University orchestra, short program (new piece and Sibelius violin concerto):
(lights go out)
(starts disco dancing)
(to stage manager)
"Dave, are you trying to save money in the middle of our rehearsal?"
"And very erratically, we arrive at letter E."
"Can you give more on the forte, trumpets? I never thought I'd say this."
(on missing parts for the following concert being distributed)
"Anyone else missing something? It's all for the same price. . . . This is like when you go to a really good restaurant and the waiter remembers everything. Just write it down, man! When I'm in Buenos Aires, I go to restaurants and there are groups of 20 or more people all ordering different things, and the waiters insist on remembering everything. Anyway, I digress."
"I'm pretty sure that's just a missing plus sign. Play it pizz, if she [the composer] doesn't like it she can sue me... all the way from Paris!"
"It reminds me of my chickens. I love my chickens, so it's a nice memory. . . . Don't let your phobia of chickens get in the way, play the part."
"That was nice, but I need more craziness in the cellos. Like... AAAAAAAUGH, the water's too hot in the shower!"
Today: "First violins, why do you keep messing up that rhythm? Oh, I know - it's because you haven't seen a quaver [eighth note] for half an hour"
To principal cello: "Please don't tap your foot - it's offputting when it's out of time with me."
Re Dall'Abaco parts full of hairpins. "I just want louds and softs. Ignore all the Wagner rubbish" (hairpins and clutter are 19th century editorial additions)
Another concert done, which means another set of rehearsal quotes.
Laura Schwartz, Figment (new piece)
Carl Nielsen, Violin Concerto
Jean Sibelius, Symphony No. 2
"It's all syncopated. You're a goat! Put your antlers there, you're chasing the whole orchestra! . . . From L again. Syncopation goat!"
"Let's do that and add a bit more to the confusion."
"Life's not fair, you know? It may be your B-flat, but it may not be somebody else's. You'll need to negotiate and agree on something."
"It should not be together... no, it should be together, just not at the same time!"
"This reminds me of a joke I've heard about Finns. I suppose it could also apply to Swedes, but anyway: when you meet them in the street, what's the difference between a Finnish introvert and a Finnish extrovert? The Finnish introvert, when he's talking to you, looks straight down at his own feet. The Finnish extrovert also looks straight down, but looks at your feet. That's how this needs to sound. Even though it's really special, it needs to be in the background. If Sibelius were Italian, he'd be shouting it all over."
"Brass, at letter T: bells up, triple f, burn it."
"This reminds me of the show with the dolphin -- was it called Flipper? The violas ending: it's just Flipper. I can't think of anything else now."
"Before we start the scherzo, I just want to say the most important thing is to relax. You know how to play it. When you get nervous, that's when things happen like rushing and forgetting the dynamics. The best thing to do, where we are now, is to have a glass of wine and relax--DON'T have a glass of wine, just relax!"
Do you take notes, or record all these?
...scary too, because I understand them.
Thanks for all these quotes!
No-one you see, is smarter than he,
And we know Flipper, lives in a world full of wonder,
Flying there-under, under the sea!
Unfortunately I have a terrible memory and no smartphone.
My conductor Julian Williamson is very jovial, but he's less about jokes and more about historical anecdotes (he's approaching 80). "I’d studied piano and conducting" (quote from the link). He's also a violist.
The thing about Julian's humour is the context and his way of expressing himsef.
Today we played the first 4 bars (@40:39 - the link should go straight there, but it doesn't) and he stopped us and said, with a very slight hint of sarcasm, "this movement is an excellent example of when not to make any noise during a rest."
which was both witty and wise.
In a different movement where we had 8 D's followed by 8 Eb's, "it helps here if you wait for everyone to finish with their D's before you begin on your Eb's"
"This is not Flight of the Bumblebee. This is sempre forte... sempre annoying."
Conductor (from offstage): Where are the trumpets?
Trumpeter: Sir, we thought you stopped conducting.
