A Kunzel Tale

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During recording sessions with the Cincinnati Pops, the control booth is not a pleasant place. It is a small, cramped room full of nervous, sweaty people whose job is to keep the recording on track and on budget. This montage includes recording engineers, producers, assistant conductors, library staff, orchestra management, stage hands, and of course, Maestro Erich Kunzel.

When the orchestra takes a break, Erich runs to the control booth and listens to what has just been performed.  As he listens, he frantically marks his score for corrections to be made. Occasionally, he summons a musician whose part needs correction to the control booth.

I was the lucky summonee at one recording session, and as I walked to the control booth, I had a good idea of what the view must be like for a lobster as he is lowered into a pot of boiling water.

I waded through all the sweaty people to where Erich was sitting. He was listening to a playback of the soundtrack music from the TV mini-series, The Civil War. The music depicts various events of the Civil War, and I had just played a solo on a piece called "Gettysburg," which evokes one of the most tragic battles in the history of our country.

Erich was sitting there listening and frantically marking his score when he saw me. He yelled "Stop tape," yanked off his headphones, turned to me and bellowed "You're playing your solo too happily.  Think of all those dead people." He then turned back to his score, jammed the headphones back on and yelled "Start tape!"

I was laughing out loud as I wandered back to my seat on stage. Conductors are known for their creative use of colorful metaphors, but before that, I had never been told to think of dead people.

The odd thing is -- it worked beautifully. I sat down, thought about all those dead people and the horrendous tragedy of the event, and played it much better on the next take.

 


      

2002 - 2016, Tim Berens
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