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Terez Mertes

'Lost Situational Awareness'

October 28, 2009 at 4:44 PM

A conductor for the Really Big Orchestra, who delayed the final movement of Tuesday night’s performance of Schumann’s Symphony no. 1 has denied having a disagreement with the concertmaster or cracking jokes at the podium.

Maestro Holdyer Applaws refused to say what had distracted him to such a degree that he forgot to end the third movement of the symphony and proceed to the fourth movement, delaying intermission by thirty minutes. Audience members in the Louderpleez Symphony Hall were not aware of the problem, as orchestra members seemed to have the situation under control and had not pressed the call button to alert the conductor.

"The concertmaster and I were not having an argument; we were not telling viola jokes," Mr. Applaws said in regards to speculation over what caused the problem. For more than twenty minutes, backstage personnel and concert hall administrators attempted to contact Mr. Applaws and concertmaster Coudabin Asoloist, using Bluetooth earpiece communication, frantic hand gestures, and flashing of the stage lights. The audience, apparently, still had no idea anything was wrong.

“I thought it was simply a multimedia performance,” one audience member shared afterward. “You know, getting on with the times, livening things up a bit. Because, in truth, the music was sort of dragging on at that point.”

"It was not a serious event, from a musical perspective," Mr Applaws said later from his penthouse apartment at the Ritz Carlton that the Really Big Orchestra retains permanently for visiting conductors in lieu of salary increases for orchestra members. "I would tell you more, but really, you should just buy the CD.”

Mr. Applaws was referring to the fact that the performance was being recorded that night for commercial purposes. Administrators harbor hopes that playing back the recording might offer clues as to what went wrong, although due to the fact that the third movement lasted thirty minutes longer than anticipated, crucial parts of the fourth movement—namely the end—are now missing.

Mr. Applaws would not further discuss the lapse, "but I can tell you that musicians and audience members alike get lost in the music all the time. I mean, this is Schumann for chrissakes. The guy himself went nuts listening to the music in his head. So gimme a break.”

Mr. Applaws has not been suspended, nor will he be, in the hopes that audience numbers will increase—along with his seven-digit salary—when the maestro comes to Minneapolis to tackle Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 over the coming weekend. Speculation runs high that he might break his thirty-minute record, however there are risks that the day’s earlier rehearsal might be cancelled due to recent delays in flight arrival times into Minneapolis.

Members of the orchestra interviewed indicated the conductor and concertmaster seemed to be having a heated discussion via hand gestures and exaggerated facial expressions and simply "lost situational awareness." However, a number of musicologists and audience members who “could've played that violin part much better” have speculated that the two may have simply been telling viola jokes.

“It’s not a funny business, not in the least,” indignant violist Gotta Pikkonme exclaimed. “That was no time to be telling viola jokes. In fact, there’s never a good time.”

A frustrated timpanist finally tipped off the conductor by approaching the podium, waving his drum stick in a menacing fashion. The conductor promptly regained focus and landed the movement safely before proceeding to the fourth movement.

None of the 800 member audience were injured, in spite of rumors that several people had been “dying of boredom.” For more information, interested parties should contact Really Big Orchestra’s ticket office.

© 2009 Terez Rose, but we’ll give the AP credit for a line or two, as well.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 5:12 PM

"Hats off people, a genius!"

(Insert smiley face here)

From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 5:33 PM

Excellent, Terez!   That brightens up my afternoon a great deal.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 5:45 PM

 >"Hats off people, a genius!"

Um, would that be me or Mr. Applaws? : )

Tom - it made my day too. Best writing I've done all week. I'm still chuckling. (Writing should always be this fun.)

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 6:03 PM

It was a great blog, Terez.  I especially liked the names you gave to people and things.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 6:18 PM

 Thanks, Pauline, and me too, on the name thing. The poor pecked-on violist. Also enjoyed writing the little political dig about salaries and perks... : )

From Laurie Niles
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 7:13 PM

Schumann 1...yes, I don't think this is the first time it's ever happened, but certainly it's the most thorough journalism I've seen on the matter. I'm impressed with the way you got backstage and did all those interviews and found all those details, plus got the full names of everyone involved. Excellent work!

