Without fail, something goes wrong during a live performance. Usually it’s something minor, like the musicians didn’t quite come in together, or a light is quietly buzzing that no one noticed at rehearsal. Other times, it’s of a more urgent nature. I put out the call to my musician friends on Facebook. When I first read the responses, at one point I laughed so hard, I cried and blew my nose, and I had to step out for a short walk to regain my composure. I had such an overwhelming response that I had to group them into categories. I’ll feature them every week or so. Thanks to everyone who participated!
I left out names (to protect the super guilty).
-A technical rehearsal is when you run through everything – lighting, costumes, scene changes, set-up, strike down – everything. The whole point of these is to avoid what happened below.
-Haydn’s “Farewell Symphony” features orchestra members, one by one, turning out their stand lights and walking offstage. Haydn composed this to hint to the boss the musicians need vacation time. In Haydn’s day, they blew out candles affixed to the music stands.
Okay, here we go with the submissions!
From a harpist:
I had a Victor Borge-like moment while doing a recital with a singer in Toronto. When I gave her the first note, she gave me a funny look, but she started singing. We were several bars in, before we realized that we were performing two different pieces. We had to stop, of course, fumble with our music, and continue. The audience was in gales of laughter, and it totally broke the ice. The rest of the concert was a roaring success.
From a French hornist:
I pretty well wrecked The “Farewell” Symphony by knocking over a music stand on the way offstage. They’d turned out all the lights, which hadn’t happened in rehearsal (my excuse).
From a percussionist:
I once tripped over a monitor on a pitch-black stage and knocked over the entire back half of my setup. I think there was a snare drum involved, maybe a brake drum and a smaller table full of little stuff. Luckily I was partly hidden behind a giant projection screen (one of the reasons it was so dark) so I was obscured from the bulk of the audience. The takeaway: insist on a full technical rehearsal.
From a bassist:
A couple months ago. Serena Ryder concert in a nice theatre. First song of the night is “Stompa”. I play the intro on double bass, then put it on a stand and pick up the electric bass. Some strutting typically ensues, interrupted that night when I step on the patch cable that is plugged into the double bass – the tug was brief, but enough for the bass to start teetering in its stand. I watch as it rocks back and forth, like a stumbling drunk. I’m confident it’s going to find its balance and stay in the stand. Plus I’ve got an electric bass in my hand, and notes to play. “Well I sure was wrong about that,” I said to myself, as it toppled to the floor, and broke the neck in two! (Gritted teeth emoji.) Actually was just the glue breaking, part of a long line of repairs to that sweetie of a bass that may or may not be related to the time a broadcaster used a helicopter to drop it into the ocean in the Bay of Fundy.
Are you a musician that endured a crazy onstage mishap? Audience member who witnessed one? Write me at [email protected]
Next week: “Asleep at the Switch”.