Funny/disastrous things that have happened in a live performace.

January 19, 2006 at 07:17 PM · What are the strangest things that have happened to you or people you know in a live concert performace. I want to here it all.

Replies (100)

January 19, 2006 at 07:22 PM · I started playing violin at age 8, and my teacher encouraged me to play in a local music festival not long after I'd started playing. Just before I got up in front to play, she told me that I should bow before I started. Well, I got up there, put the violin under my chin, remembered I was supposed to bow first--and did, firmly gripping the instrument between shoulder and chin! I didn't understand until I was quite a bit older why all the parents were snickering... ;-)

January 19, 2006 at 07:29 PM · Well, I don't know if that's such a good one but anyway, let's go with it...I was playing Mendelssohn Concerto with orchestra in Karlsruhe. I started the concerto, everything was fine, and then the orchestra took over. I get ready to play the second page and notice that my e string just broke...I turn to the concertmaster with desperate eyes and he gives me his violin. I keep on playing on his violin which happened to be a pretty good one too, and go on. By the end of the second movement his A String broke...I've never seen that in my life. I finished with the assistant concertmaster's violin and an orchestra missing two strings...

January 19, 2006 at 07:34 PM · My funniest memory was from playing in a community orchestra. The concertmaster used to get very excited and do these really funny overly flamboyant swooping gestures on upbows. One time we were playing an oratorio (don't remember which one) and she threw her bow up into the air. It flew accross the stage. She then crawled accross the stage to pick it up. We were all trying so hard not to laugh, we could barely play and this was during a performance! Not the finest moment of professionalism, but what a wonderful memory.

January 19, 2006 at 07:36 PM · Sorry to take all the space but I think we should talk about the great Henrik Szering. Delay told this story during a masterclass and I think it is pretty funny. She apparently witnessed it...So SZering is supposed to play Beethoven concerto with a major american orchestra. Ten minutes before the concert, Szering can't be found...Finally they find him in his room, backstage, drunk as can be, a bottle of scotch on the floor. They somehow get him up, carry him, literally, on stage. Two people carrying him, one guy holding the del Gesu and his bow. They put the violin on a chair and leave. Szering has no idea where he is and keep on looking around like this is a new thing for him. The orchestra starts, and szering still hasn't taken his violin. He puts his foot on the conductor's podium, tighten his shoes, does the same for the other foot...finally he realizes that the orchestra is almost done. He grabs the violin, almost falls in the process put the bow on the string and start playing. "One of the most beautiful interpretation of Beethoven concerto" were Delay's words....

January 19, 2006 at 09:39 PM · When I was in high school, I witnessed a performance in Chicago's Orchestra Hall of a major concert by an excellent youth orchestra. Halfway through the highly emotional 1st movement of Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony, one of the first violinists sitting on the outside stand (about 3 rows back of the concertmaster) played a vigorous downbow, and his bow went flying into the audience, about 10 rows back. Without the music stopping, and with the entire audience's eyes on this poor guy, he carefully put his violin down on the chair, literally jumped off the stage (which was pretty high), and waded over a couple of rows of the audience to retrieve his bow. When he got it back, he put the errant bow up on the stage, and then tried to climb back up. But he couldn't. So his partner put HIS violin and bow down and took a few steps to the edge of the stage, leaned over, and after several desperate pulls, finally pulled his comrade up on the stage. The two sat down, took up their fiddles, and continued. All this to the accompaniment of Tchaikovsky's 5th......You had to be there.

January 19, 2006 at 10:56 PM · Broke the nut on my cheap Univox guitar. Drummer laughed his ass off at me for at least 20 minutes. =)

Sander: hahahahaha that one takes the cake!! Are you sure the 2nd guy didn't fall off the stage trying to help the other guy? Sounds like something straight out of a Mr. Bean sketch!!!!

January 19, 2006 at 10:58 PM · Yeah, it would have been funny if the 2nd guy fell off, too. But the way I told it is the way it happened.

January 19, 2006 at 11:14 PM · This was in the dress rehearsal not the performance, which is probably a really good thing... About 10 minuets before rehearsal started (there were a few of us already on stage warming up and chatting) one of the big lights fell and shattered in the trumpet section (they weren't out yet, if they had been, there would have been no trumpet section...)

January 19, 2006 at 11:25 PM · During my high school's performance of "Barnum!", the guy playing Tom Thumb tried to do a flip during his curtain call and fell into the orchestra pit. He got back up and the audience cheered and thought it was great, but we were all pretty ticked off because he knocked over a music stand and almost seriously injured a trumpet player. Darn actors.

January 19, 2006 at 11:35 PM · This doesn't have to do with music, but a secretary at a clinic I once worked at told me that when she was in college, they were rehearsing some Victorian melodrama for the semester's production. One girl had a line in which she had to look up at the chandelier and say, "Oh, look at the glass balls." Every time she said this line, the cast broke up (and it wasn't a comedy). So the day before the opening performance, the director changed the line to "Oh, look at the glass crystals."

At first everyone snickered, but they got used to the new line pretty quickly. However, the opening night of the performance, when the girl came to her line, she looked up at the chandelier and said, "Oh, look at the glass crysticals."

January 20, 2006 at 12:10 AM · hey they say that Heifitz used to break strings towards the end of his pieces...for ATTENTION!!!

January 20, 2006 at 01:34 AM · Greetings,

Heifetz didn@t break string for attention. Paginini did.

I played one of the very long Bach masses in a rather weird church acoustic. At one point the soloist is supposed to sing loudly:

`And the people all shouted...Barrabus`

Thanks to the acoustic what came out was*

`And the people all shouted...bollocks.`

I have also done a West Side story in which the lead male had the most terrible listhp.



January 20, 2006 at 05:56 AM · Well I better say something as I started this thing off. I was performing in a symphony orchestra and the movement of the work ended. I then heard a strange small voice coming from behind me. I looked around and my friend was fiddling around in his pocket. The strange sound continued, it went "Michael, Michael, pick up the phone!". Later he denied it, but then the next year he told me his phone was ringing. He changed the ring tone to "Michael, Michael, pick up the phone". The audience didn't know what was going on.

