A great moment in Utah Symphony lore
by Lynn Rosen (Violin)
As a member of the Utah Symphony for many years, I have learned about the stories and folklore that have been passed down through the musicians. Here is one of the funniest stories that actually predates me, but one that lives on:
Utah Symphony has a legacy of recording that began with Maurice Abravanel. Some of the first recordings of the Utah Symphony were at the Music Hall of the University of Utah, which is now Gardener Hall. A semi-permanent stage with sound baffles was built to help the recordings. According to retired Associate Principal Flutist Ralph Gochnour, the recording engineers said “We need a little more reverb in this. We’re not getting enough out of this room.” So they went up to one of the tiled restrooms and connected a speaker and microphone in there to pick up the reverb. In Ralph’s words “We went ahead and played it a couple of times, that particular thing, and all of a sudden everyone broke out laughing. Abravanel said, ‘Well, what was the problem with that?’ and one of the engineers said, ‘Somebody flushed the toilet!'”
Also from Lynn Rosen, here are a couple of creative musings on the experience of playing in the string section:
ON THE RACETRACK
Here comes a part where the music gets technically difficult. Like the race car driver entering the curve, gathers his resources and nerves. Wonders for a split second what is to the side of him and what’s in the curve ahead as we come off the embankment at top speed. Will we crash and burn?
We made it through the passage. What’s next? Another riff ahead? Top speed, low gear, rev up, NOW. Sometimes when the passage is more technical the less you strain, let an unseen force guide you, relax, less is more. The voices in your head are sometimes the noisiest just when you need them out of the way to focus and remain calm in the eye of the race.
IN THE SEA
You feel like a drop in the ocean of notes with fish all around you. The violinist is one of many fish, all trying to gather speed or navigate the passages. Of course, you are affected by the person first on one side and then the other. The sea narrows and everyone has to brace for the wave of coming notes that splashes over us like our own private tsunami. It is technically demanding, but we are all professionals. Some of us can make it over the top, a few slide in places, but then regain control and ride atop the vestige of wave that has just crashed over all of us. It is the conductor who wields power over how fast or slow to take the next wave of notes, and how calmly we navigate and recover. We are at his mercy, as if on a big ship that wrestles its waves.