From the Orchestra Library

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


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