A possible reason why I never became a conductor

I was recently cleaning out my internet bookmarks, getting rid of links that were either dead, or that I hadn’t visited for a long time. One link went to a blog that I kind of liked, but it hadn’t been updated in six weeks or so, and I was tired of checking on it, so out it went.

Then it occured to me that I hadn’t updated my own blog in at least that long. By now, I’m probably losing thousands of readers a day! So I’m blogging again today. I actually have a number of things I could write about, so I’m planning to post several updates in the next few days.

But to get things started, I’m going to relate an amusing story I heard a couple of days ago. I’m playing with the Danville Symphony this week; among other things, we’re playing Saint-Saens’s Bacchanale, and during a break, the conductor told a funny story about the piece (which he swears is true!). This is my paraphrase of it since I don’t remember his exact words.

At a summer conducting institute, young student conductors gathered from all over the world to study their craft under the watchful eye of a famous European maestro, now well along in years.

At one session, a hapless young man struggled to lead the orchestra through Saint-Saens’s Bacchanale, a very spirited work, rising to an increasingly frenzied and delirious climax near the end. Unfortunately, the young man was not equal to the task, and the ending of the piece sounded flat and lifeless.

As the music ended, the maestro regarded the young student gravely for a time before he finally spoke.

“Young man, do you know what a Bacchanale is?”

“No, maestro.”

“It is an orgy.”

“…oh.”

“Do you understand now what the ending is supposed to sound like?”

“Yes, maestro, I think I do.”

“Very good. Let us hear the ending again, if you please.”

The young student turned back to the orchestra and gamely tried to lead them through the ending again, but to no avail; the piece sounded no better than it did before.

The aged maestro shook his head and said, “Well, young man, all I can say is, I hope I am never in an orgy with you.”

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