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Hilarious rehearsal quotes
Ah, the life of a musician...
Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 Topic Rating: 5 (31 votes) 
Sacramento, California

May 8, 2022 - 4:33 am
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Community/semi-pro orchestra:

Ginastera, Dances from "Estancia"
Ginastera, Harp Concerto
Schumann, Symphony No. 4


"Basses, I have this fantasy that I will be able to hear all these glisses."

(in the harp concerto, Ginastera calls for the first violins to play double-stops "as high as possible" on the A and E strings)
"Pick a nice, impossibly high pitch and stick to it. It can't possibly be wrong. Be confident. Don't let anyone tell you it's wrong."

"We should reorchestrate all the Mahler symphonies with maracas. Mahler reorchestrated Beethoven, why not?"

"Jonathan, are you on the tamburo rullante? At 15, burn it -- as if you were a trombone player."

"Piccolo, this needs to be more of a beast. I'm picturing something between an elephant and a dinosaur. It can sound more desperate."

Conductor: Trumpets, what are you playing?
Trumpeter: First movement at 13.
Conductor: That was almost right. First movement, at the beginning. These masks and that accent -- those porteños are impossible to understand.

"It should sound completely wrong. So wrong that it's right."

"There's a hell of a lot going on, a lot of characters and ideas intertwined. It's like reading Proust, except with a bit more neuroticism mixed in. If you spent two hours with him, it would drive you crazy... which is why the symphony isn't that long."

"Celli, basses, you have an expensive sound system at home. I'm going to need a little more darkness from it."

"That was very 1905. Very chic."

"This is how you... no, this is not how you bounce a basketball. Sorry, I didn't do sports as a kid. Well, I did do sports for a bit, and then I was horribly injured. That's my excuse."

"Let's do some standard-issue Romantic violin playing for a moment just to get it out of our systems."
(first violins play passage)
"Now let's do some weird shit."

"Try to rush a little bit. Channel that stand partner you once had who had no sense of rhythm and you hated them for it."

"Is it just me, or am I hearing too much good playing? It's all a little too responsible."

"Put your mouse at the bottom of the curve and drag it down a bit."

"We have one-third of a bass section to lead us into this movement... but it's a mighty one-third!"

"I need more bow. It should almost make you dizzy, you know? Seasick."

"Basses, this is your Caruso moment that you've been waiting for all season."

"This is one of Dante's circles of hell. We'll have a proper celesta on Friday, but until then can you try playing an octave lower so it's slightly tolerable?"
(celesta player plays an octave lower on electronic keyboard)
"All this technology, we can Zoom and talk with somebody, but then we get this."

"In the percussion, the bongos can be a lot more heroic to begin with."

(after working on Ginastera harp concerto, before moving on to Estancia)
"Completely different world. Close your eyes and reimagine. This is nothing like the spaceship I picture for the harp concerto."

"It's like the dog falling into the pond."

"Let's dance the malambo! This may be the fastest malambo we've ever danced, because there isn't enough time."

"Strings, don't work so hard. Let them [the woodwinds] play. Treat yourself."

(singing along with beginning of 2nd movement of Schumann 4)
"Let's go ho-ome, good night, good night."

"Please be patient with me as I try to use this toy podium... I'll try to be still, but with these dances I can't guarantee it. If I start falling off, try to catch me."

"Mezzo-forte cantando: more bird-like. Lighten it up."

"It's still a little shy. It sounds like you're worried about making a mistake. It should be the exact opposite. This is your..." (raises arms, strikes a pose) "...red carpet moment."

"We haven't played through this whole piece in a while. I'm not going to stop unless it gets disastrous. Let's see what happens."
(stops orchestra 28 measures in)
"I lied."

"Percussion, you guys are inside a subwoofer."

"Make the brass great again: bring it down a little."


May 8, 2022 - 10:51 am
Member Since: June 10, 2020
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@AndrewH -


Thanx for sharing the humor! 




...except, 'malambo' ref sent me down another (wonderful) rabbit hole. (lol) 

- Emily

Sacramento, California

May 30, 2022 - 9:08 am
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University orchestra:

Wagner, Overture to Rienzi
Koetsier, Tuba Concertino, 1st movement
J. Strauss II, "Mein herr marquis" from Die Fledermaus
Felder, Die Dämmerungen
Weber, Overture to Die Freischütz


"I love your enthusiasm, horns! You may all be reading a completely wrong transposition, but you're really going for it!"

"Did you get the monster?"
(trombonist looks confused)
"I talked to Nick, and he said you were coming by to check out the contrabass trombone, so I thought you were going to do him a favor."

"If it's too heavy it'll feel like you had too big a burrito and you're playing basketball."

"Much better at 100... it just needs to be a little crazier."

"This reminds me of the music of John Luther Adams, who likes to write these long lines... it also reminds me of the music from House of Cards, which I like very much."

"It's a magical forest. Don't think of it so normal."

"It's a bit darker. But it also needs to be creamy. And a little bit machine gun. Everything all at once, like Krazy Salt."

"You know what it's like when you have a water hose with a lot of holes in it? This passage started off so well, and by the end it was full of holes. It needs to keep the same energy all the way through."

