From the Orchestra Library


The Call To The Stage

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 30, 2009

Nothing good ever comes of a conductor calling a librarian to the stage.

Really.  Nothing good at all.

Before you get all over me with the reasons why you think this tactic might be necessary – please hear me out.

There is rarely anything so important, or so simple, that it can be solved by the orchestra librarian’s mere appearance onstage during a rehearsal.  Most things that a conductor wants to change require the librarian to have physical control of the parts or score in question, and for some amount of time.  There is nothing we can actually DO at that exact moment unless the rehearsal is being stopped and time is being given to pull the parts and score to make revisions.  Believe me, if we could walk out there, wiggle our noses and magically fix something like Samantha in “Bewitched” nothing would make us happier.

The Call to the Stage is usually used to draw attention to something that is wrong or that a conductor wants changed in the  parts or score.  I’ll even go so far as to say it is often designed to draw attention, and leave it at that.  Whatever the motive, it’s probably an unconscious one on the part of the conductor, but the only thing calling a librarian to the stage accomplishes is creating the impression in front of 100 people that the librarian is at fault for something.  And they may be.  Or they may not be.  But a public airing of any issues doesn’t help anyone.  Think about it:

1)       The librarian gets called out, via the conductor’s emissary or over the stage monitor.

2)      The librarian comes to the stage, and the rehearsal is stopped.

3)      Some instruction is given to the librarian such as “We need to add the horns to the trumpet line at D” or “I want the strings to turn pages in a different spot” or “There is an error in the flute part” or, even, “the bowings in the second violins don’t match the firsts”……or 1000 other examples.

4)      The librarian says something like “Okay, I’ll take care of it at break or after rehearsal.”

5)      The librarian leaves the stage.

6)      The rehearsal resumes.

Nothing has happened now, except to waste everyone’s time and cause the orchestra to wonder why this wasn’t taken care of beforehand.  The problem or request still has to be fixed after the parts are available, and is usually done so immediately following the rehearsal, but it takes far longer to repair the damaged credibility.  That damage may be unintended, but it’s real.  Players always ask questions about such an incident and want to know what the deal was.

I guess you can tell this is one of my Big Pet Peeves.

Please understand that I am not talking about when a player is missing a part, for example.  In that instance, hopefully it’s the player themselves that comes to the library and we can solve the problem right then.  Because the library does sometimes make mistakes and from time-to-time a tuba part might end up in a timpani folder.  But sometimes the player has made the mistake and either left the part at home,  put it in a different folder, or it’s stuck between the pages of another part.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone out, looked through a folder, and found the part right there after being accused of misplacing it myself.  So, it’s best for all concerned if the player’s individual issue doesn’t become a time waster for the whole orchestra.  If it’s 10:01 in the morning, you’ve sat down to rehearse,  you haven’t figured out that your part is missing until  just that minute, and then yell out to the conductor you don’t have a part, yeah, I’m going to be a little peeved.

One clever player in the DSO this past spring texted me from onstage to let me know a part was missing for later in a pops rehearsal.  It was great!  We got the info in advance, we found the missing part, and all was well.  An excellent use of technology, I must say.  And then, of course, we went on to text about something entirely unrelated to help him pass the time while counting rests.  Low brass.

And, you know, if I happen to be playing that particular rehearsal and the conductor decides he or she wants something done – I don’t mind if the instruction is given right that minute even though I’ll need to do the work later.  That’s fine.  I’m right there, I know what the issue is from being in the rehearsal, and that makes sense.  No problem.

It’s not the same as being Called To The Stage.

I understand that all kinds of situations arise during rehearsals in which folks think there is a musical  emergency  or crisis, something that needs to be fixed right then, and that this can only be accomplished by bringing the librarian out in front of everyone to address it.  But I can’t think of a single situation in which that is truly necessary, and in which it wouldn’t be far better just to give us the instruction as soon as there is a break, and preferably privately – especially if we did screw up.  Human beings tend to want to deflect their own responsibility on to someone else if there’s a problem, and if we are called out in front of the whole orchestra it’s a perfect opportunity to insinuate the responsibility was ours, when maybe it’s something that we should have been instructed about in advance so we could do the work beforehand.  Or maybe we did make a mistake, so then it turns into a public humiliation.

