Sunday, July 15, 2012

ROW80 DAY 5 Serendipity? A Sign From God


ROW80 DAY 5 Serendipity? A Sign From God

Okay! Here's my sign from God! It's okay to keep leeching off of, er, I mean being inspired by theworld4realz, Andi-roo's fine blog. I say this with no little glee. She has actually prodded me with her stories to remember many of my own adventures, or catastrophes.

It's also good to be inspired by someone who continually strived to be excellent. This, for some odd reason reminds me of another one of those stories that can be interpreted as a catastrophe, and a damned fine one. 

I was a hired gun for years as a violist. No, I don't shoot people; it just means I sight-read concerts. Every crappy little orchestra that had an operating budget of 500.00 a year or more had me on their list as a substitute to hire just to come in to play a concert. Being the orchestra whore that I am, I would go, if my main gig was dark that night. The economics of these concerts were weird. I'd get a check for about 300.00, 25.00 for the concert and 275.00 for gas and hotel. I might drive 3 hours to play an hour and a half concert. Depending on my mood and the liveliness of the town, I might drive home that night, or I might paint the town red. Wabash, Indiana wasn't a happening place. Greenville, NC was when I lived in Charlotte. We karaoke'd our way to closing time; string players singing aren't necessarily a good thing to hear.

There is one little symphony that is the creation of a lady who is just as dear as she can be. She plays in the first violin section of another orchestra and plays well. She is however, not a very good conductor. I used to sub there several times a season when I first was becoming established. She really wanted to make this little symphony go, but her "stickitis" was keeping her from achieving any excellence. That and the fact that her little group was pretty much cheek-by-jowl too close to other bigger, better orchestras.

So, anyway, the first time I'm subbing for her, I show up for the concert; I walk out on the stage apron to get a look at the setup. The violas are sitting on the inside (all 2 of us) where we should be, to the right of the cello section. I look across the orchestra and I see a chair with a banjo on it between the first and second violins. Hmmm, o-kay. Maybe we're doing a little "Porgy and Bess".  

The orchestra is starting to filter out onstage now; all 45 or 50 of them as I recall. First up, Mozart. Fuck me. I fucking HATE Mozart. 40th Symphony. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a Mozart. I still hate the fucker. At least we get this shit over with quick. Hmm, Piano Concerto by Haydn with some kid who won the Young People's Competition. To this day, I can't tell you the number of the Haydn Piano Concerto, or the kid's name. We are closing the concert with "Der Rosenkavalier" Suite by Richard Strauss. Dear Mother of God and All That's Holy. Ambition Much? Interesting; there's no "Porgy and Bess" so what's with the banjo?

Concert time. Concert master comes out; points at first oboe. Tune to 440 A. Conductor lady comes out. Steps onto podium. Turns to face audience. I should mention here, that we are playing this gala concert in an old, converted shopping mall. It's now some kind of bastard love child municipal services/town hall. All 37 people start clapping. Conductor waves all 54 people in orchestra to their feet. After that round of clap, we all sit down and lurch into Mozart's 40th symphony. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a Mozart. I discovered that I enjoyed Mozart a whole lot more when there's a huge bass drum beat at the beginning of each and every beat, THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE SYMPHONY. Take that, Mozart, ya simpering goon! Oh, the banjo played along, too. I could hear a plink and a plunk now and then. He may have been playing air-banjo through the hard parts; I'm not sure.

After that triumph, we settled down for the generic Haydn Piano Concerto, played by the "kid." We ripped through the introduction three times, the kid failing to enter after his intro. The fourth time, we just kept on going to the end of the piece. The kid sat there like a stone through all three movements. We ended on a high note, however. Wild applause all around. The kid takes his bows. He then proceeds to come out and play an encore; Rachmaninoff's "Prelude in C♯ Minor". Much later, when I told a friend about this, he said, "well, if he wasn't going to play, why didn't he not play something hard, like Ravel's Piano Concerto in G!" Good point.

So, composers 0, musicians 2. Last piece. Anacrusis to the Waltz. Downbeat. Conductor lady lifts her arms, and lifts.... and lifts.... and lifts... and lifts... this bitch is still lifting her arms. I swear to god we are never going to get to this waltz. We just went to another dimension where time has no meaning what so ever and we wound up here at ROW80. Nobody ever explained the banjo.

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