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Emily Grossman

The Pit

February 27, 2007 at 10:59 AM

It makes sense, that this would be the time of year for our community musical, for what else is there to do in February? Hundreds volunteer for their place backstage and on stage (or under stage, if you’re a musician like me). This year’s show, Beauty and the Beast, is drawing large audiences–thousands--over the course of six performances. It’s good clean, wholesome fun for the entire family, much like a trip to the zoo. And although we have no zoo in Soldotna, we do have a substitute.

The figures in black are tuning their instruments, switching the bulbs in their stand lights, passing bags of candy around, and running though last minute changes in the vamps. This is our world, down here in the pit, and it seems perfectly normal, something any musician would experience regularly as part of living. Why, then, are they all staring down over the barricades? Dozens of people--before the show, during intermission, and even while the exit music plays--peer over the sides, pointing:

“What’s that, Daddy? It’s bigger than those little ones.”
“That, Jenny, is called a cello, which is another member of the string family.”
“Look, those two are playing together, aren’t they cute?”
“Don’t lean over the edge, dear, you might fall in!”
“Can we feed them?”
“No, Look at that sign. It says, “Please do not feed the pit musicians.”

Grunts and wails emit from the wind section. The strings whine and screech in return. One of the little observers above makes eye contact with me. I stop my scratching and stare him down, trying to force him to look away. He doesn’t, so I beat my chest and throw out an impressive run or two with my fingers, as an assertion of my dominance.

The tuning A tries to re-establish order, but no one backs down. One loud sound trumps another as the cacophony of the pit swells, and we all push our fortissimos, like hands slapping one on top of the other, to see who will be paramount. We would stop nothing short of fecal flinging, were it not for the darkening auditorium and the governing baton.

In the blackness, the audience leaves the entertainment below and refocuses its attention to the stage to see if it will present something better than what they’ve just witnessed. Order resumes in the pit once more, as the conductor unfolds the opening lines of the overture.

From Jim W. Miller
Posted on February 27, 2007 at 5:42 PM
It's funny that you think it's coincidence this only happens when you wear that strapless dress.
From Carolyn Ohlbaum
Posted on February 27, 2007 at 5:56 PM
Emily,

I love your description of what goes on in the orchestra pit. That's exactly what happens! I look back on my own experience so far, and I've loved every single bit of it. If I had to pick out some of the most exciting moments, I think I would choose playing in the pit. One of the highlights for me was playing at the Kennedy Center for the Berlin Ballet! Nureyev danced!!

From Linda Lerskier
Posted on February 27, 2007 at 9:43 PM
"He doesn’t, so I beat my chest and throw out an impressive run or two with my fingers, as an assertion of my dominance."

What are you a gorilla? :) I always thought so. Only gorilla would have such an obsession with salmon...

Funny, I'm reading this right after a three hour long pit rehearsal. *cough* Okay, so I was 1.5 hours late. *mumbles something about a Yahoo and boating posters* And it just so happened two other violins were gone too. Hey, we can't stand the brass.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 27, 2007 at 10:38 PM
Jim, if I'm going to assert myself as concertmaster, I must do my best to dress the part, musn't I? ;)

Linda, you will only defeat the brass with sheer numbers. Do your best to arrive early and stake out your territory, and enlist reinforcements if at all possible. One on one, you won't stand a chance. Sharpen up on your death glare; it is your best weapon.

From Neil Cameron
Posted on February 28, 2007 at 12:23 AM
Oooo look, that one's wearing a strapless dress!
From Tom Holzman
Posted on February 28, 2007 at 12:30 AM
Maybe Soldotna needs a zoo. I suspect you have a few nominees for the primate cages and perhaps the reptile house.
From Charlie Caldwell
Posted on February 28, 2007 at 12:41 AM
What a fantastic description.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 28, 2007 at 1:07 AM
Actually, I just got an idea involving gorillas that redefines the term "concert black"... What fun!
From Mellisa Nill
Posted on February 28, 2007 at 2:51 AM
It's all fun and games until the pianist starts flinging poo...
From Jim W. Miller
Posted on February 28, 2007 at 4:05 AM
“What’s that, Daddy? It’s bigger than those little ones.”
“Look, those two are playing together, aren’t they cute?”
“Can we feed them?”
“Don’t lean over the edge, dear, you might fall in!”
From Terez Mertes
Posted on February 28, 2007 at 1:43 PM
Emily, you crack me up.
From Linda Lerskier
Posted on March 1, 2007 at 8:24 PM
!!! JIM!

My moose finds it upsetting he was not included in any blog for yours for quite a while.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on March 1, 2007 at 10:51 PM
Ah, but you are mistaken, Linda. The moose is playing the lead role in the musical.

He makes an excellent Belle.

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