Although it doesn’t happen much anymore, in the past 25 years I’ve been called to the stage for all kinds of reasons and I can only remember once when I could actually do anything to fix the situation right then.  I’ve gotten to the point where, if it’s anyone but the music director, I’ll go and stand at the edge of the stage and just wait quietly, watching the conductor while they determine whether or not they then want to stop the rehearsal.  I’ve noticed when I do this that once they see me – but backstage instead of coming onstage – they realize they can speak to me at the break and it will be fine.  Of course, if it’s the music director, I’ll walk right out to the podium and take the instruction on the spot.  I may have my pet peeves, but I’m not stupid.

Notre Dame Beheaded Saint

Notre Dame Facade Beheaded Saint Denis

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Mind-Numbing Minutiae

Posted in Organizational Effectiveness,Preparing Parts by kschnack on July 26, 2009

As a violinist and someone who has been sorting orchestral music as far back as I can remember, I learned a long time ago to depend upon the numbering system that is generally used when marking parts.  I have come to understand, though, that many players don’t even see those little numbers in the top corner of the part or, if they do, don’t realize what they mean.  And why would they?  It’s not a big deal — certainly not part of the players’ job description.

So, here’s what it’s all about.  Depending on the instrument you play, your part will have a number on the front from 1-9, for example, (strings) or 1-25 or 30 or more (winds, brass, percussion and auxiliary instruments).  That number coincides with your folder – so, if you are 4th stand Viola, all of your parts and folders will be numbered as such.  This is obviously so the librarians can keep track of everything and know when something goes missing.  (That is, of course, unless someone moves the #4 part and puts it in, say, the 6th folder.  This makes librarians feel a little out of whack and just ever so cranky.  But more on cranky librarians later since that subject is enough for at least one whole blog post by itself….)

This numbering system is also the basis upon which we organize the performance materials, both in advance of the rehearsals, during the set-up on stage, and when putting everything away or sending the set back to the publisher.  It’s derived pretty literally from score order – the order of the instruments in the conductor’s score.  When I teach interns, part-time helpers and new librarians how to do the work, I start with Score Order.  Almost everything we do with the music is related to score order in some way:  buying or renting parts (and getting the instrumentation right), checking in sets, preparing, cataloguing, repertoire instrumentation database entry, and physical storage.

Then there’s the actual work on the music itself which requires librarians to be able to read and understand scores and the order of the instruments (in all languages). Like transposing a part to double another, orchestrating a new start or ending in the middle of a work, devising a workable cut, researching whether or not an auxiliary instrument’s part is covered by other instruments, correcting errata, and so on.

As for the numbering, and there being exceptions to every rule, my particular bias is to not number Piccolo 1st (not that I don’t recognize it as the highest, and, of course, a very important instrument!), but instead always give that honor to Flute 1.  This has to do with the way the orchestra sets up on stage, with Piccolo seated to the right of the flutes – and so is more logical and efficient in my view when putting parts in folders (not to mention setting them on stands).  After an embarrassingly-high number of years keeping track of orchestral parts, and having to always shift the wind folders to get them in numerical order if Piccolo is marked #1, I have come up with a few short cuts that I rely on to be logical time savers.  This is one of them.  Seems über miniscule, I know, but you do something teeny about 400,000 times in your life and it becomes less teeny.  And even though it’s teeny, if it’s inefficient, it becomes a complete nuisance.  So I’ve changed the numbering systems for all the older sets at the DSO as I’ve run across them, to put Piccolo behind Flutes.  You must be either rolling your eyes or completely glazed over at this point to think it matters. (And I’m sure many of my library colleagues don’t have an issue with this so are probably rolling their eyes as well, or are aghast that I would change True Score Order.)

A few other details you may find either fascinating or useless:  we put Harp right after Percussion since it’s considered a member of that family, then Piano followed by any other keyboard (Organ, Harpsichord, Synth).  Saxes go after Clarinets (just like in the score).  Librarians do Rhythm sections in different ways; of course, some orchestras “don’t do pops” so wouldn’t have to worry about that much, but since most of us Do Pops in a big way, we have to have a system that works for us.  I personally keep the Guitar and Fender Bass at the end after Percussion and keep the Drumset with Percussion, but, one of our regular bass players doubles on electric so physically the part just goes in his folder in the bass section.  There are always these decisions to be made, and whatever works for different libraries and their players is what’s best.

One of the by-products of all this score order business is the inevitable order in which we put the folders onstage.  By now, the DSO cellists, bassists, and low brass are used to their folders being put out after their compatriots who play the higher instruments; we don’t mean to discriminate against those who live in the lower ledger lines, but it becomes sort of a habit.  I do scan the stage when I first come out and see who is warming up, and start with that section when it’s a difficult program or when folks seem to need their music more urgently than usual.  And, of course, when picking up the folders at the end, it saves a huge amount of time to do that in score order as well – no collating heavy folders after the fact.  I’m sure many a stage hand who is trying to get stands and chairs off quickly after a concert has wondered what the heck we are doing when we methodically walk to the middle of the woodwind row and pick up 3 folders to the right, then go back to the center and pick up 3 to the left, and likewise back through the section.  Maybe the audience wonders too.  Well, what can I say?  They probably just think we are absent-minded librarians, when there is indeed a method to our madness.  Quirks of the trade!