"279, fortissimo, like a big truck... falling... on top of the garden."

"This last bar needs to be more fat... with more lard in it."

(when rehearsing Weber)
"It needs to creep in from nothing. Think of Ligeti."

"It's not gonna be attacca, so there's no need to page your turns too soon."

"Think of it like you're in a cave. Dark. There's a monk, with a ceramic bowl and a candle. It needs to sound religious. From 7 -- don't forget your ceramic bowl."

"This is a very fat monk. Almost like a sumo wrestler. And all the mass that this man has should be in all the triplets."

"Zinnia, it needs to be saltier in the bongos. It's a bit too kind. Have you seen politicians in a debate, and they say all kinds of horrible things about each other? That's exactly what this needs to be."


May 31, 2022 - 4:00 pm
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@AndrewH -

💖 these! 

Thank you!

Sacramento, California

June 5, 2022 - 3:46 am
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Last orchestra concert of the season is done, which means it's time for more quotes! This was Camellia Symphony playing some opera selections followed by Holst's The Planets.


The full program:

Delibes, "Dôme épais le jasmin" (Flower Duet) from Lakmé
Offenbach, "Belle nuit, ô nuit d'amour" (Barcarolle) from The Tales of Hoffmann
Verdi, "Pace, pace, mio Dio!" from La Forza del Destino
Dvořák, "Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém" (Song to the Moon) from Rusalka
Verdi, "Mercè, dilette amiche" from I Vespri Siciliani
Holst, The Planets


"This should feel like you're just about to fall off a precipice, you know? I know you're trying to play all these high sixteenth notes, staccato, fortissimo... that's not important right now. I need to feel like (gasp) I'm going to fall."

(on Jupiter)
"The next one is a fun one. Jolly, even."

(after someone asked what opera selection was being rehearsed next)
"It's the only one left. That's the problem with an iPad: no paper you can throw on the floor."

"At 17, it needs to be more Ravel and less Stravinsky. I know there's some overlap in The Firebird, but... in general."

"Figure 4: the E.T. music."

Conductor (waving at horn player who missed entrance): Hello?
Horn player: Sorry, lost in space.

(phone rings)
Conductor: What was that?
Cellist: That's me trying to silence the music.
Conductor: Technology scares me.
(phone rings again a minute later)
Conductor: It's like an elevator.

"It's an expensive F-sharp. Don't squander it."

"Fast, but not furious."

"Sorry, brass, I know you're getting bored. And there's going to be some more quiet work when the choir gets here. I'll give you some Jupiter in a bit to wake you up."

"There was no Pluto yet. Poor Pluto."

(on violin trills that open the Offenbach Barcarolle)
"This opening is really desperate to be Wagner, isn't it?"

(on choir not being backstage when we reached Neptune at dress rehearsal)
"We're running 20 minutes late and they're still not here. Good service. Let's go on Yelp, everyone!"

(harpist misses entrance at end of Uranus)
"If that happens tonight, I'll wait for you. Or call out your name."

(phone rings at very end of Neptune)
"It must be Holst! He likes it."

Fort Lauderdale
June 16, 2022 - 12:01 pm
Member Since: September 26, 2010
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@AndrewH - Great stuff. 😁

"The richest person is not the one who has the most,
but the one who needs the least."

Gordon Shumway
London, England

July 6, 2022 - 11:07 am
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On Friday our conductor told us this anecdote (we were playing something with a lot of accidentals, maybe Suk, maybe something else, and he said): - "I was at a rehearsal once where the conductor said of this piece - it needs to be slow enough for the audience to hear all of your wrong notes."


Sacramento, California

July 31, 2022 - 3:21 am
Member Since: November 5, 2017
Forum Posts: 1494
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I'm in the middle of the Elk Grove Strauss Festival right now. Lots of Strauss waltzes and polkas (both of the Johanns, plus Josef and Eduard). We had our two rehearsals Tuesday and Wednesday, and then shows every night Thursday-Sunday. Which means all the rehearsal quotes are in.


"Waltz III, second strain, first time, and a partridge in a pear tree."

(on cuts in a piece)
"Given the nature of this one, that it's been Frank N. Furtered, I'm going to talk you through it before we start."

"We'll be experts on this by Monday."

(on the Radetzky March and the tradition of the audience clapping with the music)
"The audience will clap, they'll probably be wrong, don't listen to them, listen to each other."

"In number 8, Bahn Frei, there's a train whistle. Normally the percussion section would play it, but I bought this --7 dollars and 57 cents well spent -- so I think I should play it."

(quacking heard from off stage)
"Yes, the ducks are part of it. They do what they want."

"I am told the polkas can be faster. So we're going to make some kids fall. That will be our goal."

"We all know what happened with Acceleration Waltz. It will not happen again. We will not speak of it. I have already forgotten it."

"I know we can't do much about the dynamics. We're miked, so this is mostly just for our own entertainment, but let's see how quiet we can make the pianos, and hopefully the mics will pick up some of that energy and send it out there."

"I'm no scientist, but celli and basses, I think you're playing on the down beat about 100 percent of the time."

