What a great topic, I have a few from my community college orchestra director:
- "This part is supposed to be like an adventure; play like you're a pirate but also light like an elf. You're all pirate elves."
- "Not a bad try, now add in dynamics, style, correct timing and confidence."
- (regarding a technical clarinet solo) "Alright, if you can't get this part down we'll have to give it to the trumpets and god knows they don't need the ego boost."
There was also a time where everyone kept playing super heavy during a really light dance-like section; so he made everyone sing, in rhymth "I am a little fairy, a pretty pretty fairy".
Time to add to the collection.
Semipro orchestra, concert program including Walton viola concerto and Beethoven's 6th
Conductor: Stop looking so important, Alan, when you're just going "bum... bum...bum..." ... save it for the harder parts!
Alan (associate principal cellist): What's the facial expression for being unimportant?
"Just sing West Side Story, and you'll be fine. You don't sing that out of tune, do you?" (sings tritone out of tune) "Maria..."
"If you take too long [to find a bar number] I may start singing. I'm tempted to be a prima donna."
"It should almost make you want to throw up, you know?" (mimes cello tremolo, then pretends to vomit)
"Let's move some furniture here." (referring to low cello/bass rumbling in the "storm" movement of Beethoven's 6th)
"There's this part that needs to be more cloudy... I'm not asking you to play inaccurately, that's not what I mean."
Community orchestra, rehearsing for a pops concert
"...and you can be all mezzo-pahuna here."
"Con brio. Not Neufchatel."
"That texture needs to be there. It's like ice cream with no chunks in it: disappointing."
"Tonight, tonight, we'll count real hard tonight..." (rehearsing selections from West Side Story)
"Let's try that for fright-reading."
"Keep up the forte when it goes down. Like the Hindenburg."
"First one, you're dance-fighting in the street, second one you're embarrassed."
(on Rossini) "He takes this time bomb and puts it in there, and the key is not to get too excited about it... eventually the audience thinks it's all going to be the same, and then it explodes."
"Up, down, up down, up do-own, u-up, down, u-up down. Those are the original lyrics... Are you titillated by our bow talk, brass and winds?"
Conductor: The violinists will stand up and stab you if you rush here.
Concertmaster: Are you allowing us to do that?
Conductor: I would support it.
Semipro orchestra, rehearsing for a concert to open a new theater, including a repeat of Beethoven's 6th along with opera arias and a newly-composed piece
Percussionist: We have to move all this stuff over here every rehearsal. We need help.
"We're going to bring in one of those cursing jars. Every mistake we find in the score..." (mimes dropping a coin into a jar) "We're going to buy chocolate for everyone with the composer's mistake jar."
(on the title of the new piece, "Jubilant burbs")
Conductor: What are burbs?
Trumpeter: Suburbs, I think.
Me: Why would they be jubilant?
Conductor: I was on the phone with Pablo when he sent me the name of the piece. And I mistook one letter for another, and I asked him, "Jubilant ... boobs? Why would you call it that?"
Conductor: He was not offended...
(on the discount code for orchestra members' friends and family) "Share it with your friends... unless you have very rich friends, in which case we'll give them a different code that will make them pay twice as much."
(to concertmaster and principal 2nd violin, in Vienna configuration) "Can you two see each other?" (ducks under music stand and raises baton as high as he can) "Aha!"
"I'd like to keep it in the tempo the composer wants. If I try to conduct this in 4..."(starts beating an extremely fast 4 while panting, then keels over)
"It needs to be more... street."
I wish I could think of something funny. But...
I once played second oboe in a pro/am student production of Prokofiev's Duenna under a man who was at the time chorus master of the English National Opera.
After one run-through, he pointed to a violist and shouted "YOU! Section C, bar 3, note 4 you played A sharp instead of A double sharp!"
That's the funniest he ever got (and that's why I haven't named him, in case it's libellous)!
More rehearsal quotes! From my semi-pro orchestra. The program:
Joan Tower, Sequoia
Beethoven, Piano Concerto No. 5 ("Emperor")
Beethoven, Symphony No. 8
"Maybe it's a sequoia on fire. That's the right image for now."
"You start out wanting to tell the story, and then you start thinking maybe it wasn't such a good idea... it's getting quieter and shyer and... PAH! Consequences. He really shouldn't have said that." (on dynamics in the finale of Beethoven's 8th)
Concertmaster (tuning before Sequoia, gesturing at empty seats): "It's a little bare in there. Was there a wildfire?"
"Or, like Jurassic Park before all the computer graphics."
"OK, I think a few brains have been nicely fried, including mine."
"I heard some very nice playing by the second violins... when you finally got there."