Out With the Old, In With the New

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 22, 2009

Even though it’s Summertime, and the livin’ is s’posed to be easy……..well, the library machine never really stops.  We do, mercifully, get to take the bulk of our vacation time while the players are off, and that way individually each get a break.  But we pass the information, projects and deadlines back and forth between us like a baton (not the conducting kind, the relay kind) so that we won’t drop anything as we come and go in July and August.

By the time the orchestra left on tour at the end of June, the library had already gotten started on the repertoire for next season.  In the middle of prep for all those June/July programs, we couldn’t afford to let up on the big picture for 09-10.  As a matter of fact, we started gathering information for the new season already last November when budgeting began, so that programming could be finalized.  Many orchestras these days are definitely in a phase of “programming by budget” as opposed to “budgeting by program,” and the DSO is not immune to similar economic pressures.  So, as repertoire is tentatively planned, we get rental fee quotes and purchase prices, and, as programming is adjusted, we update those projected fees.

This process goes up through January or so, but by then most of the classics repertoire is set for the next season, as are the basic outlines for our three youth programs.  Pops and secondary concerts are another matter entirely – we don’t get the programs for them until much later.  As anyone who has ever done a budget knows, it’s pretty hard to gauge what will be spent when one doesn’t know which “product” will be offered.  But we rely on what the various series have cost in past years and our experience with the different conductors to come up with a fairly reliable budget.

Once that is done, sometime in the spring, we start to order the music that is available for purchase, including extra string parts and full scores we may need for existing sets.  This music begins to arrive by mid-May, and gives us a jump on organizing and planning music preparation before we place rental orders in early June.

As decisions are made about which editions and sets of standard rep we will be using, we organize it all in a project shelf by program, for easy accessibility in preparation.  It’s a great way to help us stay on track all season.

09-10 Classics Concert rep by program

09-10 Classics Concert rep by program

Doesn’t that look organized?

Of course, if you pull back on the photo and show the surrounding area, you get a little bit less-tidy image.  My excuse is that the library is small, there isn’t enough room to store everything, and when a pops trunk the size of a coffin arrives (I think that was the shipping container for the “Final Fantasy” show, yes, we do such things) you put it where you can.

Concert rep shelf in reality

Concert rep shelf in reality

Anyway, that gives you an idea of what goes on in the library “between seasons.”

There is one other thing that occasionally goes on – celebrating the end of another challenging year and our success in getting “the right music in the right place at the right time.”  Our friends and colleagues in another orchestra library sent us a little gift because we loaned them one of our tunes from a Christmas program.  You might be able to find that gift in this next photo, as it did sit on the counter for a while.   If you were to come to the library now, though, it would no longer be there.  We used it for said celebration (after work hours of course!) and greatly appreciated the thoughtful gesture.  It was a perfect way to mark a moment moving from one season to the next.

DSO Library work counter

DSO Library work counter

After the Concerts

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 21, 2009

Have you ever wondered what happens to the music after it mysteriously disappears from your folders?  Maybe you haven’t.  But, I’m going to tell you anyway.  Aren’t you excited?!

I’m sure everyone realizes that after concerts the parts get pulled from the folders and put away or returned to the publisher if they are rented.  This, of course, involves a series of steps, as well as taking care of numerous other details so that the program or concert series is completely and properly closed out, both physically and from the business end of things.  Sometimes it’s pretty tempting to not do this right away – sort of like leaving the dinner dishes on the table, the food out, the dirty cooking pots and pans on the kitchen counters, and going to do a jigsaw puzzle while drinking heavily instead.  But if you don’t clean it all up immediately after the event, things can get to be a real problem fast.  Especially if it’s Thanksgiving dinner with lots of courses……..or a big tour with lots of programs.

So, normally, we attend to this task the first day back at work after the program is over.  If the concert is done on Saturday or Sunday, we’ll pull the music on Monday.  Because if we wait too many days, we’ve lapped ourselves with another weekend, another program (or two or three) and before you know it, the library stacks become, literally, stacks and then you wouldn’t be able to see us behind them (hmmm, there’s an idea).

