Hey, Not Fair! You Can’t Do That!

So, three performances down (one an unplanned last minute response to a call of “Halp!”) and two to go. The last two are with Big Orchestra. This isn’t the choir’s first rodeo with the orchestra, so we’re pretty used to most of what orchestra conductors do. Which includes expecting the choir to read minds, to sort out which of five simultaneous cues is ours, and so on.

However . . .

A brief digression. How many conductors does it take to change a light bulb?

A. No one knows, because no one’s ever watched one.

Ahem, back to the topic at hand (or baton, as the case may be). We, the few, the unhappy few, the choir with a new seating chart, were rehearsing the other evening. And the choral conductor put his hands in his pockets and sauntered off after gesturing for us to continue. The accompanist got a rather fiendish grin on his face (I think. It’s hard to see behind his winter beard and mustache.) and started playing in concert order. We missed a number of entrances, in one case by, oh, almost a full page.

“Hey, that’s not fair! without the percussion, we can’t get the time and measure!” protested the choir.

Evil Director: “One, you might not be able to hear the percussion.” [Yeah, right, pull the other one.] “Two, Maestro Dirigent will probably forget to cue you, just like when he conducted [redacted piece, redacted number] years ago. Remember?”

Mutter, mutter, grumble, snarl, whine, and the choir at last agreed that in all probability the maestro would, indeed, forget again. At least once.

Voice from the Tenor Clan: “So, this means we don’t have to watch at all, right, since he’s not going to cue us?”

Evil Director: “Do you want to risk an unrehearsed solo on the live telecast?”

Gnardbites. It’s not fair! 😛


17 thoughts on “Hey, Not Fair! You Can’t Do That!

  1. Leading to another performance of the “O” Antiphons . . . usually followed by a four-letter word after the “O”. Unless you’re very restrained, it might even be picked up by the nearest microphone.

    How do I know this? Trust me. I know this.

  2. Snickers; basses always watch – to see what they can get away with. 🙂 Choral director is working with signpost cues, for lack of a better word, from the score. Yelled at a lot, for that. It’s also easy to lose track of percussion beats or measures, but will neither confirm nor deny that I missed two percussion measures for the opening of [ redacted].

    It was a different Peter (Shieckele?) who also made the joke about the violist that got promoted to conductor. He vanished without a trace for two weeks, and wasn’t missed.

    • Peter Schickele, the conductor of the orchestra of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople, biggest fan of P.D.Q. Bach?
      Can you believe he’s been doing this since 1965? And that he scored a sci-fi movie back in 1972?

      • Yep, did the score for “Silent Running”, making him one degree from Joan Baez and Bruce Dern. Now, that’s scary. The P.D.Q. Bach routines still give me a good laugh.

        He did a cabaret-type piano tour about 20 years back. Daughter loved it, and would sing the ridiculous “Moon Over Woodstock” if we saw cows or cattle out, late in the day.

  3. I shall take this as an invitation to talk (read: complain) about the *ahem* ambitious concert the elementary school put on the other night.

    I guess the first thing to wonder is why even an inoffensively politically correct “holiday concert” would be almost entirely (one exception, at the end) Disney movie tunes.
    I also wondered why the music teacher felt the need to increase the tempo of what were very up-tempo songs to begin with.
    Especially since she’d been having the kids practicing individually at home, accompanied by YouTube.
    Did I mention it was 20 minutes in before the music and vocals synched up?
    It lasted three bars.
    If you’re using a single microphone to capture the choir, do not have the soloist walk up to it and start singing without adjusting the gain!
    Condenser mics are susceptible to handling noise and plosives. Windscreens and mic stands exist for a reason.
    Also, setting the microphone down on a metal tray for the next singer is contraindicated.
    Having 7 kids playing dinky little xylophones together is kind of cute, and it was evident that they’d all practiced hard.
    But it might have been good for them to have practiced together at some point.
    The melody was a bit hard to pick out, but at least it triggered nostalgic memories of seeing a pull-behind toy xylophone tumble down the stairs.
    This vent brought to you by small children who worked hard, and think they did well.
    I admittedly spent much of the concert thinking of nice things I could say without lying. And quietly rehearsing reactions.

