Thursday, March 22, 2012

Musician Humor

With the publication of Ervin Monroe's new comprehensive book about flute fingering, and his inclusion of some hilarious musician stories, I am reminded that musician stories are some of the funniest things I have ever heard. Or witnessed. For awhile I spent time wondering, why? What made these stories so compelling and so hilarious? And then I realized that there is such drama in the act of doing a highly silled action, very precisely, at a prescribed instant of time, regardless of anything else happening at that moment. Stress ANYTHING. Most great musicians are great observers of human nature and have a rare and ironic sense of humor. I was first introduced to this phenomenon by listening to the stories of my teacher, Murray Panitz. His capacity for the ironic was amazing, as was his attention to detail and the comedic opportunities in the mundane elements of life. He also had a fine ear for puns and word play. He loved to poke fun at people who took themselves too seriously. An apt student, I figured it could enhance my future as a musician to emulate him in this way. Just in case the flute thing didn't work out. So here are a couple of my own stories. Weddings. What a wealth of material!!! My harpist and I at one time played 70 a year. The most for one weekend was 4. How can you not get great stuff with that volume? So here is the top story. This was A WEDDING where every single detail was completely considered and reconsidered. And then the wedding party had champagne in the limo to the church and while the ladies were dressing. Did I mention it was August? In Delaware? And air conditioning in the Revolutionary War era church was struggling? Yup. All of the above. But everything started on time ( something you learn to be grateful for) and the men and women processed elegantly into the church. And then the bride. Resplendent in a hooped gown, beaming under a full length veil. The heat, champagne, and veil took their toll, and she fainted at the altar rail. Down into the gown. Deep into the gown. Out cold. Father, groom, and priest all desperately tried to pull her out of the gown. Satin is slippery and no one could get a grip. The only solution? Tip her over, and get her upright. Which happened, very slowly ( we are desperately pulling out all sorts of music) The hoop maintained its hoopiness, springing into its circular shape as the poor bride lay on her side. Much was revealed, apparently. Eventually she was escorted into the Sacristy. Still we played on. Signals from the wedding consultant let us know that the procession was once again ready to go. Very low key this time, a little shaky, but the couple was married. Where else can you get such material? The concert stage. Rehearsals and concerts provide excellent opportunities for comedic adventure. This story is about a freelance job in the hinterlands of the south west quadrant of Chester County PA. I was, of course, speeding down the PA turnpike, and was pulled over. 20 minutes while the ticket was written and the verbal warning given. Which made me late to the rehearsal. Not good for any number of reasons. 1. You don't want to make the contractor angry. 2. You don't want to make the conductor angry. 3. You don't want your pay docked. So I tried to enter silently. I am a known klutz so when I tripped over the bleachers for the chorus, no one who knows me should have been surprised. At that moment every eye in the room was on me as I wound my way through the percussion and the strings. Safely in my seat, Still in my coat, hands shaking, I put my flute together. My music not yet open on the stand, the other flutist, turned to me, and completely seriously said, "Where are we?". True story. Just stay tuned for some more fun stories. It will spice up the more serious stuff. The lesson is: don't take anything too seriously or else it will be someone else's funny story!

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