In the case of a tour or residency like the one we just finished, everything simply can’t be finalized until both the music and librarians are back at home.  There’s just too much to deal with and no time or space for the regular follow-up while on the road.  I did what I could in Vail to pull pieces from the classics folder as we finished them, count and re-order the parts, put them and their scores in a large expandable envelope and label the set, so whoever would be handling that piece later would have a much easier job.  That’s about as far as I could go, though; in order to “unstuff” the huge pops folders I would have needed lots of counter space and zero wind – both of which are unattainable backstage in Vail.  Taking apart a program of that size involves all kinds of variables, and it also takes a lot of time.  It has to be done in a controlled environment with attention to make sure everything is accounted for.

We appreciated the publishers (and artists) who allowed us to work out an agreement for “late return” without additional fees for the works we rented.  For the patriotic program, that’s not such a huge deal for them now that Memorial Day and July 4th are over for 2009.  But for works that are rented by many orchestras throughout the year (such as Mahler 5), the sets are essentially revenue streams and are expected to be returned right away.  Anything returned more than two weeks after the concert can invite serious charges, and that goes for missing parts too.  Some publishers want the bulk of the set returned ASAP and straggling parts later while others want everything to come back at once.  Some are lenient, some are not.  A missing or late part can cost the orchestra $25-50 from a rental house, which is why we chase you down when something isn’t left in the folder at the end of the concert.

When the players are done with a program for the last time, no further attention need be paid until that repertoire rolls around again.  Librarians, on the other hand, can be still trying to finish the program weeks, even months later.  There’s the counting of parts and tracking down anything missing.  We must take out any cuts or inserts added for just that conductor or performance (we leave the bowings, even for rental works, as it helps everybody later).  We often have to update the performance history or works record in the database – for ex., if the orchestra divides or doubles parts a certain way that needs to be noted for next time.  The parts then go back on the shelf or are shipped to the publisher (packed with 3 copies of the program, sealed, labeled, weighed, shipment called in or set up online to UPS or FedEx, package taken to the room where it can be picked up, copy of the shipping record kept in case of questions later about when or if it was returned, and any correspondence completed with the publisher reps or artists about the materials.)

Finally, there’s the billing for rental works.  The librarians receive the invoices since we are the ones to order the music and sign the rental contracts.  Whatever our organization requires in terms of a payment process we must follow—at the DSO we code the invoices to the proper concert series (making sure the charges are accurate), and track the expenses in the overall budget so we know to alert Operations and Finance if things look like they are going to go over.  These days, those departments want and need to know the total expenses for every concert series just as soon as it happens, so we have to be vigilant about reporting what we will spend even if it might be several weeks after the fact.  Sometimes we don’t get the actual invoice from a publisher for 6 months or more, and the people handling the money can’t afford to be surprised by a $500 bill, much less a $5,000 one.

Well, that’s pretty much it.  As I always say, it might not be rocket science, but it has to be right.  Oh, and remember, just as you are constantly preparing for new programs, so are we.  That means the process above is repeated ad infinitum throughout the season.  There is always something being shipped out or put away.

D.C. al fine.  With feeling.

Stuffing 15-piece July 4 program in orchestra lounge

The Traveling Band

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 15, 2009

I didn’t have a chance to take photos when the crew was loading up the instruments, music and equipment trunks after our final concert in Vail, because I was in the thick of the activity myself picking up the last batch of folders.  The Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival has the Fastest Stage Crew in the West — they sort of descend on the stage and “git ‘er done” in minutes.  There is no time to dither, and a librarian has to really hustle with the music so the guys can clear the stage.  (Plus there was champagne waiting!)

And since it was the end of our residency, the truck was loaded immediately by our own amazing DSO crew as the stage was struck, who, by this time in the season, have put up with more back-breaking work than most of us can even imagine.  Just think of all the stage moves during concerts for starters (the most noticed by the rest of us), the set-up and tear-downs, load-in and load-outs, plus erecting outdoor shells, trusses, lighting, screens for visuals, and all that goes with concert production night and day through a whole season.  Not to mention all the personal favors performed for players and librarians with switching out specific chairs, quickly adding auxillary instrument stands and chairs sometimes without much warning, and last-minute requests from personnel managers and conductors.  They work SO hard.

