Orchestras are bewildered organisms, don’t know which way is upmain
From a speech yesterday by Rory Jeffes, managing director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra:
I remember when we were touring in Japan in 2007 we were giving a performance in Osaka. In Japan concerts halls are often built into larger complexes and this one happened to be on the third floor so you had to go up three flights of stairs to reach it. We arrived in buses and climbed three flights of stairs – in a glass atrium, to reach the concert platform. After the performance I went through the backstage area to make sure nothing was left behind and found a musician standing in the stairwell looking at the stairs leading both up and down.
‘Which way is the bus?’ he asked me.
‘What in God’s name makes you think it’s upstairs?’
This musician – a highly intelligent person – had gotten through the whole day following the person in front and now suddenly was on their own they didn’t know what to do.
Read the full transcript here.
Another Jeffes soundbite:
Musicians often have enormous reticence in communicating concerns about others’ performance levels to colleagues. Sometimes in a rehearsal (and hopefully only in a rehearsal!) someone will make a huge mistake or wrong entry – and there isn’t a twitch or eyebrow raised across the orchestra. Nothing. The sense is ‘they know they made the mistake – they don’t need me to point it out’. One of our senior musicians told me when he first worked at the back of a string section in one of the major London orchestras a horn player made a loud mistake and our musician turned round to look at the culprit. ‘What the hell are you looking at sonny?’ was the response. They never spoke again.