January 20, 2006 at 04:26 PM · One of my favorites was at a Met performance of "Don Giovanni" 2 or so years ago. In the middle of the second act, the staging called for Giovanni to clear his table by ripping the tablecloth off (with the dinnerware still on it, of course). One of the plates went rolling all the way across the enormous Met stage, off the end and into the brass, where it was caught in midair by the principal trumpet. The audience actually applauded the catch, and during the curtain calls, Giovanni retrieved the plate and asked the trumpeter to take a bow. It was the least he could do...

And one summer at the Bar Harbor Music Festival in Maine, we did a run-out concert in a church assembly hall. During the first half, there was a mosquito buzzing around the orchestra that landed on several string players (including me) for a drink. At the intermission, as we were standing up, it landed on the wall behind us. The principal violist, in a fit of anger at being lunch for this little guy, squished it with his shoe, leaving a bloody stain on the wall! The punch line is that the next season, we did the same run-out at the same church, and the stain was still there.

January 20, 2006 at 05:02 PM · While I was a student there, I witnessed a "Cosi Fan Tutte" performance at Yale. In the opening scene, where Ferrando and Gugliemo are arguing with Don Alfonso, the opening aria ends with one of the two young men losing his temper and starting up his recitativo with "Fuor la spada!" (trans. "Draw your sword!") as he draws his own rapier. Unfortunately, it stuck. Fruitlessly yanking on the handle of the sword at his hip, the hapless young man finally draws it on the word "spada" ("sword"). And by "it", I mean he draws...the hilt and a broken-off li'l ol' stump of a sword blade.

Priceless look on the man's face. I mean, there he is, having to sing a furious recitativo about how Alfonso should eat his words or draw swords and fight to the death for insulting a lady's honor. And he's having to bite the inside of his cheek to stop from laughing.

Or the case of my own dear mother. She was performing the Tchaikovsky in South America, a couple of years before I was born. The conductor, a rather flamboyant and Drrrrrrramatic caballero, had a proclivity for swooping upbeats. Now, as you visualize what happened, remember that my mother's hands are quite small, so when she's in the uppermost positions of the violin, she doesn't grip it in any way; she just holds it with shoulder and jaw while her left thumb barely presses against the joint of neck and body of the violin.

So at the end of the exposition section of the first movement, as the solo violin ascends into the stratosphere in triplets, right before the orchestra thunders into the tutti statement of the main polonaise theme, my mom was at her maximum extension. The conductor, trying to "receive" the musical line from the soloist handing it over to the orchestra, gives a sweeping upbeat. To the first violins, interestingly enough.

And the ferociously up-sweeping baton knocks my mother's fiddle clean out of her hands. As the orchestra thunders onwards, the violin does a sideways somersault in the air and lands, in front of the principal second's stand, on its bridge. White-faced, my mother picks up the instrument, and goes backstage to assess the damage. The conductor, meanwhile, continues the grand tutti.

Backstage, my mother checks out her violin to find that, amazingly enough, it is not damaged at all. Miraculous, really. So she tunes it up and, just as her next entrance is coming up, strolls out from the wings playing the development section.

The following day, the newspapers utterly ignore the quality of the concert. Every review addresses the same topic: was the conductor right in continuing to conduct? Should he be a Musician, first and foremost, not letting petty details like the loss of a soloist stop the flow of a performance? Or should he be a caballero (gentleman) and, when a lady drops something - ANYTHING - stop everything he's doing to go and pick it up?

So what do you think? The lady or the tiger?

January 20, 2006 at 05:46 PM · When a lady leaves the stage a caballero can continue playing, but he should stand. The sword thing happened to my brother during his military wedding, except the blade fell out of the hilt as they were walking under the roof of crossed swords. Lots of bad omens during that wedding.

January 20, 2006 at 06:14 PM · A couple of funny moments I've witnessed....

A fellow violinist in a competition tripped over his tux tails (I was about 8 he was probably 9) walking up some stairs and the violin and the kid went flying.

Picture this....A warhorse piano concerto...Chopin if I remember correctly....the beautiful serene slow mvt of a Mozart symphony....the piano soloists cell phone goes off. Oops! I've also seen this happen with the victim of the ringing cell-phone being one of the players on stage..hehehehe.

From my own personal experience though this was more scary than funny. Ever played a solo with an orchestra and then something goes wrong in the orchestra so you re-adjust to match the orchestra and then all the sudden nothing is working? I've had that happen. I've been bit by a bee during a wedding gig....had my music stand and music fly around (despite duct-tape and my foot being planted on the base of the stand.

Ah, never a boring life being a musician.

January 20, 2006 at 09:55 PM · One of my teachers told me that he was present at a piano recital years ago by Paul Badura-Skoda. Badura-Skoda came out on stage in a tie and tails, bowed to the audience, sat down to play, and within a line of music it was obvious that the piano was way, way out of tune. Badura-Skoda stopped in mid-line, walked off the stage, and returned a few minutes later with his coat off, his shirtsleeves rolled up, and carrying a little black bag. He proceeded to spend the half-hour (or whatever) carefully tuning the piano. He then put his tools back in the black bag, walked offstage, and re-appeared wearing his tie and tails, bowed to the audience, and gave his recital from the beginning.

(I wonder if he collected an additional fee as a member of the stagehands union).

January 20, 2006 at 10:32 PM · Mischa Elman and the Philadelphia Orchestra. (obviously many years ago)

Before going on to play Mendelsohn's violin, they were joking around backstage about the beginning and memory.

Sure enough, Elman spaces out, and plays the opening (you know, the e string stuff) in a loop - three times. He forgot how to get out of it. The orchestra followed right along, with the first violins practically peeing themselves.

True story from my former violin teacher who was in said first violin section.

January 20, 2006 at 11:53 PM · > I was supposed to bow first--and did, firmly gripping the instrument between shoulder

> and chin! I didn't understand until I was quite a bit older why all the parents were snickering... ;-)

i don't get it.... ???

January 21, 2006 at 01:04 AM · I didn't either, but that was because I thought the word "bow" referred to the thing that you draw across the instrument, when in this case it was referring to the motion you make toward the audience as a gesture of gratitude.

January 21, 2006 at 04:20 AM · During a performance of Liszt's 1st Piano Concerto for which I was in the orchestra, the (recently retied) knot suspending one cymbal above another came undone. The very loud, very dull crash came, mercifully, on an already loud downbeat, though there wasn't supposed to be a cymbal crash...