Anyway, I know you’ve all seen your own crews load up for tours and run-outs (and there are some great photos on Yvonne Caruthers’ excellent post cards from the NSO’s tour to China of their trunks and equipment), but whenever we do this I am always astonished at the amount of work and equipment it takes to send a 100+ piece orchestra and support staff anywhere.  So I’ve been wanting to pay a little tribute to our guys, Stage Manager Carl Wong, Stage Technician Marc Dunkelberg, and Stagehand Brad Breitbarth.  Here are some pictures of our load-out the day before we left Dallas at the end of June.  It was during our last concert in the Meyerson for the season that I got a moment to snap the shots, and by now the guys have done all of this in reverse upon their return — all while it is 105 degrees in the shade!

My hat is off to these good guys.  A big thanks to them for taking such good care of the librarians all year, every year.

DSO Getting Ready to Travel

DSO Getting Ready to Travel

Tour Trunks Awaiting Instruments

Tour Trunks Awaiting Instruments

Timpani and Wardrobe Trunks

Timpani and Wardrobe Trunks

Violin and Viola Trunks

Violin and Viola Trunks

Bass Trunks Cello Trunks

Tour Trunks Ready to Load

Tour Trunks Ready to Load

DSO Principal Harpist Susan Dederich-Pejovich

DSO Principal Harpist Susan Dederich-Pejovich

Music Trunks

Music Trunks

And, last but not least, the travelling orchestra library.

Is Mahler 5 the Same as Mahler 5?

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 12, 2009

A few words about Mahler symphonies from the library perspective:  not everything is always as it seems.

Although probably most librarians realize this (so please forgive the tutorial), it may bear repeating for those just getting started professionally (not only librarians, but also players, conductors and administrators).  Mahler made lots of changes in the symphonies during his lifetime, and editors have added their opinions, so one must proceed with caution when acquiring the parts.  If your conductor or artistic administrator says you are doing Mahler Symphony No. 5, for example, your first question needs to be “Which version?” If your conductor says “the critical edition” then you need to get a rental quote from C.F. Peters and tell your administrator.  If your administrator then says “but I looked in the Kalmus catalogue and you can buy it for much less” then your response is “only the original version is available for purchase and the conductor wants to do the critical edition which is still under copyright and a rental.”  Your administrator may then reply “Aren’t they basically the same thing, and can’t we just buy the Kalmus and make the changes? We have to save money.”

Your answer at this point must include the following:  “NO. They are very different, that would be considered a copyright violation, and if you want to save the money and buy the older version, then the conductor will have to use the same score and that is not what he/she wants to do. ”

For the record, I don’t know of a conductor who would ever agree to do the original version of this particular work.  The critical edition incorporates Mahler’s own changes made fairly soon after the original edition was first published.  These were his wishes. It is one situation in which the money needs to be spent if an orchestra is going to enter the arena of performing such a major work and represent the composer’s artistic intent accurately.  Kind of the cost of doing business.  My vote (and most conductors’ votes) would be that if you aren’t going to do the correct version, don’t do the piece.  Of course, librarians don’t get a vote, so I digress.

To complicate matters there are now three critical edition scores done by different editors and published by Peters: the 1964 edited by Ratz, 1988 by Füssl, and 2002 by Kubik.  So you have to find out which of the critical edition scores the conductor is using on top of it.  (If you aren’t sure, fax or scan score pages or send full scores around to compare, but always know exactly what the conductor is using.  ALWAYS.) There are enough editorial differences that the conductor will be expecting to hear what is in front of him/her and some of the changes are definitely noticeable.  Many conductors want to perform the latest edition of any work, but some do not. People can get very heated about what they believe to be the correct editorial decisions and why — I know, as geeky as it sounds, it’s true. (One of our MOLA conferences in recent years brought in leading editors for a panel discussion and you would have thought we were trying to solve global warming.)

Finally (well, in this kind of situation, one should never use the word “finally”), no matter what you do, the sets of parts will have errors that need to be corrected.  I’ll talk more about MOLA errata lists later on, but suffice it to say, get the list that goes with the edition you are doing and make the corrections.  That is not a copyright violation, it is just correcting errors the publisher missed.  Yep, it takes a bunch of time, and is a pain, but don’t be tempted to not do it.  That decision will come back to bite you later on. (Some librarians love to do this kind of work, and for me it depends on the piece.  If I have enough time, I think it’s kind of fun, and it’s certainly a musical learning experience.  I suppose this admission firmly establishes my nerd bona fides once and for all, as if they weren’t already clear.)

Just for some comfort and relief, not all Mahler symphonies are this complicated.  It’s pretty well-known in the library world which ones you can buy and which ones you really have to rent — some of the so-called “critical editions” of a few of them are not that much different than the original versions, and just get into the area of of different editions rather than different versions.  If the original version was the last one published in Mahler’s lifetime, then you can feel safe buying and correcting it.  Of course, then we are back to those editorial decisions and discussions, but that subject can barely be covered in a thesis, much less a blog entry.

