practicing on stage before a concert

July 16, 2007 at 12:23 AM · I came across this NY Times letter to the editor from 1990:


Published: April 1, 1990

To the Editor:

Why must we be subjected to the cacophany of onstage practicing musicians before a concert, and again during intermission? Why is it that our American orchestras allow their musicians to ''do their own thing,'' producing this combination of discordant sounds?

Warm-up, Maestro Muti answered when I sent him a 20-minute tape I had made prior to a Philadelphia Orchestra concert. Warm-up! Are there no warm-up rooms in our Carnegie Hall? Warm-up! During intermision! Are they not sufficiently warmed up by the first part of the program? How come not one European orchestra or any chamber-music group finds it necessary to warm up? They all walk onto the stage simultaneously and start the concert.

Those of us who have a hectic day before attending a concert, or perhaps a hectic subway ride or car ride to get to the concert, would really appreciate a quiet respite to enable us to unwind. Instead, we are trapped into hearing what is spewing forth from the stage.

Opera singers don't warm up on stage. Ballet dancers don't warm up in front of the audience. Certainly something can be done to stop the orchestras from doing it.


New York

Never knew that coming out on stage early was offensive!

Replies (23)

July 16, 2007 at 12:42 AM · Wow! I can't believe this issue would be important enough to warrant a letter to the editor of the New York Times. Personally, I enjoy hearing individual musicians warm up and catching bits and pieces of the repertoire.

But was published on April 1. Is it a joke??? But it seems just serious enough to be real...

July 16, 2007 at 06:33 AM · Ok--no more foul shots during half-time.

July 16, 2007 at 07:17 AM · What amazes me is that someone actually had the motivation to complete and send a letter over such a trivial subject.

July 16, 2007 at 07:44 AM · Look at the date on it. Somebody had to save you.

July 16, 2007 at 08:13 AM · Yes, I saw the date, and I still insist that it was a lot of effort for something so stupid. If I wasted an equal amount of effort, I still couldn't laugh at it.

July 16, 2007 at 08:35 AM · I don't even know what you're talking about, but the joke is perfect.

July 16, 2007 at 08:40 AM · i think smashing your hands together by the masses to show some kind of appreciation or recognition is a lot more offensive than orchestra's warming up...but were so used to clapping it seems normal. think about what were actually doing...

July 16, 2007 at 01:56 PM · When the touring European orchestras come to play here, the musicians walk out on stage together right before the start of the concert, or after the intermission. I have always thought it to be a very dignified way to present a group.

I would imagine that the biggest disadvantage for the musicians would be the woodwinds adjusting to the on-stage temperature and humidity levels.

Is this worth a gripe letter to the NYT? No. And there are plenty of audience behaviors for the musicians to complain about. Cell phones, chat, and the now meaningless ubiquitous standing ovation, come to mind. Madam Glick was probably irked at having her social networking interrupted by a squeaky reed test.

July 16, 2007 at 02:59 PM · "Yes, but you might also think a McDonald's burger is a great piece of meat."

Actually - surprisingly - I do not.

July 16, 2007 at 05:33 PM · If it was an April Fool's prank, it just wasn't terribly funny. For what it's worth, I think it was a prank, both because of the utter inanity of the complaint and the overwhelming silliness of her name. Someone with such a lack of euphony in their own moniker should be the last person bemoaning cacophany. (trans. "she be too ugly to be callin' people s**t", for those of my friends who think me overeducated...Howard.)

July 16, 2007 at 05:47 PM · Not overeducated, Emil, merely over-snobby, and generally overly interested in utilizing multi-syllablic utterances in situations in which a uni-syllabic utterance would most likely suffice. Know what I mean? I think the obvious solution is for all of us to throw away our shoulder pads, play electronic violins, and never, ever go to gym class, but I don't suppose anybody would find those subjects interesting...



July 16, 2007 at 06:05 PM · It's not viscerally funny, but it's intellectually funny, in a certain sense. Like some Dave Barry.

She sent the conductor a bootleg she made of his orchestra. But she taped the warmup, not the music. And as if he didn't know what it sounded like. Sly stuff.

July 16, 2007 at 06:17 PM · Joel, Patricia Baser isn't the author of the letter. "Selma Glick" is. Baser isn't at all an unusual or unpleasant name, as far as I can see. But you're absolutely right know, it's not called eubonics. As Howard will be the first to tell you, the PC name is "AAVE" for African-American Vernacular English. Or, as I call it, "bad English". Utilizing monosyllables and all that. You're right that I'm definitely not a fluent AAVE speaker. God help me if ever I become one.

