A mouse ran down the concert hall

It happened at the Mariss Jansons concert at the Barbican last weekend.

(At least people are telling one another it was a mouse, not a sewer rat.)

Never got mentioned in reviews.

Name your best/worst concert encounter with a four-legged creature.


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  • Shortly after Carnegie Hall reopened after the late twentieth century renovation (that resulted in concrete being poured under the stage that had to be removed a few years later when it was observed that the acoustics were compromised) I attended an open rehearsal of the conductorless chamber orchestra Orpheus on a Saturday morning, and a mouse was running around on stage. Someone didn’t clean up properly after the construction work.

  • It ran across the aisle during the last movement of the Prokofiev, and then back again (assuming it was the same one) while Mitsuko Uchida was giving her speech on stage. Vanished into the stalls; goodness knows where its hole was. Definitely a mouse. Poor thing has to live with that acoustic every day of its life.

    • Nowadays there exist electronic ‘anti mice devices’ with high pitch volume peeps (inaudible for humans) which create an acoustical environment extremely unnerving and disturbing for rodents. If halls would regularly have some Xenakis played after concerts, for instance over loudspeakers, maybe this would ensure that mice would make other accomodation choices.

  • I’ve seen mice quite a few times at both the Barbican Hall and the Royal Festival Hall. Interestingly, I’ve never seen a mouse at other London music venues, suggesting that the problem is not inevitable.

    • It depends upon repertoire. Certain types of music are rodent-friendly. I heard from some British collegues that especially the works of [redacted] , [redacted] and [ redacted] are prone to pest attraction, all established 20C postwar music.

      • And these devices are cheap and very effective – at least as far as my personal experience goes.
        More to my taste though is the approach of 10 Downing Street: have a resident cat.

  • My former teacher, Walter Hautzig (Z.L.), used to relate the story of his playing the “Ritual Firedance” by Manuel de Falla as an encore after a recital in some South American city, I forgot which: A large nutria (water rat) slowly entered from offstage while he was playing, sniffed around a bit, then left the stage just as unperturbed as it had appeared.

    I’m not sure whether he noticed it while playing or not, but the audience apparently did — they can be as large as a cat.

    • Performing in such countries sometimes attract animal curiosity. There is the story of a German pianist playing an open air recital with a soprano in the garden of the Steigenberger Hotel in Luxor, which borders on the Nile, the sound of which drew the attention of a crocodile who came half out of the water and had to be chased away by staff, after which the concert could calmly proceed.

  • At the Castleton Festival, with Maazel conducting La forza overture in the tent, there were some very loud frogs during the quiet part. Maazel smiled at the first entry then focused back in.

  • Not a four-legged creature but when I was with the San Antonio Symphony we once had a bat flying around inside the Majestic Theatre during a pops concert.. (No “Fledermaus” jokes, please.)

    • What REALLY happened: at a performance of Pelléas et Mélisande in Cardiff – the well-known production with Boulez – for the scene with the tower song the producer had trained two white pidgeons who had to fly from the tower at the left, into the wings at the right, which they could do very well and obeydiently. But at the performance I attended, one of the birds had second thoughs halfway, flew into the auditorium, settled at one of the high balconies and accompanied the rest of the performance with its occasional roukou’s which sounded like content affirmations and encouragements, to the amusement of the audience. Somehow, it did not distract from the opera.

  • Sometime in the 1970s, I believe, I attended a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth conducted by Lukas Foss at Hollywood Bowl. During the slow movement, a family of three raccoons (at least, I assume they were a family; from a distance, they looked to be Mom, Dad and Baby) wandered onstage and began adding an extraordinary vocal obligato to the proceedings. Foss was clearly unamused and, in his apparent anger, slipped off the podium at one point. The raccoons topped all by indulging in an impromptu game of tag, scampering about the bass section (which played on, unfazed) before making a hasty exit.

      • Talking about the Hollywood Bowl, I remember a concert in the 1970’s when a skunk appeared during ther second half and started down one of the steps in the cheaper seats behind the boxes. Luckily it must have liked what it heard so it did not leave a review and quietly went off to the sides almost unnoticed. I think it was Frubeck de Burgos conducting Ravel. Talk about soothing savage beasts.

  • There was a Tanglewood Fox some years ago. For weeks it came around looking for scraps at the edges of the lawn seating at both main venues. Then one night it made its way onto the Shed stage, running under the risers and eventually off-stage right.
    There have been many bear sightings too but luckily not with audiences present, nor on stage.

  • This story was told to me by a musician who was a member of the orchestra in question.

    In the course of rehearsing a Mozart opera, the conductor (who apparently hadn’t won the orchestra over with a pleasant personality anyway) kept berating them for not following alertly enough during the recitatives. At the dress rehearsal, the conductor demanded: “When my stick comes down, I expect you to play a chord!”

    At the first performance, a bee or wasp or some such creature flew into the orchestra pit and made for the conductor … naturally, during a recitative. Every time the conductor swatted at the winged offender, the orchestra duly and happily responded with the next chord.

    I understand that the singers caught up with the orchestra eventually.

  • In a theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, `Bus Stop’ with Keir Dullea and Lee Remick. A mouse ran across the bar in the middle of the set. They carried on until a minute later when both started to laugh. It wasn’t apparent why until one of them, Remick I think, had a line something on the lines of `the cheese has gone’.
    Anyone remember the details better than me?

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