So, on a summer Sunday, I just wanted to give you an idea of what went into preparing Mahler Symphony No. 5 for our performances this past season, including out here in Vail (I haven’t gone home yet, lucky girl that I am!).  And that is quite enough scholarly thinking for today.  It is making my vacation brain hurt.

Three Cheers for the Orchestra!

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 11, 2009

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s part of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival is now over, and Philly came in Thursday for their first concert last night.  In another week, the NYPhil will make their way west as well.  As the DSO checked out of hotels and condos, we saw our colleagues arriving.  It was fun to chat with each other as one group’s residency ends and the next begins.  I know they will each give great performances and I wish them much success.

The final performance of the DSO was the Haydn C Major Cello Concerto with Gary Hoffman and Mahler Symphony No. 5.  I really have to congratulate the orchestra – they just sounded incredible.  The Gerald R. Ford Ampitheater is a stunning venue but not easy for sound production because it’s basically a covered outdoor stage.  The audience sitting under the roof hears the acoustic sound, and the people further back on the open lawn hear a mix of acoustic and light amplification.  So, because the sound escapes all over the beautiful mountain outdoors, it’s difficult to project the same power as in our almost-acoustically perfect concert hall back home.  But the orchestra adjusted as the pros they are and amped it up so that the subtleties and contrasts came to life.  It was a truly moving performance.

I have had the privilege of playing many times with this orchestra, both at home and abroad.  They continue to amaze, inspire and surprise me with their craftsmanship, talent, experience…….and, endurance.  This slog of some 25 different programs in about 8 weeks, covering (yes, I’m saying it again) 150 different pieces of music, is mind-numbing.  As one player recently pointed out, a single conductor couldn’t possibly do all of these programs at this pace; it’s the orchestra and the behind-the-scenes staff that hang in there through all of it, while a parade of about 8 difference conductors come in and out for various concerts.  Even so, at the end of an already-challenging season topped with such an ambitious summer season and this festival, the orchestra produced a magnificent Mahler 5.

Up here –the stage is at about 8,150 above sea level— the work is harder for everyone than back at home.  Dallas is at 463 feet above sea level.  That should give you some idea of the breathing situation.  Even people in very good physical shape are affected.  When you first arrive, going up and down stairs to unpack your car, for example, you wonder how you will do this.  Some adjust more quickly than others and those that are able to get out and up even higher early on seem to acclimate the fastest.  But, there is no way around it.  Trying to play, move equipment, put out heavy folders, or do anything in a hurry especially the first couple of days is pretty weird.  Just about the time the orchestra starts to get used to the altitude, they head back home to the heat and pavement of lower North Texas.

In addition to the altitude, we had a number of people in and out of the emergency room with various maladies – troopers all of them, they came right back to work and pushed through whatever they were dealing with.  You wouldn’t know anybody had had problems by listening to them play.

So, I give three big cheers for the orchestra.  Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! HIP HIP HOORAY! I am so proud to work with you and I hope you all have a great vacation.

The Music Trunks Are Not Bottomless: Mvt. II

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 9, 2009

Darren McHenry, our Bass Trombonist, is very funny. (Just for the record, he gave me permission to write on the blog about this.)

First, he asked me tonight what the rehearsal order was for next week.

Uh, the orchestra is off next week until the end of August.  He kind of had me there for a second, and then of course we all had a good laugh.  Wise guy.

Then, after our final concert tonight (which was spectacular and which I will write more about later), he asked if he could get his folder for the fall.  He was pulling my leg of course, to raise a typical librarian reaction, and then ran off laughing.  I told him I was so glad he had brought that up because I was going to write about it.  I’d had a few similar requests from folks who weren’t joking.

So, I say this with amusement, affection, and absolute awareness that you guys want and need your parts as soon as possible so you can prepare for the opening of next season.  I totally get it and completely understand.

No, I don’t have your parts for the fall on July 8th up here at 8,000 feet above sea level in my three little trunks stuffed with 75 pieces of music plus back-up scores and parts, supplies, first aid kit, wind weights for the conductors’ scores, extra paper and concert order sheets, cough drops, programs from the festival for our records, synth discs for bell and cannon sounds, an extra baton, and – “Nimrod.”

Nope, don’t have them.  I’m sorry.