January 21, 2006 at 06:22 AM · Hmmm... I once had a bit of trouble with the fugue in the Bach C Major unaccompanied sonata. There are a number of chords that come up more than once and approximately 5 minutes into the piece I came to a chord that also appears on the first page - and continued on with the music from the first page! I realized immediately what I had done but there was nothing I could do except play it all again, and make darn sure that I didn't make the same repeat again! Everyone was very complimentary afterwards - I think only the two other musicians present noticed!

I might hold the record for the longest performance of Bach's longest fugue...

January 21, 2006 at 06:16 AM · I was playing in the pit for a national tour of Sunset Boulevard during their first year on the road. During one of the performances there was a small sound problem with the mics. One of the actresses didn't realize that the mic taped to her was hot when she went back to her dressing room after leaving the stage. She got into a fight with another one of the actresses and this was all broadcast at full volume into a hall of about 3,000 people. The climax of the argument came when she screamed "You F____ing Bitch!" This all happened during a very quiet scene on stage.

Later that week, I was playing a show after having a big dinner. During a passage that I wasn't playing, I had the violin resting in my lap. At that moment, I had a seriously loud and prolonged rumble in my stomach that was picked up by yet another hot mic and amplified with great power out into the hall.

I was once playing a concert with a famous violinist who will remain unnamed. You could hear a pin drop during his cadenza which made his fart at the end of dramatic upward run even more devastating. I guess you could say that the run up was sort of like a V chord that resolved down to a very loud and final I chord.(Is there such a thing as too many prunes Buri?)

I was playing a Messiah job once and during the performance, the principal cellist sort of rolled of the stage while still sitting in his chair and fell down two steps that led up to the stage. He tumbled over his cello twice and split it in half. It all seemed to happen in slow motion and sort of looked like he was wrestling with the cello...a Freudian slip of sorts? :)

January 21, 2006 at 10:54 PM · do you remember which concerto the gaseous cadenza was from?

Does anyone know if there's any record of a player in an orchestra having a heart attack, or something equally serious during a concert?

January 22, 2006 at 01:21 AM · I don't know about a heart attack...but I once talked to a violist who said he had had food poisoning during a concert. Unfortunately he didn't realize this until halfway through the performance (by the way, he was the principal player and the viola section had switched position with the cello section, so he was right at the edge of the stage and clearly visible). He was very sick and shaky by the end of the first movement of the Tchaikovsky symphony they were playing. He could barely see his music (it kept spinning...) but knew there was nothing he could do about it, and somehow managed to raise his instrument for the second movement. About 10 measures later he started shaking convulsively, then fell forward into the music stand and began throwing up on the stage. He tried to get up to leave but was too weak and dizzy by this point and proceeded to fall off of the stage as he fainted (ok, so technically he did manage to "leave" the stage...). The viola went down with him, but was miraculously unharmed (as was the violist, after a few days of puking his guts out at the least well enough to tell me this story about a week later, at which point he was still exhausted and didn't seem to feel very good).

I might have had a similar experience, except for luckily this was during a rehearsal instead of a concert. I was on tour as a member of an orchestra and was exhausted, severely dehydrated and also, apparently, had some random virus. I started shaking and could barely play. Luckily the conductor was a very kind grandfather-type man who was genuinely concerned for me. As soon as he saw I was shaking, he immediately stepped off the podium and rushed over to me so that he could personally help me to a room where I could lay down. It was a good thing too, because I couldn't really even stand up by myself. I managed to tell him I would be fine and that he should go back to the rehearsal, but he wouldn't leave until his wife came over from another building to stay with me (she was also very kind and took care of me overnight, as I was unable to make it back to the building I was staying in). When I recovered and could actually walk again, he literally hugged me before asking a million questions to make sure I was OK (the rest of the orchestra told me later that I had looked so sick that some of them were almost scared for me, and I got more hugs - maybe the conductor was afraid I was going to die or something...). If only more people were half as compassionate, the world would be a better place...*end of sappy words of wisdom* Even though I definitely didn't die, I think that was the sickest I've ever been (of course it would happen while I was away from home). Ironically, we were ALSO playing Tchaikovsky...

January 22, 2006 at 01:12 AM · For the morbidly curious, (aka Stefan) below is a link to a list of performers who have died on stage. There aren't any violinists (that I know of anyway), but Jim Tuozzolo, a trumpeter with the Trenton Symphony in New Jersey did suffer a fatal heart attack during a performance.

January 22, 2006 at 01:52 AM · Though not during the performance, jazz flutist and conductor Edwin Hubbard died from a heart attack during the intermission of Mozart's Requiem.

January 22, 2006 at 04:16 AM · With reference to Michael's link, I'd steer well clear of Tristan and Isolde if you're feeling at all unwell or off colour. Damn thing's dangerous!


January 22, 2006 at 06:07 AM · Frank Peter Zimmermann performed in Australia a number of years ago. He played the 24th Caprice of Paganini as an encore. Towards the end someone in the audience yelled out s$#@ in amazement. Most people in the audience didn't hear this but when it came over national radio it was crystal clear. The announcer said "what else can you say to playing like that".

January 22, 2006 at 01:27 PM · I don't know if anyone's mentioned this yet, but Simon Barere died on the stage at Carnegie Hall, with the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Ormandy. He was in the middle of playing the Grieg Piano Concerto. Just a couple of days before, he recorded several solo pieces at a recording studio. This has been released on a CD for some time. The performances are astonishing. He makes Horowitz sound like Liberace.

January 22, 2006 at 04:47 PM · Speaking for myself, I have died during performance on numerous occasions.

January 23, 2006 at 04:47 AM · Lot's of stories.

About 6 years ago the local symphony in which I was the cm was sitting quietly listening to various celebs come up and talk about know the kind of thing. Anyway, just as the mayor steps up to the mic and starts singing our praises out of the corner of my eye I see a guy in tattered clothes sneaking up to the stage. He plants himself literally a foot from my chair and is staring at the mayor. I start thinking 'O my god, it's one of the street folk and he's going to make a huge scene and interrupt the mayor and the show'.

