Question for orchestra players

March 11, 2023, 9:17 AM · Have you ever had anyone steal the show?

Replies (16)

March 11, 2023, 10:03 AM · Yes.

First the funny one: In a performance of The Miraculous Mandarin - and I apologize, I have forgotten the details - an audience member shouted out “NO!!” just before the climactic moment.

And then a couple of tragic events which I would rather not give the details of, but both of which involved a member of the audience. In both cases, we ceased playing, waited for the situation to be resolved, and then picked up again with the next movement.

March 11, 2023, 12:18 PM · I was once at a performance of Mahler’s Das Lied, in the chamber arrangement by Schoenberg. During the third movement, a woman in the stalls slid out of her chair to the floor. Her companions lifted her back and let her lie on a few chairs. This being a university town, several doctors crept over to take a look. She was fine, but I couldn’t help thinking that would have been a great soundtrack if she had decided to peg out.

And the music didn’t stop.

March 11, 2023, 12:27 PM · I recall a performance of our college orchestra. Everything was going fine when suddenly the piano soloist stopped playing, rose from his stool to catch the conductor who fainted into his arms.
March 11, 2023, 12:43 PM · Ok which one of yous guys r usen “cat gut?”
March 11, 2023, 4:20 PM · I was once at a concert at Tanglewood when a patron had a heart attack in the middle of it. The orchestra did stop and wait for the individual to be removed -- they actually have an EMT or other health professional on the grounds at all times, so the individual was quickly removed straight into an ambulance and the concert resumed. I never heard what happened to the patron.
March 11, 2023, 10:59 PM · Had a fistfight in the crowd once. That was entertaining.
March 12, 2023, 8:25 AM · Andy's story is the best.

I wonder how many cats would be on stage with the Istanbul Philharmonic? :)

March 12, 2023, 11:04 AM · >>> And the music didn’t stop

Great error.....

March 13, 2023, 12:37 PM · I'm reminded of the New Yorker cartoon where the woman standing in front of the piano and pianist is captioned saying? "What ever happens, keep playing."

Live music gives us so many opportunities for something to go sideways. How we react is situational. Will we musicians be like the legendary band on the Titanic and just keep playing as the ship sinks?

Somehow a cat onstage isn't a big deal by comparison. Nor is an untimely entrance of the trombone who lost count.

Edited: March 13, 2023, 1:19 PM · Sometimes the "stolen show" even is missed by everyone, or almost everyone.

This happened to me twice, not in orchestra performances, but in chamber music ones.
The first was a Haydn string quartet performance in a memorial concert. The second violin player missed an entrance and came in wrong (or skipped a measure) as first violinist (and knowing he was the least likely to recover I skipped to join him hoping the violist and cellist would follow me - and they did.
(This was a most unfortunate Memorial - the deceased had been shot on stage during a rehearsal of the musical, Oliver. The gun had been loaded with a "blank" loaded locally (not bought) and a tiny fragment of metal entered his heart. Our 2nd violinist was the local pediatrician, and had been present at the event and had tried to save the actor's life. The show was never performed.)

The second event, some years later was during a Brahms piano trio performance the cellist and I missed an entrance. The pianist immediately recognized what had happened and repeated the preceding measure and we both caught the entrance the third time he played it. I'm sure the only person in the audience was the cellist from my string quartet who mentioned it at our next rehearsal.

BUT - there are other kinds of "show stealing." In the early 1990s, when I was president of our orchestra association board and manager of the orchestra I had the job of finding and helping select a new conductor for our orchestra. One of the contestants was a professional musician in Southern California, conductor of a college orchestra in a distant city. I attended one of his concerts to help make my decision. One of the first violinists was a chubby young woman in an outside seat wearing a very short skirt. That is also a sort of "show stealing." The conductor is the man we chose to conduct our orchestra and he still comes there every week for rehearsals and for all the concerts, about 30 years later (I am not - I moved away in 1995).

March 13, 2023, 4:44 PM · When an audience member is actively dying or suffering a total mental breakdown, I can hardly think of anything more disrespectful than continuing to play, or attempting to.
March 14, 2023, 2:07 PM · The building where we hold our bluegrass jams used to have a resident cat (RIP Doofus). Occasionally he would saunter into the middle of our circle while we were playing. I would reach down and scratch him between his ears with my bow tip, and he'd curl up on the floor and enjoy the music.
March 14, 2023, 5:20 PM · The Mahler 9th concert that Bernstein did with the Berlin Phil has a famous missed trombone entry that record reviewers still complain about. Apparently, someone right behind the brass section passed out and distracted them for a brief minute.
March 14, 2023, 6:49 PM · We saw my daughter's former teacher's piano trio perform at a retirement community in Chapel Hill once where the in-house EMTs whisked away a resident who had passed out so discretely that the group would hardly have had time to notice, as though it was quite well-rehearsed.
March 15, 2023, 3:53 AM · This didn't happen to me, it happened a fair few years before I was born, but in a Swing band during the 1930s, there was an incident where a band conductor - a young man, apparently - got distracted by a pretty woman in the audience, and held a note for a bit long, and the lead trumpeter, following the conductor, also held that note, until he passed out and fell off the stage.

Recently, in the brass band I'm a 2nd Trombone in, the player announcing the tunes, hadn't done anything for one of the tunes, "Take the 'A' Train", so I piped up with the title, and told the audience to get their tickets ...

March 17, 2023, 11:27 PM · The mention of the cat reminds me of the following incident: We were in our regular quartet meeting in the cellist's house. The cellist's cat who was normally not in attendance was sleeping on the sofa or pretending to sleep. We were reading Tchaikovsky 1. Everything went normally until we got to the scherzo. When it began the cat woke up and decided to join the fun. He began to sing along. He kept singing and we kept playing, believing the cat would stop after a while. But he stayed with the ensemble until the movement came to an end. Then we burst out laughing.

The cat was shut out for the rest of the evening and for all subsequent sessions. It wouldn't have been funny the second time.

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