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A vehicular plague

Seriously, you have NO IDEA how much time I have spent in my life sitting in the driveway, waiting to find out if I’ve guessed the composer right. (Answer: probably not.)


Giving violas a week of rest

This Not A Viola Joke is sincerely dedicated to Jess Wyatt, for being such a gracious commenter. ūüôā

Q. How many violinists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Continue reading

A Concert Roundup In Which I Sing a Bunch of Unrelated Songs

If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.

People who KNOW

Every single music teacher I have ever had, from third grade orchestra to tri-county symphonic orchestra, has given the exact same speech before a concert. Oh, I don’t mean the exact same entirely; there are riffs and variations based on the pieces played, and the state of them in rehearsal. But they always throw this one out:

Don’t worry about making mistakes – no one in the audience will know if you mess up!

I understand that they are not try to claim that, should the first chair bassist crunch his bow into the strings and make a distressingly low screeching sound in the middle of a pianissimo violin solo, no one will know the difference. What they are saying is that, should we botch a minor tempo or get a little out of sync, the audience is unlikely to notice, because what do they know from classical music?

This reassurance has never, ever, ever worked for me, and here’s why: 99% of the time, my mother was in that audience. AND SHE KNEW. She is a classical music aficionado and, were the violas off or our allegros a little too allegro, SHE KNEW. And she would tell me afterward. As in, “That bit was wrong.”

Which was fine, actually – it made for for honest feedback, which I much prefer to blind praise. And anyway, it made those times when she was impressed much more meaningful. However, it also rendered the pre-gig rallying cry of the conductor completely pointless.

A couple weeks ago, when we talked about phoning it in, it was mentioned that one of the reasons that’s such a bad idea is because there is always someone in the audience who knows. Doesn’t matter where you go.

School band and orchestra directors, this applies to you too! And so I make this recommendation to you: find a new trope. You’ve definitely got the right idea, attempting to give your musicians a pre-concert boost, but hit us with something true. There is someone in the audience who KNOWS.

Incidentally – music directors of all types, tell me! What do you say to your ensemble before you go on?

“How does he make an embouchure? He’s a chicken!”

“The usual way. Cookbooks.”


An age-old question.


Needless to say, chromatic was not one of them

Q. Did you hear about the three violists who put together a book of scales? Continue reading

A Concert Roundup, Where We Lay Our Scene

  • Look, up in the sky! It’s Tchaikovsky! No, it’s Berlioz! No, it’s¬†PROKOFIEV! Which is my ridiculous and convoluted way of saying that this week the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, which, if you weren’t aware, is better than anyone else’s. So yay for that! Also a piece by Prangcharoen and Saint-Saens‘ third piano concerto.¬†May 23 & 24 at the Meyerhoff;¬†May 25 at Strathmore. [ See it! ]
  • The¬†National Symphony Orchestra breaks out the¬†NSO Pops to play with Trey Anastasio of Phish. No. Really. I promise I’m not making this up. Apparently he composes? And there’ll be some orchestrations of Phish songs? Interesting. Hey Trey, d’you feel like being interviewed by a plucky young blogger? May 22. [ See it! ]
  • The¬†NSO is also performing a free Memorial Day concert at the Capitol building on Sunday with the usual assortment of military music ensembles and patriotic music. May 26. [ See it! ]
  • This week at Strathmore:¬†fiddler Rickie Simpkins; a discussion of arts and their impact on the development of the adult brain. [ See the calendar! ]

If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.

Composer Cagematch! Round 2: Cage vs. Williams

So… you guys really like Hindemith, eh? I mean, Webern was fresh off a solid victory. He had tasted blood once before. And yet Hindemith cheerfully trounced him. Very, very interesting, you guys. I shall note it in the logs.

Now let’s head back to the homeland with an All-American match, because in this corner, he never gave Reich a chance! It’s


And in this corner, he made Jerry Goldsmith phone home! It’s


Oh my God, guys, it’s a John Fight! I didn’t even consciously plan that!

I didn’t realize it was an either/or proposition

Roundabout origin story for this post: I wanted to find something about the great Jimmy Stewart’s taste in classical music, because happy birthday, Jimmy Stewart! But I couldn’t. What I DID find was a clip of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland explaining, among other things, that you may like opera or you may like swing but you may NOT LIKE BOTH. As far as I know it’s not either of their birthdays but it will have to do. Hit it, kids!

Good Morning – Stereo – Opera vs. Jazz – Where or When – Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney from Great Movies on Vimeo.