It turns out the conductor of the orchestra was dying of brain cancer (he did die shortly after we performed Beethoven's 9th a couple of years later, but that's another story). He had a simply awful habit of not informing anyone about the kind of setup/choreography that was going to be happening during the symphony's performances (and since he liked this kind of thing we had lots of surprises over the years). The vagabond turned out to be a singer who started the show doing some solo (I forget what it was). But when the major stopped talking and the lights dimmed, a spotlight landed on the singer who started to stand up. I was thinking the light was a cue that the conductor was about to come on stage and so was concerned that this guy was about to make his move to disrupt things. I started to stand up with the idea of escorting him away, which started a bit of a natural chain reaction as it should. Luckily he started singing quickly and I sensed what was happening and quickly sat down and others followed suit.

January 23, 2006 at 02:44 PM · A performance of the Bach concerto for Violin and Oboe was underway. The orchestra rehearsed separate from the soloists until about a week before the concert. When the soloists came, the rehearsal began and it sounded absolutely horrible. Something was not right. It turned out that the violin and oboe soloist were rehearsing the piece in c minor while the orchestra was playing the part in an edition in d minor! The orchestra had to change. Always check when you play this piece.

A performance of the Vivaldi concerto for 2 violins in a minor was going well. 1st mvt flowed along nicely. In the 2nd mvt however things when very wrong. The 1st violins skipped a bar and got out of time with the 2nd violins who were out with everyone else. The 2 solists were completely out of sync with eachout, the conductor and the group. The result was musical vomit, I mean some atonal mess. The 3rd mvt went great, with all players concentrating hard. At the end of the performance the 2 soloists went up to the conductor and apologised for the mess in the 2nd mvt. He turned to them and said "what? It went fine."

January 23, 2006 at 08:21 PM · > She got into a fight with another one of the actresses and this was all broadcast

> at full volume into a hall of about 3,000 people. The climax of the argument came when

> she screamed "You F____ing Bitch!"

Hahaha, that reminds me of a scene in the movie "naked gun" when leslie nielson(en?) takes a break from a meeting or something to go take a piss but his mic is still on, and he's singing in the bathroom etc etc..... similar situation (: (:

January 23, 2006 at 08:57 PM · i once played a Bach sonata for stirng orchestra and clavecin in a church. right after the 3ird movement the bells started ringing,and so we had to wait !! it lasted sooo long. i was 12 or something,and i remember thinking: "shouldnt we play without bothering???" :)))

there was times when my string broke, or when i came to concert 5 minutes before,cause the plane was delated...

there were other things,but cant remember,will ask my dad, and write it then:)

January 24, 2006 at 01:59 AM · I told this story on one of these "embarassing moments" type posts before, but I like it so I'll tell it again. Several years ago I was playing with a small, now-defunct "professional" chamber orchestra in Montana... one of those "big empty state" things where they pull in professional players from the nearest 1/4 of the state, fill in the strings with local high-schoolers (that's why I was there), and end up with a mediocre-to-decent but very small orchestra. I don't recall any more what piece this was (although "Peter and the Wolf" was on the concert as well...), but as soon as we started it at the concert was clear that something was terribly wrong. You see, the clarinets hadn't been playing in parallel 2nds in rehearsals. A few measures in the conductor stopped the orchestra while one of the clarinetists--a well-known local piano tuner--jumped up and ran off stage to fetch the correct instrument (he was playing an A clarinet instead of Bb, or the other way around--another forgotten detail).

'Erie (-:

January 24, 2006 at 02:14 AM · When I was in high school years ago, I was in a special orchestra made up of high school students from all over the city and also members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. We each got to sit next to a professional musician. It promised to be a very exciting experience. The conductor was a well-known assistant conductor of a major U.S. orchestra. However, he showed up for the one major rehearsal totally sloshed. You could smell the alcohol a mile away. If someone had lit a match, we all would have gone up in flames. He was not very good as a conductor, except when his eyes opened. How he got through it, I'll never know. And what a great example for high school students.

January 25, 2006 at 05:03 PM · Oh my word, I almost fell of my chair reading some of these!!!!!

I don't think I've had enough playing experiences to post any, though...only minor things, like forgetting to check my violin (to see if it had stayed in tune) before starting the Sarabanda from 2nd Partita of Bach....or playing Palladio and my G string slipping 1 1/2 steps right before we started playing....

January 25, 2006 at 06:01 PM · The lady playing the cello solo had long hair, pinned up in back, and while she was playing, the pin came loose and sloooooooowly started moving from the back of her head, down to the was agonizingly slow and I was trying to play and watch at the same time... She had great control and kept playing but it must have been even more agonizing for her...

January 25, 2006 at 06:16 PM · Back in the days before neat spiral binders, it was common to have separate pages carefully folded out to manage page turns. At a concert by a touring string quartet (I forget which, this must have been in the 1950s or 1960s) on a concert series I attended in my home town of Charleston, WV, the first violinist gave far too vigorous a flip of his music. It all went flying off into the audience from the elevated stage. The performance had to stop while people passed forward the various pages, and then the violinist had to reassemble them in correct order before the performance could resume.

And I recently was at a performance by a quartet of national stature playing Prokofieff #1 in which the violist turned the page, and it wouldn't turn. She had scotch-taped the photocopied pages together on the wrong side! The performance had to stop while she slit the offending page. Very embarassing for a very fine musician. Luckily this took place at an adult chamber music retreat, where we all were sympathetic, rather than at a concert the next day.

January 25, 2006 at 06:29 PM · I saw something similar years ago (the "vigorous flip of music") at a string quartet recital. In this case, the music was attached and folded like an accordian, so that when the string player accidently flipped the thing, it opened up like an accordian over the stage and into the audience. He tried (unsuccessfully) to grab the last page on the stand and pull the rest back, but it was too late. They had to stop. When they replayed the movement and got to that point and the player turned the page successfully, everyone applauded.

January 25, 2006 at 10:00 PM · Appearently, one of my teachers fell asleep during an orch concert when her section (cello) had a big rest.

January 27, 2006 at 06:44 AM · OK.

I was playing in my High School orchestra, playing something with another violinist and there was some kind of ruckus starting to go on in the parking lot. The window was open, and there was a car alarm going off outside. The two of us just continued playing, and everyone in the orchestra, including the director, they all started laughing at us because we were so focused.

