On The Lighter Side
Last fall, our Happy Birthday Variation diversion at the recital was so successful that my EAC students and I are planning to add a little comedy to our spring recital. We got started talking about funny musical things that had happened to us and had a great deal of fun laughing together. I thought, why not share some humorous things that had happened to me over the years? I have referenced a few of these stories before, but decided that those readers who have come upon Piano Addict recently should get to read them too. Enjoy!
Before a performance of the Poulenc Flute Sonata, my flautist partner told me three times that she wanted to tune between the second and third movements. She told me again just as we went onstage. The last movement starts with a bang and doesn’t look back. I made sure I was ready to give her an A and was sitting there with egg on my face when she started the movement. She had meant that she was going to make a minor adjustment and I shouldn’t start too soon. Go figure…
In an unrelated flute incident, I was once playing a piano solo for a luncheon. I had given my bio to the MC for the event and he really made the most of it. He was extremely gracious and went on for some minutes about me and the piano. I was becoming a bit embarrassed when he finally announced, “and now it is my pleasure to introduce our wonderful flautist, Gail Fischler. I went out to great applause and played my solo- on the piano.
I have never forgotten the evening when the Baptist minister called during dinner and after I told him politely that we had our own religious preferences thank you and hung up, called back and said in a deep ministerial voice complete with heavy southern accent and added syllables, “I’m sorry, I think you misunderstood the intent of my call.” Of course, he had wanted to discuss lessons for his children.
An 8 year old student walked in to my studio and plopped down on the piano bench. “How did your practicing go this week?” I asked. “Well,” she said in her quivery little voice, “My brother and I had a fight.” Before I could ask how this had impacted her piano practice, she went on, “He said there was no such thing as F Major!”
Walking into the studio one day, I overheard a conversation between two high school girls. One had studied with me for some time and the other was a friend who had just joined the studio. The friend expressed concerns because her former teacher would yell at her for not practicing enough. “Oh no,” replied the first student. “Dr. Gail never yells. She just makes you feel really, really, really guilty!”
A number of years ago during studio class, I asked each student how long they practiced each day. I told them that I still studied and told them how long I worked at the piano each day as well. One middle school boy was dumfounded that I still practiced and took lessons. “Who is your teacher?”, he demanded. When I told him he thought a minute and then replied wonderingly, “Is he better than you???”
Every year our college choir did at least one performance with a Bay Area Symphony Orchestra. Conductor George Cleve was the conductor during two memorable rehearsals for the Mozart Requiem. During the first, Maestro Cleve was very upset with the Dies Irae. After 5 minutes his shirt tails were untucked, his thick curly hair was standing straight up, he was purple and red in the face, and his eyes were bulging. He screamed and stamped his feet. “NO! NO! NO! This is the Dies Irae- the wrath of God. Don’t you people know what the wrath of God is???” Unfortunately a few snickers erupted because, oh yes, we knew. We were looking at it. At the second rehearsal, the Maestro was unhappy with our lyrical singing. We were not tender enough, we were too stodgy, too energetic, too frumpy, too aloof. “Don’t you understand? Tender-tender-tender!” he finally hollered, jumping up and down. “I want tender! Give me some tenderness! We’re talking about Christ here G@& D#%%@#!”
One year, I taught a girl and boy, both 10 years old, whose parents were friends. Tim harassed Jennifer so horribly during our recital rehearsal that she almost had a meltdown. After reprimanding Tim, I told her that if she could play her piece without giving in to Tim she would be great the next night. At the recital someone (we will not name names but could I really have been this stupid?) had balloons strung all over the room with long ribbons hanging down. Right in the middle of Jennifer’s piece one popped right behind her. She jumped about 6 inches off the bench, landed and continued her piece with aplomb.
One young man came in for his lesson extremely excited. “We learned about a cool music thing in class today”, he said. When I asked what it was he responded proudly, “the Star Trek chord.” I hadn’t a clue what he was talking about but tried not to show it. “What did you learn about it?”, I asked. “Well, it’s when a piece is in minor and then the last chord is major.” Light dawned—a Picardy Third! And who knew it was named after one of the illustrious Captains of the Starship Enterprise???
A number of years ago, I was performing a selection of pieces from Messiaen’s Regard’s of the Infant Jesus. It was near the very quiet ending of the First Communion of the Virgin, that the knocking began. It was followed by fierce whispering. To me it went on forever and the glorious ending of the piece was ruined. “Is this the place?”, a voice said. Cue a furious whispered discussion after which the voice came again. “I don’t think this is the place.” I wanted to do a George Cleve and holler, “NO, NO, NO, This Is NOT the place and we are talking about Christ here!!!” Let’s just say that when I began the final piece, there was indeed a royal cacophony–my goose-stepping Magi were larger than life.
Our College Choir was giving an acapella performance in the church of one of the California Missions. The acoustics were amazing. You could literally hear a pin drop and then echo. The audience was seated on folding chairs. As we came out there was one man seated in the front row-dead center. He was very, very large. So large that he was sitting on two chairs. He was also definitely not dressed for the occasion. We began our program and forgot about the audience until we sang a glorious forte followed by a sharp caesura. Into the silence there came a noise. The word belch does not even begin to describe the sound that erupted from that man in the front row. He may not have dressed for the occasion but his timing was impeccable.