You’ll have to come to the hall when we are back in Dallas to check out music for the beginning of the classical season which starts around mid-September or for the pops openers that start at the end of August.  Probably it won’t all be ready until at least the second week in August.  I know you are going on vacation, but it’s truly the best we can do given when programs are finalized, rental music arrives, and our own vacation schedule.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

And, as my friend Amy Wagliardo, DSO Director of Operations says…………….

Amen.

🙂

704

Wow!

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 8, 2009

It feels great for one’s hard work to be acknowledged, doesn’t it?  The orchestra players get a pretty good indication each night if the audience liked their performance, and the conductor’s feedback is even more immediate throughout rehearsals and concerts due to the intimate nature of that artistic relationship.  Conductors, too, get constant feedback about their performances, often through arts reviews, and from how well the players connect with him/her and work towards bringing the interpretation to life. If the music is going well, everyone on stage knows it and can share in the success of that.  Co-workers, family, friends and others who hear the orchestra of course let the individual players and conductors know how wonderful they sound on a regular basis.

This is as it should be; the players and conductors are the ones making the music.  They are the reason all the rest of us have jobs.  They absolutely deserve to be applauded and recognized for their artistry, and the uplifting and beautiful performances they give night after night.

Most of the time librarians are only sure of their success when nothing goes awry with the parts during a rehearsal, and no one says anything.  We are always made aware if something is wrong (part missing or illegible, bad page turn, errors in a particular piece), but we almost never hear anything at all if the orchestra rehearses a piece we have worked hard to prepare perfectly, and then sails right through it on the first reading with no library problems.  We know ourselves that we did a good job as we listen on the stage monitor, and give a round of “woohoos” or something in the library.  (This is especially exciting to us if there have been complicated cuts, starts, and stops that we’ve marked or special excerpts we have created for family concerts – aren’t we nerdy?!)

That’s usually enough for us.  But when we literally go “above and beyond” on a consistent basis to produce very high-quality parts, meet relentless deadlines, manage the challenges of constant repertoire changes and last-minute requests, and provide excellent musical service to the players, conductors and administrators, sometimes we just need a little pat on the back.

At the end of our marathon Broadway concert the other night, our pops conductor Richard Kaufman began thanking various people – and then specifically mentioned the library.  He said something about there being 42 tons of music on the stage and what a great job we had done in putting it all together.  When I heard from the players later that he had done this, I was completely thrilled.  To know that he took the time during the performance to thank us in front of the audience was huge, because it meant he had thought about and recognized the sheer volume of details we had handled.  Wow! That was very thoughtful and made my whole week.

It’s not the first time he has done this, and I’m almost embarrassed to say he did it again after his second concert with us up here.  By then the “42 tons of music” had become “about 92,000 tons” (which it certainly feels like) and he was very gracious in acknowledging us.  He has had some experience himself putting parts together, marking them with bowings and cuts, and he helps a great deal when we are acquiring the pieces byletting us know the sources of some lesser-known things.  On that score he “gets” that this all take a tremendous amount of organization and time.

Our guest conductor, Bruce Hangen, also was very complimentary in his thanks for our work.  He was respectful in his requests, gave us not only the instructions to what he wanted but why, was always quick to get back to us with answers to our questions, and was just generally easy-going to work with.  A real pro.

The icing on the cake was when our music director, Jaap van Zweden, celebrating his first year with the orchestra by throwing a fantastic party, specifically called up those of us on the tour from operations, stage crew, and library to thank in front of the whole orchestra, administration, and the festival directors.  It was a complete surprise and so generous.  I was, as they say in the UK, gobsmacked.  Wow!

So I’m going to take a risk and give a respectful reminder to all the conductors out there (knowing full well that I will be working for or with some of you in the future) and say this:  please take a cue from your colleagues at the Dallas Symphony and remember to thank your librarians.  I am lucky to work with conductors that appreciate what we do, and it certainly gives me a new bounce in my step to hear it from them.  You know, our goal is the same as yours – to create the best performance possible.  We want to do our job at the highest standard so you can perform at your peak.  Beyond the professional commitment, though, we often work very hard for you personally.  We get to know you, what you like and don’t, what you expect, what your musical style is, and we try to anticipate what you personally will need from us artistically.   When you notice that and sincerely thank us, it makes us want to work that much harder for you in the future.  A win-win for everyone.

Standard Repertoire is Not Always Peril-Free

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 6, 2009

So, we’ve been up in Vail since Tuesday afternoon last week, and have a run of 4 programs here in the middle of the residency.  Its a bit of a whirlwind after all the prep leading up to it.  I haven’t had a chance to write much about the actual music because of all the logistical aspects, but since the hardest part of that is over for the library I can enlighten (or, hopefully, at least slightly entertain) you with the what is happening artistically and our part in making the music.