Sacramento, California

September 27, 2022 - 8:39 pm
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Another concert in the books, which means it's time for more quotes!


The program:

Sarah Wald, After Brahms
Elgar, Cello Concerto
Brahms, Symphony No. 4


"It's like a little tango."

(1st and 2nd violins, seated opposite each other, aren't together)
"Maybe it'll be easier without some guy standing in the middle."
(steps off podium and starts waving baton from behind podium)

"But already we have this unstable, unsettling, horrifying thing. It's right over there." (points at basses)

(beginning of Brahms 4)
"But fortunately we have friends to help us out here. Let's hear the violas and celli. They're the ones who will keep us from thinking (sings violin part) 'But meeeee... and thiiiiis...'"

"Can we make this togetherness sound painfully special?"

"You are the most polite band of pirates I've ever heard. I don't know why wind and brass players -- maybe it's a lifetime of being hornpipe people -- they always sound pompous when they're playing music like this. Let's join them in their pomposity."

"Have you seen a pianist play music like this? They don't ru-- many of them don't rush."

"Celli, either I was doing bad score study or you're not playing."

"We're all friends here, right? Let's at least pretend for an hour."

"The arrival at 390 was very nice. What happened between 381 and 390 was... not so nice."

"This is the C major door to Bluebeard's castle! We can't let this go without making a deal of it."
(note that we were NOT playing Bartok)

"This is a very large page... with very small print."

"I think the most important thing is to handle anxiety. It's very quick, yes, but you can see a very common pattern, 3-3-2. And then, as soon as you get comfortable with that, she changes it, and that destroys the whole Monopoly game." (mimes upending a game board)

"At this moment these sixteenth notes are a little too faked for my liking."

(various stage lights start randomly blinking on and off mid-rehearsal due to switchboard malfunction)
"We just need a disco ball and we're ready!"

"There's actually some melody here. It's not Bruckner sixteenth notes."

"After a hundred and fifty years, he keeps doing this to us. He throws in a little hemiola, and we're all thinking, 'Where are we?' This is why he had a cool beard. If only we could."

"Can we have a nice forte-piano here? It's like a meta-cello."

"I could let out my hair and point a fan at myself in the concert. We might get a bigger audience."

"At letter A it's still a bit elephantic."

"Letter R: ah, a nice relaxing Presto."

"Don't rush! There will be plenty of time to rush later."


September 27, 2022 - 8:58 pm
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@AndrewH -

This is better than any TV sitcom - or standup at the Improv! 

LOVE these! 

Thank you.

Gordon Shumway
London, England

September 28, 2022 - 7:14 am
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New conductor*, so nothing much to report until he gets into his stride, but we were given the usual advice of "where it says pp, if you can't hear the person on your left, you are playing too loud."

Problem is, the person on my left is a little old lady who never makes a sound!

* We're doing Tchaik Op 48, Warlock's Capriol Suite and some Bach chorales for warm-up. They are surprisingly difficult, as they modulate all over the place and intonation is a pig.


Sacramento, California

November 8, 2022 - 10:09 pm
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The program:
Salina Fisher, Murmuring Light
Richard Strauss, Four Last Songs
Sergei Prokofiev, Symphony No. 5
(during first reading of Prokofiev 5, between first two movements)
"Easy peasy! We have a nice relaxing one next."
"Let's go again from 71. We have a tam-tam, why not use it again?"
"I will draw, with my 4-year-old drawing ability, a hand in my score. My children have long ago surpassed my drawing skills."
"Really put the accent on it. If you do too much, someone might look at you funny, but that's OK!"
"If your neighbor starts sounding too beautiful, nudge them."
"When you're an extra in a movie, you're not supposed to do something like flip a table over, because that would pull focus. But here, basses, we need you to pull focus."
"The down beat at 108 needs to be more gripping... like you're watching a movie and some crazy person with an axe comes in and starts smashing everything."
"Basses, that's a beautiful canon... but it has to be together."
"Woodwinds, did you see, at 94, my ugly hand up? Just to let you know where we are."
Conductor: Allie, at the very end, I didn't quite hear your last note.
Pianist: I didn't play it.
Conductor: Oh, good, then we're on the same page.
"The comic, burlesque mood of this really needs to come through. Right now it sounds like a dog on a boat... trying not to fall off. It should not sound like that."
"At this point you should all feel like you're accompanying the tuba."
"Let's try to arrive at 72 a little less harmed."
"Celli, you should not be hiding behind anyone. We need the Three Tenors here, at the very least."
"At 108 we really need to make it sound like someone is kicking a board in front of us." (mimes punching through a board)
"We go from something celebratory to... cubist art. It's supposed to be angular and weird, don't try to make it sound normal!"
"I never thought I'd ask for more snare drum."
(at dress rehearsal, on overly bright stage lighting)
"We need some sunscreen on stage."
Conductor (to stage manager): Jorge, can you experiment with a green or a blue? I find this very disturbing.
Voice from brass section: Isn't Prokofiev more of a red piece?
(backdrop turns green, then blue, then a slightly reddish purple)
Conductor: Keep this! I love it. It's my mother's favorite color.
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