"You need to take more pleasure in the Piú Forte. Everyone out there needs to be: (puffs out chest) 'Look at that proud cello section.'"
"We have one minute left. Let's go to the beginning of the movement. If we play in tempo we might be able to play the whole movement." (finale of Beethoven's 8th)
"It should sound the way I'm conducting: 'Eh, I'm not really trying.' Which I'm not."
"Take your time there, or it will be messy. He's my favorite player, but not in music." (I think the soccer reference flew over people's heads.)
"It mustn't be scared... it needs to be a little scarier."
"Try to get the whole orchestra to go wrong. That should be your goal. That second beat should sound like a first beat."
"This whole movement, the second movement, is beautiful poetry with a mattress of flowers underneath. If you let the flowers get overgrown, there is no poetry." (Holy mixed metaphors, Batman!)
"This sounds a bit like a polar bear. It's slowing down. Let's make him lose some weight. No fish, so he's hungry. He runs."
"I can tell that many of you are enjoying this piece. To everyone else, I apologize." (at dress rehearsal after thanking the orchestra member who recommended programming Sequoia)
"It needs to be more neurotic. Those sixteenth notes... you look too comfortable, leaning back and playing them. It should sound a little awkward. Go crazy."
And from my community orchestra. The program:
Mendelssohn, Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage
Vivaldi, Autumn from The Four Seasons
Dvorak, Humoresque (arranged for violin and orchestra)
Burleigh, Southland Sketches No. 3 (arranged for violin and orchestra)
Beethoven, Symphony No. 8 (yes, I was playing it in two orchestras concurrently)
"Like Kenny on South Park, I have learned something this evening. I have learned that the brass can play louder at E."
"At the end of that phrase it was a bit too much of a musical stop... musico constipato."
"We're gonna ignore one of Beethoven's specific instructions. He will not be at the performance."
"The beginning of the movement is where the hunters are gathering. Hunters were a little silly back them, so we need to hook the 32nd notes in a slightly silly way."
"For one glorious moment you are meatballs. The rest of the time you are pasta."
"Celli and basses, are you just gonna let yourselves be drowned out by the violas? Do you not find it embarrassing?"
"You gotta be really sincere about being mean."
Concertmaster: Oh, you're saying you want us to play musically?
Conductor: Yes. That sounded like a hard math problem. Play the music first and the notes can catch up later.
"There's no real pianissimo when you're playing pizzicato. It might as well be forgetitissimo."
"We need more ridiculous WHOOMs on the down beats and 'oops' on the other beats. This is Keystone Hunters!"
Soloist: I think about the times I've actually had to flee something, and it's really pretty pathetic looking... but it was fast!
And another concert in the books, which means rehearsal quotes from this program! Semi-pro orchestra, all Latin American program.
Marta Lambertini, Angel Apasionado II
Alberto Ginastera, Piano Concerto No. 1
Enrique Diemecke, Chacona a Chavez
Carlos Chavez, Sinfonia India
Many of these are about the percussion section.
"We need more toys back there. One of these days we'll go to the Pick-n-Pull."
(re: a substitute for crotales in the first rehearsal)
"Use a cymbal... anything metallic...... Ah, a cowbell!" (laughter around orchestra) "More cowbell. Ginastera was a gaucho, he would approve."
"I can't wait for the malambo on steroids. When Ginastera wrote Estancia, he was young and steeped in Argentine nationalism. I don't know what he ate when he came to America, but this is the result. He doesn't even call it a malambo any more, he calls it a 'Toccata Concertata.'"
"Timpani, I was singing out my soul for you! I left it all in the field!" (he had been singing a bit of the solo piano part)
(at end of first reading of Sinfonia India)
"Perfect! Let's go!" (jumps off podium and starts jogging toward exit)
"Fat-free milk. I need the nice full-cream version."
"We have a lot of toys back there... we need the maracas, otherwise we're missing the soul of Mexico."
Conductor: They're like cowboys, making a lot of noise with heavy boots... so it needs to be elegant, don't rush it.
Cellist: Elegant for cowboys?
Conductor: Elegant for cowboys.
"YOU HAVE CYMBALS! Perfect woman. Like a lifesaving angel. What, nothing else coming out of your Mary Poppins bag? Any more instruments you'd like to share with us?"
The last three are from the dress rehearsal:
"Take a moment to decompress. You've had a long week, you came from work... Some yoga, maybe. Close your eyes and imagine yourselves in a beautiful place full of Ginastera..."
"Just relax. Have some grappa before the concert? ... No, don't. Bad advice from your conductor."
"That went almost too well. I'm a little scared."