Conductor (still offstage): The conductor is dead, keep playing!
Our conductor told us this anecdote on Friday, as we were playing a quiet piece: -
"A famous orchestra was once playing a quiet piece, and the conductor said, 'I'll give you the upbeat to lead you in.' He gave the upbeat and then immediately shouted 'too loud' and stopped them before they had played a note."
Oh, I have one from the sole rehearsal that my university orchestra had on a concert program that ended up getting canceled. (We had a short rehearsal in December to read through all the music, then the actual concert in early February was canceled because Omicron prevented full orchestra rehearsals through January.)
The context for this quote was confusingly printed wind and brass parts (for example, all four trumpet parts were printed on a single staff!) that came from a small publisher located in Barcelona.
"I love the soccer there, I love the wine there, but this, I have to complain... there's a reason Messi left."
Another concert in the books, which means another set of rehearsal quotes.
Beethoven, Symphony No. 7
And the quotes:
"Terrible music! The guy must have been deaf!"
"From 47... but right before that you're going to hear some horrible singing from me."
Conductor: The measure where you have sempre piú forte, what number is it?
Several musicians: 400.
Conductor: It's only 389 here. Cheaper for me. It's in pesos.
(strings start 1st movement and winds start 2nd movement of Beethoven 7)
"That was the Charles Ives realization."
"Take the repeat. People are paying for tickets, we have to give them every single bar."
"Did I tell you the story about my colleague who got pulled over for speeding right after a concert? He said it's impossible to drive slowly after playing Beethoven's 7th. It got him out of a ticket. Keep that in your back pocket."
(to celesta player)
"I know these instruments are old and don't make a lot of sound... think of it as your Mozart piano concerto moment."
"It's a solid mezzo-forte. Proud, with a glass of vodka in your hand. It should be a little grotesque."
Time for more quotes from the rehearsal for my last two concerts.
From my university orchestra's last program:
Joe Peterson, Three Pieces from the Pandemic
Miguel Farías, Violin Concerto "Kuyén"
Antonin Dvořák, Symphony No. 8
"These triplets in harmonics are rapidly becoming a favorite of mine. Things that are going to chase me all night in my dreams. He always has these earworms... trust me, if it's not there yet (points at ear) it will be."
"The first time I heard one of his pieces... I don't remember if it was Mapuche-inspired or something you'd sing at the soccer stadium."
(at a string sectional)
"Celli, sing out! This is a Pavarotti moment. Every cellist in the world wants to play the opening of this symphony, because it's all about the cello. The clarinets and bassoons may try to steal it from you, but it's your line." (pause) "That's not what I told them."
"Be careful, we're getting a little micro-canon."
"Trumpets: this is not something I say often or take lightly, but... I'm going to need you to play louder. Don't get used to it!"
"Very slow portamento: it should sound almost like one of my chickens."
"At D it's like you're on your phone and this shocking YouTube ad suddenly pops up out of nowhere."
"It has to sound like an English mansion, you know? Fancy, with butler and everything."
"When the sun comes through, you should think of enjoying it with your dark sunglasses -- ahhhh! -- if anything, you should think about ordering something to drink. You should definitely not rush."
"It has to be in the countryside... relaxed... sunshine... birds... no cellphones allowed, there is no Twitter."
(after a violinist volunteered to cover a percussion part in rehearsal)
"That's the mentality we need in this orchestra: the desire to play the gong."
"At 57 it sounds like it comes out of nowhere, like you're pulling a rabbit out of a hat. We need to build into it more, like the magician is showing the hat first."
"This is one of my favorite parts of the symphony: where the horns go crazy."
"Thick, thick vibrato... creamy... with pesto as well!"
"Quadruple fortissimo! I've never seen that before [in a bass drum part]. This man is a savage. He's going to destroy the bass drum. But like I said before, it's like you're on your phone, and here comes a YouTube ad you really hate. Maybe Geico. And you just want it to go away."
