After the first half of our 10th or 11th Nutcracker performance this season, the principal horn for the ballet company that I work for (sometimes with disastrous effects) came up to me with a knowing half-grin on his face. We had just finished playing the big ‘battle scene’ with the armed mice, probably the most involved part of the score for the entire orchestra.
“You know….if we just gave those mice better weapons, we could all go home early.”
A dyed-in-the-wool Wisconsin boy of a violinist walking by heard this snippet of conversation, and grunted:
“Mmmmm hmm…yup. Good idear der. I’ll be a bringin’ mah shotguns tomorrow. Heh heh heh…”
I always love the contrast between the ballet culture of the folks upstairs and the cheese, beer, and brat culture of the folks downstairs in this most Midwestern of Midwestern companies.
Another line overheard during this season’s Tchaikovsky festivities:
One musician asks, “Hey, _________, which act do you hate playing more?”
“Whichever one I’m doing at the moment.”
Common orchestra insider nicknames for this holiday gem (there are many more not fit for a family-friendly site):
- Butt Cracker
- Butt Slapper
- Nut Smacker
- Nut Whacker
- Crap Cracker (one of my favorites–what does that mean, exactly?)
- Weed Whacker
- Dill Whacker (another personal favorite)
The seconds immediately following the final note of the ballet look like someone threw a canister of tear gas into the pit. Musicians jump out of their chairs, instrument already in case, grab their coat without breaking stride, and walk/run out of there, attempting to beat the audience to the parking structure.
I often wonder how peculiar this must look to the exiting audience. Perhaps we look like mice scattering in the presence of a cat (or cockroaches caught in the act when someone flips on a kitchen light), running away from the hall in our black outfits and oddly shaped cases.
As we run past, some people yell, “Nice job!”
We holler, “thanks!” over our shoulder as we high-tail it to our vehicles. “Thanks for coming! Our salsa gig is starting downtown in 15 minutes…gotta go!”
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