From the Orchestra Library

How Do You Spell Relief?

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on July 3, 2009

DSO Library Music TrunksT-H-E-T-R-U-N-K-S-A-R-E-L-O-A-D-E-D!

Even though I’ve gone through this many times, the sense of relief at reaching the end of months of preparation and organization to go on tour is huge.  (Of course, the relief is even greater because it’s the end of the season too.  Whew!)  All the planning, ordering, marking of parts, putting together folders, working with the conductors and players about the music, corresponding with the artists and administration on the production details, and finally packing everything in the trunks is like one long marathon.  No matter how early we start—and we always start early— the work goes right up to the deadline.  This is a true team collaboration and everyone working in the library contributes mightily.

The deadline in this situation is the stage crew loading the instrument, wardrobe, music and equipment trunks onto the truck for its scheduled departure.  There is no leeway.  The librarian has to be ready.

Sunday afternoon was our final program in Dallas for the season, using the last set of folders to be packed.  I had previously loaded as much as I could of everything else, including back-up scores and parts, supplies, the other folders, etc.  But the final folder this time is really the size of two; each book feels like it weighs 5 pounds!  We had put all of the repertoire for the music director’s three programs plus encores into one folder because the rehearsals could include any work at any moment.  Once we do each program, I will take that repertoire out of the folder and lighten it up a bit.  The fewer pieces there are in the book, the fewer trips it takes to set the stage. Also, taking out the pieces as they are performed and getting them back into score order, counted and accounted for, makes it easier on my colleagues back home when the trunks return to Dallas.

So I quickly took out two pieces from the afternoon’s concert that wouldn’t be needed on tour, and surveyed the trunks’ contents one last time.  Everything was in its place, clearly labeled, one trunk for each conductor, two programs per trunk plus emergency materials, and no room for anything else.

You probably think that I am completely obsessed with these travel trunks and the organizing thereof – and you would be right.  As my colleagues in the orchestras of Colorado, Rochester, Detroit, Philadelphia and New York well know from their stints at this Vail residency (and all other librarians who’ve prepared for multi-program tours), the mantra “getting the right music in the right place at the right time” takes on a whole new meaning when going on tour.  Some would say I over-prepare, after all, our residency will be less than two weeks long.  But I learned from hard experience that unless absolutely everything is covered prior to leaving, life away from our home hall and the library will be much more difficult.  Of course we never need all the back-up parts and scores, emergency parts, tools and supplies we bring.  But, there hasn’t been a tour yet when we didn’t need some of it, and I don’t have a crystal ball.

I didn’t have a crystal ball for our 1997 European tour either, when we had to change programs quickly because of the sudden death of HRH Diana, Princess of Wales. I had learned from my more experienced colleagues at MOLA conferences years before about the kinds of things that should be in the tour trunk, especially emergency music.  So, just like for previous tours,  I had asked the music director what bigger piece he would like to do if we needed something (Beethoven 3rd), and told him I was, as usual, taking “Nimrod” from Elgar’s Enigma Variations, which is often used for funerals.  Neither of us really thought we would need it.

The orchestra was leaving Germany for the UK the morning we heard of Diana’s terrible car crash and death in France during the night.  Our Dublin concert was to include Gershwin’s American in Paris, among other things.  Obviously that piece could not be played and we had to change the program which was now going to be a broadcast memorial concert to “The People’s Princess.”  Without much conversation between me and the music director, we knew the program would include the funeral march from Beethoven Symphony No. 3, and “Nimrod.”

When the orchestra showed up at the hall that night and found the Elgar on their stands, many wondered where I had gone to get it.  I told them that I had brought it in case of emergency.  They said, “but how did you know what to bring?”  I credited those MOLA colleagues with teaching me to be prepared for such a tragedy and told them I always bring it.  We played the new program, and I can’t imagine a more meaningful and relevant performance of “Nimrod.”  The fact that it happened to be what would have been selected for the memorial of a British princess anyway made it all that much more fitting.

I don’t leave home (on an orchestra tour) without it now, along with all my other tried-and-true tricks of the trade.  I have them this time too, and, although it takes a lot to get everything together, it’s worth it in the end.  I like knowing I can handle most anything that could happen, to keep the music going.

Sunday night I finally sat down backstage after everyone was gone, the trunks loaded, the hall quiet.  It was the first time in many weeks I could let it all go – no more could be done.  It was time to take a big breath, go home, pack for myself, get to Colorado, and do the work for which we had prepared so diligently.  What a relief!


One Response to 'How Do You Spell Relief?'

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  1. Jenene said,

    I am the librarian with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas in NYC. We are looking to potentially purchase traveling trunks. I was wondering if you have any suggestions as to where I can look for them….? You can email me to my email account if you’d like. Looking forward to hearing from you!

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