The next think was, I was playing in a rock/country-rock band in a honky tonk in northern Minnesota. A real dive. I was on break, and my fiddle, a good one, was set on the stage plywood floor. Not very smart. Then, some drunk fell into one of the speaker columns, and it fell on the stage. It narrowly missed the violin, but it fell hard enough to make the violin kind of bounce one half inch. That was enough. The scroll shattered into pieces, and the thing imploded. I was freaked, and gathered the pieces of the scroll gingerly. It was later repaired beautifully. I think the guy might have pushed the speaker over on purpose.

Next, I was playing in THE SAME band, and was playing harmonica, or singing or something. My GOLD MOUNTED bow was proped up against my amp. Again, not very smart. I turned around in mid song, and stared in horror at my SHATTERED BOW lying there next to the amp. The rest of the gig was ruined for me. I was miserable.

It turned out that the bow had been broken, and glued, and I hadn't known it. It rebroke on the same glued spot.

Next, I was playing in a large chamber group in a local church. Handel's Messiah. We were getting ready to play one of the pieces that starts with a lot of 16th notes for the first violins. I coudn't follow the conductor. Couldn't get a good tempo indication. He would just stand there, in silence, and than make a small gesture, like a shrug of the shoulders, and boom, that would be the downbeat. The baton was hardly moving as far as I could tell. I couldn't tell where one was. I wasn't the only one. It was pathetic. It's funny now, but then it was miserable.

Or, how about the time this mom calls me and says, "my son (16 years old)just saw the movie "The Red Violin" and he's so inspired to take up violin! And I say, "great, let's get him going."

So, the first lesson comes, and we start him. Get the tapes all placed, gets the bow hold set, violin hold all set, etc. Time comes (second or third lesson) to start moving the bow on the string. The sound coming out is horrendous! Like fingernails on the blackboard. The look on this kid's face is priceless. Like he just swallowed cod liver oil. Just awful. He lasted about three lessons. The mom called me and said something like "Johnny decided he's not going to take lessons anymore."

I've got more.........

January 27, 2006 at 07:18 AM · Another story:

I booked my quartet in a church wedding. The bride requested a trumpet player as well for The Prince of Denmark March, Trumpet Tune, etc.

Six months out, I hired the trumpet player. But then, one month before the wedding, when I called the trumpter to confirm he told me it wasn't written down in his calendar. He now had other plans. Sorry!

It was a June wedding. I decided to take a chance on another trumpet player I hadn't worked with before, because I knew he would be available. He was a part time player. Very part time. Big mistake.

The day of the wedding, during the run through with the organist, it was determined that the trumpet player would have to transpose the music as he played. A cinch for most brass players. The rehearsal was shakey at best. His trumpet tone was very thin and he missed a lot of notes. When you make a mistake on trumpet, it's heard.

Came time for the recessional. The trumpet comes in playing in the wrong key with the organist. He doesn't stop and start again in the correct key, he just keeps playing! It sounds like %#%@! I looked at the wedding party, and they don't seem to be upset, but IT WAS THE WORST feeling I've had in years, being the leader. The time went in slow motion while they played in two differnt keys. I never again got called to play at that church.

January 27, 2006 at 12:18 PM · My viola teacher told me stories of how a viola player in his old orchestra went for a 'dump' just before a concert and forgot to flip his tails out of the way, he was scrubbing away at them as the band walked out ...

Another about when they were doing some huge Wagner number with 3 harps and one of the brass section had had too much beer and was desperate to pay a visit - but because of the harps he physically couldn't leave the stage and just had to 'let it out' in situ, in a discreet, passive sort of way.

Sorry I've only got 'toilet humour' to offer ... ;-)

January 28, 2006 at 01:55 AM · LoL. Jim, I've heard that one about the brass player. In the version I heard it was a tuba player and he, er, well, used the tuba.

It's ok though, the orchestra was playing Handel's Water Music.

January 28, 2006 at 04:38 PM · Or they could have been playing La Mer, or The Fountains of Rome, or Swan Lake, or....well, let's not go there.

January 29, 2006 at 04:30 AM · One time during a competition, I wore this really pretty blue dress. It was a bit too big for me around the top (including the straps), so I wore a jacket over it. But when I started playing, the right strap started falling and so did the left one! It was really scary because I thought the entire dress would fall, but thankfully it didn't.

During another competition, I wore another dress, this one quite fitting. However, as I played the opening chords to the Dvorak violin concerto, one of the straps BROKE. It was SO EMBARRASSING because my dress was half falling and I had no way to keep it up. I later fixed it with a stapler and some tape, because I had to go back in the same room for an audition with my string quartet. The two judges were snickering and pointing at the mass of staples and shiny tape that accumulated on the right side of my dress since they last saw me. LOL

January 29, 2006 at 12:43 PM · It's been done before, Julie -

Oh well, 'Chaconne à son goût', as they say.

January 30, 2006 at 02:47 PM · In college, our concertmaster was a very pretty girl. For our first concert she wore a very beautiful black dress with a very, very low cut back. As she walked on stage the applause was normal - she took her bow, again to applaues - she turned around to tune the orchestra and nearly recieved a standing ovation! We never saw that dress again.

Sitting second stand in the double bass section, during a performance out of the corner of my eye I see a slow movement towards the audience by the principal bass. Somehow, out of reflex or something, I reached out with my left hand and grabed the neck of his bass. The principal bass had fallen asleep (I will never know how) and fell into the orchestra pit with his stool. If I had somehow not grabed the neck of his bass it would have gone in with him. The fall was only a couple of feet and he only brused himself. The concert was halted for a minute while he limped out of the pit, took his bass from me, and left the stage.

January 30, 2006 at 02:50 PM · One of my teachers told me once that years ago he saw Glenn Gould in concert with an orchestra. At the end of a particularly difficult and spectacular run, as the orchestra came in, Gould finished the run with a flourish, leaned over to his left towards the orchestra, came up with a glass of water and a score, crossed his legs, drank the water, and (following the score on his lap) silently conducted the piece along with the conductor until his next entrance.

There will never be another one like him.

