Monday, March 16, 2009

The clown

It was the second night of playing the circus. I was on the floor, just inside the end ring and the band was all lined up in front of me.

Suddenly a clown came running up to me. (Remember, its a circus.) Dressed in traditional clown garb, complete with facepaint and the red applique nose. "Mike! Mike! Do you know who this is?"

I knew immediately what I wanted to say (are you some kind of clown?) but I resisted the temptation. His voice was kind of familiar, but I would never have guess just from that. It turned out that the clown was an old acquaintance from high school. I am not sure if I have seen Dave much in the last 40 years, perhaps at a reunion or something. We played in the band together, and he was a clarinet player.

Even before I could ask Dave if he still had his clarinet, he volunteered that he did not know where it was. I did offer to organize a search party to help him find the clarinet and a few of the fingerings. We are woefully short of reed players, and any we can get, even years out of practice, would be welcome.

I now have a lead on where to come and look for him. If the Syrian clowns see a BandMaster lurking around, they will know who I am looking for.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


A friend of mine raised the idea that Cincinnati might have more volunteer, community based orchestras (at least per unit or population), than any place he is aware of. I am not quite sure how to test that.

I play in two such orchestras. The Cincinnati Metropolitan Orchestra, and the Seven Hills Sinfonietta. In many ways, it it hard to imagine two more different orchestras. One limits itself to the traditional warhorses of classical and remantic symphonic literature. The other plays a couple of "classical" concerts, but also plays a number of pops concerts, and occasional Christmas concerts, etc.

The surprise was that in successive weeks, both would be playing Finlandia, by Sibelius. (Ending the first concert, and opening the next.)

Finlandia is one of those pieces that a Tuba player loves. Loud and lusty, it is one of the few pieces where a phrase begins forte, and then says cresendo as much as possible. Usually, a tuba player has to figure out how to play phrases softly to stay under the strings (after counting 217 measures of rest). In Finlandia, I get to envision lifting the roof off of its rafters.

Still, there is a lot of great literature out there. I wonder how many orchestras you would need to be in to play it all?