From Anne Horvath
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 8:20 PM

The genius is not the stick...

(Insert second smiley face here)


From Rita Livs
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 8:36 PM

Great work, Terez!

From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 10:20 PM

 Thanks, Rita and Laurie (and Anne-of-impeccable-tastes). And Laurie, to think they told me I needed a journalism degree to do my thing. Silly them!

From Bonny Buckley
Posted on October 28, 2009 at 11:01 PM

Very clever...enjoyed this a lot!  Thank you!

From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 29, 2009 at 4:03 AM

 Thanks right back atcha, Bonny. I'm so glad ppl are getting a kick out of it. I sure am. : )

From Jim Fields
Posted on October 29, 2009 at 1:37 PM

They were actually discussing having the seconds switch to five stringed violins so they can cover the viola parts. It's another cost-cutting measure being implemented by the RBO's parent organization, the Really Really Big Orchestra. No wonder Pikkonme was so cranky.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 29, 2009 at 3:59 PM

 Jim - brilliant!!!  : )

Ah, the real stories behind the stories are so illuminating.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 29, 2009 at 5:32 PM


From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 29, 2009 at 5:34 PM

 It's a Schumann kind of thing, eh, Karen? (Now you've got me thinking about YOUR blog.)

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on October 29, 2009 at 10:19 PM

 I don't actually know that much about R. Schumann, I've always been more interested in C. Schumann.  So, I didn't even know that he threw himself in the Rhine, for example.  How horrible!  And how sad . . . I don't know Schumann symphony #1, but I'm playing Schumann 3 in orchestra, which is quite something (and a real stretch, musically and technically, for our group).  Even in the happier movements you can hear something . . . 


From Mendy Smith
Posted on October 30, 2009 at 1:56 AM


From Tom Holzman
Posted on October 30, 2009 at 1:18 PM

For those interested in Schumann, I highly recommend Peter Ostwald's biography:

From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 30, 2009 at 1:52 PM

 Mendy - love your comment; a perfect touch!

Tom - how funny to come over here and read your post, because I was just over at Karen's blog, writing about Schumann and some of his history and reminding myself to go check out a biography on him b/c his life (and Clara's) was so interesting to me. And here this link is!

Whoa. Almost as spooky as Karen's last comment about her score. (Okay, everyone, off we go to Karen's blog now, to carry on about Schumann there. I've got room in my car - anyone?)

From Anne Horvath
Posted on October 30, 2009 at 3:36 PM

I will carpool with you, as long as you promise to not check your flight schedules on your laptop while driving...

I agree with Holzman about the Schumann bio.  It is well written, but a very sad read.


From Dottie Case
Posted on October 30, 2009 at 4:51 PM

 I have to confess that the part about Minneapolis and Tchaik. 6 went over my head entirely. Illumination?

From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 30, 2009 at 8:32 PM

 Anne, you're asking a lot. That flight schedule is very very important. Apparently it's engrossing as well.

Dottie - The Tchaikovsky no. 6 was just another symphony name to toss out there (and one, in truth, I don't much enjoy - that last movement is so tiresome to me) and the Minneapolis bit is the location where the Northwest Airlines pilots were supposed to land Flight 188, which they overshot by 150 miles, therefore arriving way way late into Minneapolis (where the airport and runway was swarming with law enforcement, deeply concerned about the anomaly).

From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 30, 2009 at 8:38 PM

 I shouldn't make the assumption that everyone (particularly ppl outside the U.S.) knows what went on. Here's one of the many links to the story:

And here's a little New Yorker humor on the subject:

From Dottie Case
Posted on October 30, 2009 at 8:41 PM

 OK, guess I was being dense.  I'm a news junkie, so knew about this, but didn't put it together. :) Thank you.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on October 30, 2009 at 8:42 PM

 Dottie - it was a pretty obscure little tangent, I have to admit, full of little private innuendos. Not sure non-classical music people would fully appreciate them all.

But, hey. I knew to take it to the right place. : )

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