From my community/semi-pro orchestra's last concert, which was all opera selections:
"Usually, when the tenor gets to the A-flat, he likes his voice so much that he stays there for a while."
(after a couple bassists jumped the gun on an entrance)
"Watch your principal. If she's not playing, don't play. No need to take on the responsibility, it's above your pay grade."
"Heather [the personnel manager] has sent out a program order. Please print it. Otherwise I sound like I'm saying a lot of words in languages you've never heard before, which I am."
Also, I found a few quotes I forgot to post from the February concert program (Prokofiev and Beethoven). These were from the first rehearsal.
"Have you seen a construction worker with those long iron beams, not working with them but just trying to get them into the site? It's like (mimes dumping an iron beam from vertical onto the ground) UNGH!... WHOMP! That's what this should sound like."
"The first note is the most important. The imaginary fifth and sixth notes you're playing aren't actually there."
"Thank you for loving every note of Beethoven. But if you've ever tried to copy out your part by hand, every note, the love dissipates quickly. Sometimes you just need to get from one place to the next. Don't love it too much."
"You haven't seen enough of those infomercials with Dick Clark and the Greatest American Whatever."
I'm a little behind on posting these.
University orchestra, short program of all 21st century music.
Oscar Strasnoy, Piano Concerto "Kuleshov"
Jimmy Lopez, Fiesta!: Four Pop Dances for Orchestra
"Tom and Jerry glissando. I love it."
"At the end, the bass drum is alone for one note. Big solo."
"There's this little war going on between Chile and Peru about who invented pisco, even though there's literally a town in Peru called Pisco. Once I was in a Peruvian restaurant in Chile, and of course I had to order a pisco sour. They could tell I'm from Argentina -- the accent, you know? So they asked me, 'Chilean style or Peruvian style?' And I said, 'Peruvian, of course.' They were not happy."
"Out of all the cuisines in Latin America, it's truly unique. They have these spices that you can't get anywhere else. The seafood is extraordinary. I really should stop talking about this, it's making me hungry. Anyway, all the little subtleties in these piece really remind me of Peruvian cuisine."
"It's accumulating steam, like when you take a shower. At first the mirror is good, and it gets cloudy. And finally you turn off the water and there's some clarity with the D that the celli and basses have been holding, and the A-flat in the violins, and the D turning into an E."
"Let me tell you what I have now, and if it's wrong he [the composer] will sue me."
"Celli, why are you so far behind? You're usually rushing. You're very calm tonight... which is a virtue, but it's time to start rushing now."
"Are any of you old enough to remember the TV shows... those inspector shows with the trenchcoats and dark glasses and gangsters and lots of cigarettes? That's what this music reminds me of. . . . Some of them are probably still on Netflix. Old shows with terrible resolution, that's what you should be looking for."
"Don't listen to the oboe, it will ruin your life. Pay no attention to it... unless you're tuning."
"This is disco dance music!" (sings melody, segues straight into Funky Town)
"It needs to be rougher. This is street music. Too much Brahms in your history."
(a bit later, rehearsing the next movement)
"Now this is like Brahms."
(to percussionist playing congas)
"We'll have to get something to mount it higher. Half the fun is seeing you playing it. If you're hiding behind people," (ducks below music stand while pretending to play congas) "everyone out there who paid for tickets will want their money back."
"At 70 it should be like a disco ball, shiny."
"When the reprise at 55 comes, it needs to be more bloody in the strings."
"I'm going to sing beautifully for you the part before you come in, which is a timpani part."
"You're in a beautiful Cuban... club. Everybody's dancing..." (mimes holding a drink while dancing on podium) "It needs to be in-your-face. It sounds a bit shy. No one's going to buy a drink at this rate. The club will go out of business."
"Violins and violas, try to be much bigger than you are. Like my cats, when they go..." (imitates cat puffing itself up) "When they try to be giants. 37 again -- like fat cats!"
"It needs to be sweaty. Sweaty music."