I would rather have my fingertips stripped to the bone and soaked in battery acid Madge/Palmolive-style than be late or unprepared for a job. Half-hour early is my typical arrival time. Over-packing is standard operating procedure.
Packing for a Pops weekend with Charlotte Symphony. Bari, tenor and instrument stands – Check! Tux with studs, cuff links, shoes, black socks – Check! Downtown Hotel room for the night – Hmmmm. Thunder Road Marathon is downtown, so available hotel rooms are elsewhere. Southpark area is known for heavy traffic, but there are four hours between end of rehearsal the start of the performance, so – Check!
Off I go! Ten minutes down the road I remember that I had forgotten to bring a phone charger. No problem – I have a car charger cable thingy. Two hours later I discover the car charger cable thingy is broken. Navigation to the venue could be affected, but (ta-daaa) I also had printed directions – just in case.
Rehearsal went well. Driving through the beginning of Friday rush hour was tedious. Into the hotel room with plenty of time to eat and relax a bit. Clock says I can finish watching the HBO boxing documentary, dress, drive the twenty minutes to the venue and still have a few minutes to prepare before showtime. A bit tighter than I prefer, but – no problem!
Manny Pacquiáo ends up face down in the ring, and I spring into action. Socks, t-shirt, then tux trousers…..uh-oh. This tux used to fit, like, 30 pounds ago. I’ll look like an overstuffed sausage, but ok, I can squeeze into this for two nights. No problem. Waistband strained but fastened. Whew! Pull the zipp….BOING! Broken zipper! Definitely a problem. Looking down at my gaping front, I see bright red shorts. Like hazard lights on a hearse.
First thought: Do I have black underwear with me. No such luck. Call the front desk, beg for safety pins. Feebly work to close the gap as I watch the minutes slip away. Check the mirror. No crimson cloth peeking. Throw on cumberbund, tie, jacket, and do my best Usain Bolt to the car, tenor case strategically in front of my makeshift fly in case of any further wardrobe malfunction. Jump in the car, look at the clock. I have 25 minutes to get there. Close, but no problem!
Uh-oh. No left turn here because of an accident. Right turn only. Now I am going Southeast. I need to go Northwest. Grab phone to turn on navigation. Oh, no. Deader than disco.
A couple of left hand turns and some less than responsible driving, and I am at the parking deck. Six minutes to concert time. First available parking spot is seven floors down. Three minutes. Elevator to street. Two minutes. Summons Mr. Bolt again, burst through the stage door. I don’t hear the orchestra playing – maybe there is a chance…
Look onstage – everyone is seated. Grab the bari out of the case – leave the tenor. I won’t play it until after intermission. Sit down just as the tuning note is sounded. Get some moisture on the reed and fasten. One deep breath and the conductor gives a downbeat.
No problem. Reach in my breast pocket for my – Hey! Where are my reading glasses?
Answer? Back at the hotel. Notes and rhythms are faint fuzzy apparitions. If I squint and move my head back and forth a bit I can make out a meager few details.
It could have been the worst gig ever, but it turned out OK. Barely. Good preparation on one side balanced the poor preparation on the other.
Factors that saved the day: I played the show a half-dozen times in the past. I have known the Beatles/Paul McCartney songs since childhood. Not seeing clearly forced me to look ahead, think about what was coming and concentrate on how the music should work.
It did turn out ok, but I never – EVER – want to repeat this performance!