From the Orchestra Library


I Never Did THAT Before

Posted in And Other Duties As Assigned,Library Life by kschnack on November 21, 2010
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You know how people always say “THAT was a first!”? As time goes on in one’s professional life one begins to have fewer firsts, obviously, which makes it all that much more interesting when something entirely new does happen. I could have never predicted the first I experienced this week.

On Tuesday morning, just before rehearsals began for the last classical series weekend before the holidays, the Music Director (newly-returned to town after some time away) and I were looking over his upcoming programs and discussing what scores he would need. He walked around his desk to retrieve what I thought would be a score requiring emergency repair, only to see that he had picked up his baton.

Did I have a shorter one for him to use?

I went back to the library and looked through our small stash, coming up with one that would no doubt be too short, plus one a bit longer. Both were quite cheap “off the rack” models. I went back to his office to see if either would work.

Neither one seemed to do the trick. So, the request was made — could I cut his baton off a little bit?

Surprised, I said sure, I’d give it a try, not knowing precisely at that moment how I was going to do this. The conducting assistant and I walked back into the library with said baton, and it was then I realized scissors were not going to cut it (pun intended) so moved to the paper cutter. I lifted the arm and carefully positioned the baton at the length we thought was about right. Just before bringing down the cutting arm, I looked at the assistant to give him the opportunity to tell me to stop. He said “go for it, I’ll take responsibility!” and, while we both held our breath, I whacked the thing down, neatly clipping off about an inch.

For those of you not in this business, you might not realize that many conductors have their batons custom made with beautiful wooden handles and perfectly weighted sticks. Plus they have hosts of carrying cases and wooden boxes for the batons, all of which can cost a good deal of money. The idea of chopping a baton off seemed to me as taboo as cutting pages in a cloth-bound full score or ripping chapters from a lovely volume of great literature.

Nevertheless, I do confess to enjoying this little exercise, perhaps a bit more than I should have……

Last night I asked the MD how it was going with the truncated baton — he said it was great. Looks kinda short to me, and has this blunt end now, but what the heck do I know? He was happy and that’s what matters.

The MD is headed off to do a production of Parsifal for the month of December. I hope the baton is long enough for that.