The orchestra that played on by light of its cellphones

The orchestra that played on by light of its cellphones


norman lebrecht

May 26, 2019

When the lights went out in Bloomington, Indiana, the conductor thought fast to save the show.

“I didn’t even think twice,” said conductor Alejandro G. Guillén. “I was really worried about the audience waiting. We didn’t know how long it was going to take to fix the power, and people might have to go home. The air conditioner was off. It was dark in there, and people might have felt unsafe in the dark.”…. Guillen said it made him think of how the piece might have been originally performed in Mozart’s time: by candlelight.

“And here we were with cellphones,” he said…

Read on here.

photo: Chris Kabrick


  • Mock Mahler says:

    What’s with the electricity in Bloomington? In the early 1970s I attended an Andre Watts recital where the lights went out. Watts finished the first movement of a Schubert sonata in the dark, then said “I guess I’ll stop there,” and that was that.

    • Donna Lafferty, BSO Executive Director (and trombonist) says:

      A huge thunderstorm rolled through the area right before we started playing. We were worrying about tornado warnings, but those didn’t materialize. Nor did the power. 😉

    • Brian says:

      That’s American infrastructure for you.

      That must have drained the phone batteries pretty quickly.

    • Bill says:

      Wow, a second power outage in 45+ years! Someone should be strung up…

    • Paul Carlile says:

      It’s obvious, sir……surely with Watts on the platform, (giving, no doubt, an electrifying performance…), the overload caused a short-circuit and the whole system blew a fuse, leading to him refusing to continue. I suppose everyone just went ohm.

  • Cynthia says:

    We do this all the time at the music schools in Haiti.

  • muslit says:

    What would we do without cell phones?

    • Patricia Yeiser says:

      There are usually candles, somewhere. And a good keyboard player can find his way around the keyboard in the dark.

  • Patricia Yeiser says:

    When I worked in public radio and recorded many concerts, we were once a festival in a church in the Northern part of New York state. We found that when we turned the lights on in the little room in which we were set up , the lights caused a buzz in the mic. So, it being a church, I sent my engineer off to look for candles. We recorded by candlelight. The musicians , as they came through on the way to the church proper, were delighted. They called it a ‘class act.’ Musicians are required to think on their feet.

  • Patricia Yeiser says:

    And then there is the Haydn “Farewell” Symphony – lights out one candle at a time!

  • Paul Carlile says:

    Just verify that any concert you go to in Bloomington has been amperely advertised in that (surely) well-known publication: “Watts on in Bloomington!”