February 10, 2006 at 09:59 AM · well hope this is not off-topic cause its about the phantom cat of the ankara opera house.

i saw her appear twice, but they say she did appear more than that:

first one was during a performance of tosca. it was right before the vissi d'arte aria. scarpia was on the table grimly staring at floria, and floria was slowly kneeling in the middle of the stage and the music died etc. then the kitty appeared on the left corner of the stage. she took a couple steps and sat down. looking at the audience and blinking. neither scarpia nor tosca saw her so they were prolly puzzled why the audience was snickering. when floria started the aria the kitty got scared, jumped off the floor and dashed out of the stage.

the second time i saw her was on vivaldi's seasons ballet. the decors were simple-huge colored curtains and some lights behind them. during the performance this kitty started moving around the lights. and her shadow was cast on these curtains, but because of the distance, the shadows were so big, that it looked like some giant tiger was pacing back and forth behind the stage.

February 10, 2006 at 01:37 PM · Last year we performed Tchaikovsky Symphony no. 2 or 3? Don't even remember which one, but in the first movement after a short break in the violin sections, the concertmaster started a measure (bar) too early and everyone was playing with her. I knew something was wrong and looked at the conductor only the see the most horrid face! (money can't buy to see that look on his face!) Not sure whether to stop or play along, we all finished the second section before another break in the violin secion... Then everything went fine. In doing so, we discovered that by playing a measure earlier than what Tchaikovsky wrote, it turned out sounding like a contemporary piece!

February 14, 2006 at 07:11 AM · I had a friend who used to play in the bass section of the Louisville Symphony. Years ago they taped a performance of Beethoven's 9th for broadcast on the PBS channel. Since the taping was done during two performances, the orchestra was asked to keep everything about their appearance the same each night.

My friend decided that it would be a good idea to shave off his beard for the second performance. :) As you might imagine, the final editing of the concert produced an interesting effect. The camera moved in for a close up of the bass section revealing my clean shaven friend. Moments later, a second close up showed him with a fully grown beard that only took a matter of minutes to develop!!! The magic of TV.

February 14, 2006 at 05:11 PM · last summer I was playing in a recital at Encore, in Ohio. I had to start the program, and I was playing Prokofiev's Cinderella Waltz and then Wieniawski's Scherzo-Tarrantella. Well, earlier in the day, I had noticed my bow hair was falling out faster than usual, maybe a couple hairs an hour, but since it had been rehaired recently, I figured I would be fine for the concert. And when the concert came, I had plenty of hair on my bow, so I wasn't thinking about it much, as I had my own playing to worry about. So I go onstage to play the Prokofiev, and everything is fine; bow works, no problems (besides my intonation and shaky bow arm). Start the Scherzo-Tarrantella, which is a decent workout for the bow (especially my thin and light bow). Things are going fine, until I reach the first largamente section that starts with a g minor chord. well, that was about all my bow could take, and all of my bow hair promptly fell out after the first chord. I didn't realize what had happened right away-I thought it had just loosened a bit beyond the usual, but after a second or two I realized I had to stop. So I stopped, gave a small bow, and walked off stage with the intention of getting another bow and continuing. meanwhile, Mr Cerone took my bow, and went onstage to talk to the audience, which was rather amusing, from what I gathered afterwards. Luckily for me, since I didn't have a spare bow, my teacher had rushed out to his car and brought in his vastly superior (and much heavier) bow for me to use, so after rosining up, and went back on and played the Wieniawski again. while not particularly good from a violinistic point of view, it certainly was an entertaining opening to the concert!

February 14, 2006 at 05:49 PM · I supposed that's what they mean when they say, "Take a bow."

February 15, 2006 at 03:46 PM · I was at that concert! It was great, I think Henry's the only person in Encore history to get a standing ovation in the MIDDLE of a ended up being a great performance though, even with the unfamiliar bow

February 16, 2006 at 04:47 AM · These are hiliarious! Haha. And of course, I have my own contribution.

My orchestra conductor is an enthusiastic one, and she often conducts in large sweeping movements. I was principal second my freshman year (because she doesn't let freshmen be first violins...which sucks) and during a concert, she took one of her large sweeping upbeats. And her baton, which is so old that it gives people slivers when you touch it, got caught beneath her stand, and apparently she didn't have a very good grip on it because it flew directly towards me. Which was kind of scary. But then I moved slightly, and it hit the floor. And it was all good. :)

But it was funny...after the performance.

February 16, 2006 at 03:18 PM · Years ago, when I was very young, I was playing Bach double with an orchestra. The conductor had to restart the piece not once, but twice, as he didn't know how the meter, parts, or the fact that it was by Bach.

February 16, 2006 at 03:36 PM · My biggest mess-up...funny, I haven't thought about it in awhile, but I just told two people about it within the last 8 days!

It happened back in 2000...I was probably about fifth or seventh chair 2nd, in 7th second year on the violin...

We were playing Sinfonia in D (my favorite song back then!) This song required a mute for the Cantabile part...

When we finished the Cantabile part, we took the D.S., and then I realized I forgot to take my mute off!

I knew I had to squeeze taking it off into two beats, rather than two measures, so at the next half measure rest, I popped the mute off as fast as I could...

My bow slipped out of my hand...

The bow literally slid DOWN THE FINGERBOARD...

It then got hooked onto one of my pegs...(I haven't been able to recreate this incident, no matter how hard I try)...

And my bow was dangling there from my peg in the middle of a concert...

I'm not sure I actually got the mute off...

Get this...Mom was recording the concert, and the one time she panned over to the 1st violin section and cut me off was during this accident! I have no video to remind me of the memory!

Since then I have learned that I can a) use my left hand while playing to remove the mute, or b) simply pop it off in a one-beat rest by pushing it!

Hope this brightens your day!

February 16, 2006 at 03:54 PM · Haaaa. I'd rent that video.

February 16, 2006 at 03:56 PM · Yeah, except that part was the part where Mom panned over to the 1st section and cut me off!

February 16, 2006 at 03:58 PM · Oh wait, I thought you said the only time she panned over was during that.

February 17, 2006 at 12:07 AM · Two days ago Henry Flory described an incident in which . . . "Things are going fine, until I reach the first largamente section that starts with a g minor chord. well, that was about all my bow could take, and all of my bow hair promptly fell out after the first chord."