Our first concert with Music Director Jaap van Zweden was Tchaikovsky Capriccio Italien, Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27, and Brahms Symphony No. 4. Perhaps this seems on first reading like a program that would have very few library issues — it’s all pretty standard repertoire, right?

Not so fast.  Standard repertoire, yes, but some definite challenges that might come as a surprise to conductors and even librarians.  Take the Capriccio Italien, for example.  The work is well-known and often-played.  But it’s one of the pieces in the repertoire that has lots of errors in the parts.  There’s a MOLA errata list of some 18 pages, each with about 25 separate items to be checked and fixed prior to rehearsal and performance just for starters.  In our case, we were the beneficiaries a while back of corrections done by our colleague in the Fort Worth Symphony, Doug Adams (not to be confused with the President and CEO of the Dallas Symphony, also Doug Adams!).  Doug, the former, is a fine librarian and prepares beautiful parts – and generously shares his work fixing errata with other librarians.  Since this project was done a few years ago on our main set of parts, other than having the principal strings check their bowings and the library matching everything up, we didn’t have to do much for that piece, plus we already played it at the end of the classical season.  A major time savings for which we were very grateful.  But conductors and librarians take note:  this particular correction job takes a lot of time, so plan accordingly if you are getting a new set of parts and scores.

The Brahms Symphony was another set also previously marked of course, so we checked through the bowings and were able to move through that one pretty quickly as well.  With the major works, changing to a new music director entails a thorough assessment of which sets of parts will have to be replaced or if they can still be used going forward as the MD’s set.  This set had not been used very often, was not heavily marked with conductor specifics from the previous music director, so we felt comfortable making the transition with the same parts.

That leaves the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27.  Shouldn’t be a problem, one would think.  But with the Bärenreiter edition comes a new wrinkle to beware of – and one that can cause a big problem in rehearsals if not addressed in advance.  At about bar 46 in the first movement there are 7 additional bars not in the earlier traditional editions.  What does this mean in reality?  Well, if the orchestra is using the newer edition, and the soloist or conductor is working from the earlier edition (or vice versa), things are going to come apart.  There will be confusion, and getting everyone back on track will be difficult because measure numbers will be different.  Not good.  You don’t want to be the librarian at that moment – you’d really rather be a worm under a rock someplace.

So the librarian has to know about this issue, and address it with both the conductor and soloist before the rehearsal.  If they are using a different edition than the orchestra’s parts, the bars have to be either put in or taken out.  We have the Bärenreiter set, and the soloist used that as well.  Mr. van Zweden, was prepared either way – his older score has a notation about the 7 “missing” bars, and, since he knows the piece so well, he just conducts through them and then returns to his score afterwards (he also has the Bärenreiter measure numbers so is prepared for every contingency).  When offered, he politely declined to have the bars added to his score – he was fine without them (music to a librarian’s ears!).

It’s not always that easy.  And how is one supposed to know about these differences between editions so as to avoid rehearsal meltdowns?  How can a librarian possibly keep up with so many repertoire anomalies throughout their career?  Like the measures added back into the newer engraved Bernstein’s Dances from West Side Story (and the old score won’t work with the newer one from that point unless it’s altered), or the added movement at the end of the new Kalmus edition of the Suite from Swan Lake, to name just two examples. We all know that some Mahler and Bruckner symphonies or the suites from Stavinsky ballets, for example, have published versions that are quite different from each other, so it is a matter of getting the one the conductor wants to use.  But it’s these smaller, less obvious differences between editions or publications that can create pesky and unwelcome surprises if one is not aware of them.

This is the kind of knowledge one accumulates from experience, or maybe from a conversation with another librarian, or a MOLA conference session that might touch on such things.   David Daniels, the author of “Orchestral Music,” has tried to identify such details in his book to help librarians and others be prepared.  He was the first to produce a comprehensive resource on orchestral music, complete with instrumentation, duration, movements, composition dates, and other pertinent data.  Unfortunately, as with all published material, there is even errata in his book, and he is diligent about providing a list of things to be corrected, as well as good-naturedly receiving corrections from us librarians.

Once such error affects the entry about Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27.  The 4th edition of his book identifies the problem with the additional 7 bars as occurring in Concerto No. 9.  But it should be noted instead for Concerto No. 27.  Librarians, artistic administrators, and conductors (if you have this resource) – annotate your volume with the correction, make a note in your repertoire database, or mark it in your full score(s) so you are ready for it next time!

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