The answer is no.

My last concert of the season was this past weekend. We had an ambitious program and were all a bit nervous about how it would come off. The thing about community orchestras, whether it's stocked with a bunch of professional-musician-ringers or not, is you never really know what you're going to get. Sometimes, you get right up to the dress rehearsal and you look around and wonder "Wow... we're going to play this tomorrow? For... people? Who will hear us? And pay? Oooooo-kaaaay. Tsk." This one was a bit like that.

The other thing about community orchestras, is that despite a really ragged dress rehearsal - and often a ragged every-other-rehearsal - they generally pull something halfway passable out of their collective asses for the performance. So... nail-biting time through the entire schedule and then everything goes off without a hitch when it really counts. It's nerve-wracking for the music director, but we musicians know that none of us ever really practices until the morning of the performance anyway and we're generally okay with that.

This show promised to be similar. The first half went off fine... great soloist and the small opening piece was short, easy and crowd pleasing. Then we got to the Sibelius piece all the violinists loathe after intermission. Aside: No biographies I've ever read support this theory, but I would swear Sibelius' wife ran off with a violinist and he decided to torture the rest of them for years to come by writing ridiculous passages to play that involve crazy chords, difficult fingerings, in keys were never meant for a C instrument, and that no self-respecting violinist would ever willingly choose to play if someone wasn't holding a baton to his head. Most of the violin part for this piece had no melody and was marked softer than anyone would ever really hear, instead just adding "color" (read: sound effects) to the gorgeous melody lines the woodwinds, brass and cellos constantly get to play. Not only is it boring and a bear to count out forty measures of the same eight note repetition, but it's also downright fatiguing. By the end of the piece, I need a cortisone shot for my arm. Sibelius wrote this particular piece for a orchestra on request and it almost didn't get debuted. The musicians all detested it and many lobbied to reject it, but the conductor was a personal friend of Sibelius so the piece was performed despite their objections.

Anyway, as the piece began, we started hearing additional bass drum parts from off stage. Or that's what it sounded like at first. It turned out to be thunder, loud enough to shake the building, from a rainstorm outside. Then about halfway through, we were all merrily playing along and the lights in the theater went out. All of them. Not even a single emergency light came on in the hall - it was pitch black. But since we are troopers, we kept playing. I couldn't see much, but I could make out the shadow of the conductor's arm in front of us, still conducting, as if as long as his arm was waving he could somehow psychically transmit the notes we needed to play next to our brains. We played on in the dark for seven or eight bars and then one by one, instruments started to drop out as our need to read the music eclipsed our ability to guess what notes would be next. Those of us playing the boom chick boom chick part lasted the longest because we were just pretending to know what chord we were in and assuming that the key hadn't changed. Then we gave up too as we realized no one was playing the melody and our boom chicks were suddenly completely out of context. We all dragged to a stop and then there was silence as the conductor said to pretty much everyone in the theater, "Well," in the most matter of fact tone I've ever heard,
"Thirty-five years.... and THAT'S never happened to me before."

A couple of seconds later, the lights went back on to reveal a relieved orchestra and a perplexed audience. The conductor looked over his shoulder to the audience shrugged his shoulders, then turned back around, told us to go back to letter "K" and gave a downbeat. We picked back up and finished the piece, with the additional sound effects from the storm outside accompanying us.