And here I'd thought it was only those of us over 60 whose hair fell out! :)

February 20, 2006 at 03:20 PM · I was playing in a production of Don Giovanni and one of the lights that was supposed to gently descend onto the scene did so onto Leporello's head! While no one was hurt, as it happened quite gently, the singer did well with facial expressions of surprise to pretend that it was somehow in the opera!

February 20, 2006 at 05:35 PM · Two things. One of them was a performance I was in, and the other I only heard about.

Story #1:

Speaking of "Don Giovanni" -

I played in a very small pit orchestra for Don G. once, in a small theater that had no pit: they just took out the first few rows of seats and put the orchestra on the floor in front of the stage. During the party scene, our percussionist suddenly suffered the consequences of lunch at a questionable restaurant and HAD TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY :o but there was no way for him to get out since he was hemmed in by violinists. So he had to climb onto the stage (and into the show) and scuttle off as fast as he could... then when he came back about 10 min. later, having lost at least 5 pounds in the meantime, he had to get back to his place via the same route. I don't know what the audience thought of it; the musicians were like "omg I'm sorry but that is HILARIOUS" - fortunately the conductor was very understanding. He would have had a much harder time if it had been him in the same situation :o

Story #2:

This apparently happened at a NY Philharmonic concert, where a famous female violin soloist known for her dramatic performances actually FELL OVER during the Brahms concerto. No names were named, but the person (an NY Phil. member) referred to her ever afterward as "Kyung Wha Thump."

Oh, and story #3, I almost forgot:

I was at the "Lynn Harrell Concerto for Cellphone" concert in Seattle last September where his phone went off in his pocket during Don Quixote. It was a wonderful performance.

February 20, 2006 at 06:20 PM · Was the cellphone call from the composer?

There is an ancient saying in music (which I just made up): "String player on stage who falls off stage always realizes the gravity of the situation -- he (or she) has lost the opportunity to become a rising star."

February 20, 2006 at 09:10 PM · One time my shoulder rest slipped off during our annual winter concert. I tried to tell my conductor, but she didn't notice me and I ended up starting a couple beats behind.

February 20, 2006 at 09:14 PM ·

February 21, 2006 at 12:08 AM · About two weeks ago, my second Stowemaster fells off along with my chin rest during the 3rd movement of Mendelssohn #6... that was great.

February 21, 2006 at 12:25 AM · so u did buy the stowemaster? how do u like it?

February 21, 2006 at 02:50 AM · I've owned two.

The first broke after about 2 months... the second one had a defect. The other one the shop had was also a lemon.

February 21, 2006 at 11:55 PM · doesn't sound to reliable then

February 22, 2006 at 03:34 AM · Reliable is not an adjective I'd use.

February 22, 2006 at 09:49 PM · Another funny story that happened at ENCORE. A friend of mine was playing the Wieniawski Concerto No.2 and was really ripping it up. At the end of the piece where the chords are for some crazy reason, and he is not even sure why, he played the chords pizzicato!!! Everyone in the room and if you have been to ENCORE, know that everyone is a violinist, so the gasp in the audience was rather large. But he played the chords so with such conviction, that if you did not know the piece, it sounded great...

February 22, 2006 at 11:24 PM · A sudden response to an inherent urge to be a rock guitarist, is my explanation for the spontanious strumming.

February 23, 2006 at 12:27 AM · Kevin... I've played stuff pizz for no reason at all before as well, stuff that I knew well and had played for quite a while.

It happens...

February 23, 2006 at 02:05 AM · Greetings,

its when you bow a chord instead of pizz in orchestra that people really take the Pi##,



February 23, 2006 at 03:04 PM · Going off on the pizzing tangent that was started recently...

In my jazz band, I usually use the bow for double-stop syncopated rhythms throughout the whole song, but sometimes pizz sounds better. Right now, there are only two songs I'm pizzing on,

one iscalled So What? that a double bass plays the melody...somehow this arrangement ended up giving the melody to the saxes and vibes as well, and I got the vibes part...normally I play keyboard music, but this one had vibes...

the other one is Jump, Jive, and Wail...I'm playing minor three-note chords the whole song, and bowing three-note chords two to three times per measure for a whole song would be awkward, so I'm pizzing them nice and loudly into the mic, so everyone can hear!

February 23, 2006 at 11:32 PM · About 10 years ago when I was conducting a performance of the Nutcracker Ballet we had a very crowded pit at the Monmouth County Arts Center in Red Bank, aka the Count Basie Theater. The pit had about 32 musicians in it and there was no room for a celeste for the Sugar Plum Fairy dance. We used a sampled sequence on a cassette tape for the solo celeste part and the orchestra played kareoke style. It worked well for years. During the intermission someone monkeyed around with the tape. When it came time for the sugar plum I activated the tape and ''no sound'' the dancer waited and waited and waited until we had cleared the technical difficulties. We could not get the machine to play. I then asked the orchestra to sing the part, which they did as best as they could and it was probably the only poly tonal vocal version of the dance of the sugar plum fairy in the history of New Jesey performance. Truly a night to remember.

Ira Kraemer

February 24, 2006 at 02:04 PM · Sounds like one worth going to!

February 25, 2006 at 05:50 AM · The conductor of my punk orchestra jumps up so hard on the podium that it always moves across the floor. We were playing at a club one time and the podium was going off the stage, in which case our beloved conductor would have made an inadvertant backward dive into the audience. Luckily, folks in the audience saw it happening and held the podium up with their hands until the piece was over.

February 25, 2006 at 03:04 PM · This happened in rehearsal, thank goodness!

At regionals, we were playing the Habañera from Carmen. And if you're not familar with the opera, the Habañera is the seductive dance Carmen uses to get out of jail. Anyway, the conductor (who was middle aged, short, and a little on the heavy side) was dancing in a "sexy Carmen" way while we tried to play - its really a lot harder to play when you're laughing...

February 25, 2006 at 03:44 PM · Well it wasn't a big concert. But it was for my school. So I don't remeber what we were playing but my instructor who played the cello with us was so excited at the end of the peice at how well we had done. He flourished his bow and nocked over the stand nex to him. It fell over and nocked over the one next to it they all fell over. Every thought it was hilarious.

February 28, 2006 at 03:03 PM · That reminds me of an ISSMA contest I played in--

We walked out, and a flautist bumped into a stand, which then fell apart, and then it knocked a few other stands over...great first impression on the judges!

