From the Orchestra Library

Yea! No Rant Today

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on August 20, 2009

I’m sure it didn’t have a thing to do with my rant about Real Parts here 10 days ago, but I guess the universe decided that today some things would be made right in our little library land.  We received 4 — FOUR — sets of charts from various sources for these first specials and pops second halves (that’s 2 small trunks, 2 large trunks, 2 medium size boxes, and 1 large box) and they were all Real Parts, actually Really Nice Parts, marked legibly, organized into great folders for each stand/instrument, clear order sheets, scores included, beautifully prepared and in order. Fantastic.

See, it can be done.  And usually is done.  And has always been the expected protocol for pops artists.  I mean, you never had/have to worry if the charts would be right or in order for the likes of Mel Torme, Tony Bennett, or Marvin Hamlisch.   As illogical as it may be, I immediately have greater respect for these artists, and the people they hire, as true professionals than the ones who have no clue or don’t care to do the work.  I know that’s not necessarily fair and that I shouldn’t be making a judgment.  But there is an artistic standard for what is acceptable to put on stage in front of the players, just as there is an artistic standard expected from the orchestra itself.  (And many of the orchestra contracts have legibility language that allows the players to refuse to perform from inadequate materials.) Professionally-prepared parts, in fact, are a critical piece of what allows the orchestra to reach their highest level of performance.

So, I am happy to report that 4 out of 5 of these pops artists/groups for the first three weeks of concerts “get it” and did the right thing.

I tried to “teach” the other group, as is usual in this situation.  (I know, it’s very Karen-y.  I am what I am.)  We have many times sat down with a road manager, conductor or even the artist, and explained how the parts should look and be prepared beforehand, organized in folders that can then be sent around to the other orchestras.  It’s such a simple concept that pays off for them in a big way.  The ones that want to have a good experience with the orchestras listen intently and say they will work to improve their materials.  I noticed last season that when we had a pops artist back who had performed with us a few years before (and we had sent them on their merry way with a lesson and a set of extra folders organized with their charts), they sent us their music in advance all nicely ready in those same folders.  Mission accomplished.  One artist at a time.

It’s not like we don’t let them know what is expected in advance, and have the usual questionnaires and contracts to address what their responsibilities are.  Most of the time they try to do what is required.  But if artists are not hired through the normal channels, using the procedures that are in place for just such reasons, and with written contracts addressing these issues, this kind of thing is one of the first to be glossed over. The librarian is then often told to “make it work” regardless of how late the parts arrive, how poor the materials are, or even if we have to create the charts ourselves over several late nights.  It’s not always understood by those who have never done it how inefficient and expensive such last-minute crisis preparation can be.  And it’s what we’ve been doing the past two weeks for one half of one concert for one group.  It’s taking more time than dealing with all four of those other programs put together.  (They are going to get a bill logging an hourly rate for the time we have put in.)

So, players and conductors, I want you to know we really do try to make sure the parts and scores are what you need – even with the pops – so you can sit down and read the show with ease.  On behalf of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, I want to heartily thank those who were responsible for making my day today (and I’ll thank you individually since you probably are not among the readers here).  To all “The Larry’s,” Wendy, and Chris — you know who you are — I could just hug you to pieces.  Thanks!


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