5-6 feet, and skittered another few feet on the gymnasium floor before coming to rest. I was particularly mortified because at least a few people thought I'd done this on purpose.

Well, that little incident, er, took care of the slide's perfect alignment and I never had that problem again. Sigh....

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Well this was not an orchestra. It was Michael Tilson Thomas, in Buffalo, NY, maybe 1972. Upstairs in a room maybe 30 x 40ft. He was playing the harpsichord. It was some kind of rally, or art opening. Lots of people, very close together. Michael began on the harpsichord. A photographer got right up close shooting a flash. Michael stopped playing and said to him "Why don't you just listen to the music. It's really very beautiful." The photographer retreated sheepishly out of the room.

Good job, Michael.

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