February 28, 2006 at 10:29 PM · Hi,

A list of things... hmmm...

- A guitarist leaning on his leg so hard, that it went numb. When he came to bow, he couldn't stand and fell off stage.

- A pianist chasing after a piano that was not secured across the stage in a concerto as it rolled forward.

- A conductor lifting his arms to begin the orchestra before a piece and letting out a gargantuous fart in smell and sound.

- A trumpet player screaming at a conductor on stage during a performance when the latter got lost: "Hey you dumb $%*? it's in 3/4."

- Me, after the conductor comes on stage hearing my pants rip as I was sitting down as concertmaster of an orchestra and remembering that I was wearing white underwear - idiot!

- The orchestra forgetting to stop at the end of a movement and holding a note too long with the conductor waving him arm as if trying to kill a fly - accompanied by the words, "What in the world was that?!?!?!?!"

These are the best off the top of my head. Enjoy!


February 28, 2006 at 11:00 PM · Greetings,

I remember a player from a well known quartet getting to the end of a cocnert and discovering that his trousers had actually bonded with the cracked leather seat he had been given to sit on in a church. The guy really couldn`t stand up without the chair remainig totally attached. I wonder if he still has it...



March 1, 2006 at 04:27 AM · Christian, I think that trumpet player speaks for all of us.


March 4, 2006 at 02:30 PM · One time when I was at a music camp, it was the rehearsal for the final concert. The stage was *packed* and we all barely fit on (it was all the kids attending the camp). So everyone was as far as they could be to the edge of the stage and suddenly one of the cellists fell off the stage! It was a fairly tall stage as well! So his chair fell first, then him with his cello in hot persuit. He lands on his back (next to the chair) and caught his cello while laying on his back!! After making sure everyone was okay, rehearsal commenced.

Also, my conductor, Mrs. Lewis, can be very expressive when directing. One time while performing, she had the baton and was moving a lot and hit the baton on the stand and it went flipping up in the air! As it came down, she caught it and continued conducting. All of us in the orchestra were trying so hard not to crack up.

March 4, 2006 at 02:27 PM · Last night i was playing an orchestra gig in the back of the first violin section. In the middle of the first piece, i tried to lift my music stand because it was too low. The top came off and i dropped it with my music spewing all over the ground. i tried picking it up but it was no use so i set the stand down again. I played the rest (wasn't long) from memory/looking at the stand in front of me. Extremely embarassing!

March 4, 2006 at 03:51 PM · Sydney,

the same thing yesterday in rehearsal. Except my conductor didn't catch the baton, so he picked up a pencil off his stand...

January 11, 2008 at 03:07 PM · I just found this thread again while pawing through the archives (I'm bored.) And I thought I would contribute a little something I just remembered:

Takacs Quartet concert, about two years ago. I'm there with MY whole quartet, we're sitting in the very front like starstruck fangirls and fanboys. This particular concert is a "salon" type concert, we're in a fairly small room with the quartet on a little platform at one end of the room. The light comes from two standing lamps placed just behind the platform.

So anyway, about halfway through one of their pieces, the whole quartet comes momentarily unglued all at once. First, the cellist's endpin slips and he nearly drops it. The second violinist, startled and involuntarily turning to look, whacks one of the lamps with his bow. The "smack!" sound causes the first violinist to jump and hit a sour note. The violist, safe and sound, gives the guys a strange look. Obviously they were still playing throughout all of this and got immediately back on track, but my quartet and I were fighting back giggles for the rest of the movement...

January 11, 2008 at 03:34 PM · Just recently I played 2nd violin with our symphony. We had a soloist playing the Elgar Violin Concerto, and in the middle of the 3rd movement, his string broke. Well, this gentleman is playing a Stradivarius (not one you'd hand to a concertmaster), so he walked off stage, got a new string, came back on stage, sat down on the floor in front of the orchestra, and changed his string. Then, he and our conductor decided we should start back right where we left off, rehearsal #81. So our conductor turns to the audience and says "We're starting at rehearsal #81".

January 11, 2008 at 03:43 PM · I was reading these and just remembered...I was in J.R. High and in the all City Orchestra for my age group. The movie "Bad News Bears" had been the movie for us to see. I was 3rd chair 1st. violin. Durring our performance in a filled auditorium at Del Mar College were this was taking place we were playing the 1812 overture. When we finished some kid hollered, "Play Ball!"

I can't remember if the 1812 Overture is in that movie but the house made the connection and just roared! And so did we!

January 11, 2008 at 04:33 PM · I played in a woodwind quintet years ago for a garden concert (outside). The owners of this particular home had a yellow labrador. During one of the pieces that we were playing, the lab graciously plopped himself onto my feet. I almost couldn't fight the laughter.

January 12, 2008 at 12:32 AM · All of these are HILARIOUS!!! I only have one to add, but it's a good one.

One summer, at Sound Encounters (my favorite music camp in the world), we were having a rehearsal with every student playing. We always play one collaborative piece. Anyway, it was a real squeeze. All of a sudden, I saw a cellist fall off the stage! His chair leg had come off and so the chair fell off, followed by him, with his cello plummeting after. The chair ricocheted somewhere, so he didn't land on it, but he did land flat on his back and he somehow managed to CATCH HIS CELLO!!! It was the most amazing thing ever. No harm was done to him or the cello.

January 12, 2008 at 08:20 PM · Wow. I just realized I wrote essentially the exact same thing that I wrote almost two years ago.

January 12, 2008 at 08:40 PM · I once walked backwards off a stage, and fell off about six feet onto my back, fiddle held in the air.

I was OK, and did the rest of the gig, but it hurt.


January 13, 2008 at 07:28 AM · I did have a friend doing her final exam, Diploma on piano who made an error in the last bar, and said the f word and slammed the piano in anger - needless to say, she was given a fail based on that happening in the last bar. Poor thing, I felt terrible for her, even though, it was a pretty silly thing to do! As for myself, I have had my dress strap break and need to hold it up with the top of my arm as I tried to keep going (right side) in high school, I have been humliated with nerves when I was little and ran off in tears, but came back and redeemed myself! (sheepishly with a red face and sniffles)! And I also did a finals exam on crutches - don't ask how! But it was tricky! Other than that, I've been pretty lucky!

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