But Joel, if you don't want to hear the sound of players doing last-minute checks or just chillin', why not do what I do and come at the last moment? Or socialize, as all sorts of people do, and ignore the noise by making your own. After all, your ticket entitles you to the concert, not to dictating the behavior of the players before the performance formally begins. (and no, it doesn't begin with the orchestra's piecemeal entry onto the stage since they're supposedly the "instrument" the conductor plays. By that line of reasoning, the performance formally begins when the conductor enters. Besides, I LIKE a chance to catch up with friends once I'm in my seat.)

And Howard, dude, you have to at least be consistent in your accusations. I'm PRO KEEPING shoulder rests, ANTI universal and knee-jerk commitment to PE, and neutral on electric violins (provided they're used in appropriate media: contemporary works and pop stuff).

But you're right. I'm snobby. I don't have your enviable ability to value the dog and its leavings equally. Mea maxima culpa.

July 16, 2007 at 06:22 PM · It depends on where you're from. 'Selma Glick' sounds more normal to me than 'Patricia Baser.'

July 16, 2007 at 08:27 PM · Hey-I didn't write the letter, I just found it amusing. I used to play in an orchestra where we got memos to smile and people wrote in letters complaining about what shoes we were wearing. And for the record, my last name "Baser" is a real name of German origin. My father's grandparents came to this country in the mid-1800s. If you Google the Ellis Island records, you will also find that there were Russian immigrants with the same last name.

July 17, 2007 at 02:58 AM · Emil,

I was not implying that the shoulder pad and electric violin are your particular issue, just trying to produce a sort of "average" post for, given some of the discussions I've seen here.

About AAVE, though, I don't even want to argue about this on Suffice it to say that you're way off base- AAVE refers to a number of relatively SMALL differences in sound and structure between the so-called "standard English" (English as spoken by Midwestern white folks who have been exposed to a minimum of linguistic innovations, God bless them and their farming ways...) and English as you might hear it on the streets of south central LA or even outside my apartment here in DC. The processes that brought about those differences are the same ones that turned Latin into French, Italian etc. and are operating all the time in every language, and every register of every language. You would never insist that French is just "bad Latin", would you?

As for the implication that AAVE has a much smaller vocabulary, I refer you to Spike Lee, Snoop Dogg and a host of others who could flay you and your prep school buddies alive with the beauty and subtlety of their "grunts and monosyllables".

Of course, your comment makes me wonder what you think of Yiddish, being as it is a corruption of the beautiful and extremely expressive language of Goethe and others.

July 17, 2007 at 02:50 AM · This whole conversation made me curious and so I Googled Ms. Selma Glick. If she's the same person, she wrote a book called "I Meet the Nicest People in My Psychiatrist's Waiting Room," available on used for $23.23 Canadian. Any takers?

There's also another editorial from the New York Times called "Parking for SUVs and Their Necessity," which claims that "Families with school-age children who do not qualify for bus transportation to school have to, by necessity, use these vehicles to car-pool several youngsters to primary school, and then, to after-school religious learning." That only confuses the matter for me, but maybe someone here can make something of it.

Also, I was unaware until now that Midwestern white people are all farmers who employ a minimum of linguistic innovations. :)

July 17, 2007 at 06:34 AM · She should have gone to a 4'40 performance.

Then again, she'd probably have complained about recording a blank CD. Now THAT would have been funny.

July 17, 2007 at 09:30 AM · I want to see Emil and his "prep school buddies" wrestle Snoop Dog and his home boys. Dion, make 'em wrestle!

July 17, 2007 at 07:29 PM · Confound it all, the violinists are playing out of turn, SOMEONE SEND FOR THE SPANISH INQUISITION IMMEDIATLY. I happen to like the warm-ups, for one thing, I get to catch bits of the up coming program and secondly I get a pretty good view on how the professionals do it. Although, then again I'm basically a hermit who sometimes, loves to watch the cinema's advertising shorts even more so than the film.

LOL this is however, the exact type of topic that would cause Buri to start taking about the need for violinists prune consumption, again. As Morpheus says free your mind and the body will follow, right to the refreshment bar, were one could have tons of fun exploring the subtle differences between a gin tonic and a vodka tonic. In any case it's a lot better than making some absurd complaint, and in any case, when have Americans ever even given a wit about what a bunch of Brits do anyway.

July 17, 2007 at 01:45 PM · heh, the Monty Python references are flying all over this board.

I don't know about this letter. I'd like to think it's a Joke, but some people may have a point. But it is of course, a matter of personal taste. I personally like seeing the orchestra come on, because I can take a look at see who's there that night. "There's my teacher. Oh and I learnt from him when I was in year 11. Hey, the viola section leader has cut his hair. Hey, there's that guy I'm at uni with. That's awesome" etc.

July 17, 2007 at 04:29 PM · From New York Times - Feb 7, 1982, 8+ years before APRIL FIRST,1990 date of subject letter:


July 17, 2007 at 04:52 PM · Lt. Kije of the editorials?

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