  4. ROTF, makes me ‘almost’ glad I’m deef and don’t go to concerts anymore. But I DO remember one years ago where the women literally turned around and started bitching at the bass section in the middle of the Christmas concert! 🙂 THAT was priceless!!!

  5. Sometimes it’s the composer’s fault. Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana has a piece “In Taberna Quando Summus” which has a call and answer between a baritone soloist and a male chorus. The entrances for the chorus are intentionally at odd times perhaps to simulate the inebriation one might have in a Tavern (the Taberna of the title). The rests between entrances are weird some involving dotted 16th rests at a specified beat rate of quarter note =90-100. I performed this in college as part of the WPI Mens Glee club (with Smith College choir for the women’s parts). We never got this right in 3 performances and 2 dress rehearsals not to mention any rehearsal. I doubt if you resurrected Robert Shaw and put him at the head of a choir of angels (tenors I, II, baritones and basses) that they would get it right more than 25% of the time. A group of 65 assorted undergrads and a very harried vocal/orchestra conductor didn’t have the proverbial paper dogs chance in hell.

    • Or the lyracist. We’re doing “Christmas Bells are Ringing,” which includes the line “Ding, ding, ding, ding, Christmas bells are ringing.” We are supposed to (at the same time), close to the ng sound and project over the orchestra.

      Pick one!

      • Caroling, caroling of the Alfred Burt carols? Or has someone played with caroling, caroling? I think the answer here is don’t sing it with an orchestra or arrange it so the orchestra is small. That seems like we’re back to blame the conductor, or the person setting up the concert. I think the Burt carols were originally meant for A Capella, but even Mr Burt succumbed and did them with an orchestra to make money :-).

    • Our director this past summer prepared us to deliver not note-perfect, but diction perfect – “In Tabernam” could be a bit messy on the sixteenth and 32ndth notes, but get the pronunciation right. We slowed down slightly from the ludicrous speed rating, and it sounded better at the back of the church. We hads a couple excited soprano Is who had to be told to sit for the song – this was bass and tenors only. All went well and was in the groove until I had a problem halfway through, with the order of whose drunk to. Thanks to reading a certain Distinctly Familar short story involving the cephalopod artist formerly known as Octavius, yes, as eight I began singing to Octavius, Augustus, Cephalopodicus, … and caught myself at twelve. No harm no foul, because it’s all sung fast in a ‘can-can’ rythm, and few could pick out what I sang from the low Latin

      Maestro Shaw would count it a grave affront to use more than one choir of cherubim (soprano I, this time they will provide just enough sound – family story, my wife was once in a chorus that sang under his direction, and he did need to chide that section slightly for to much enthusiasm).

        • Thppppth! I resemble that statement, at least when we are finally released from the bottom of the treble clef. (“Thanks be, notes in our proper register, wheeeeee!!!”)

          • We tenors are no better, Look a G above middle C Lets all sing it as load as we can. Always was an issue in the glee club. we had 14 Tenor I and every last one of us could (easily) hit a G or A flat with gusto and always was happy to show it. Even when the score had PPP for the volume direction. Really annoyed the conductor.

      • No I suspect Mr Orff was just a perfectionist. Everything he could specify in that piece IS specified. He wanted the chorus to be off the beat in a certain way. Its just getting 65+ people to do that with the level of precision implied by the dotted 16th note verges on impossible. Let us just say that the standard deviation in even a good entrance is probly mor than the time allotted to a 32 note at the required 90-100 quarter notes a minute. The single Baritone just tossed it off no sweat. And most of his entrances are on the fricking beat anyhow.

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