Mar 5, 2007

The gig that wouldn't end

As I think I may have mentioned in my last entry, I did this gig over the weekend that involved a lengthy trek up to the Bronx. In the opinion of several people involved, the whole thing was rather haphazardly executed and incredibly disorganized, to the extent that I knew astonishingly little information beforehand.

Anyway: I arrived last Sunday night to this former synagogue, now church, to find many friends and colleagues and acquaintances who were doing this gig as well. All along I had assumed this was merely a concert of praise songs to be sung in Spanish with a 'daily dose of Bach' in the form of the first movement of a Brandenburg concerto thrown in for good measure. As it turns out--and mind you, I didn't actually discover this until Saturday night at the concert--they were videotaping us so that they could broadcast the performance to all the Spanish-speaking countries of the world sometime in May. So there were bright lights, a cheering, halleluya-ing and amen-ing audience, fog machines, and of course, guitar amps turned up too high.

The real fun will be telling you all of the disorganized bits and pieces which I can ethically include without seeming unprofessional. First off, rehearsal didn't actually start on either Sunday or Friday until nearly 45 minutes after the scheduled time. And then Friday night, due to the lateness of beginning, Zabdiel the singer wanted us to stay late to finish rehearsing. No one wanted to just say no, so instead people kind of mumbled about having to leave, and it was decided that rehearsal would end on time. Of course, at this point we hadn't even rehearsed Brandenburg yet, so the string section had to stay late anyway, though a few juvie violinists did flat-out leave. Given this track record, the people I went with decided that it would be silly to arrive on time on Saturday, since rehearsal would likely start late. So we ended up arriving about half an hour late. Imagine our surprise when we walked in to discover that rehearsal had, in fact, begun on time!

But the adventures didn't stop there. One of the songs on the concert was supposed to be sung by Zabdiel's sister. We hadn't actually rehearsed this until Saturday, at which time it was discovered that no one actually had music for the song. So we scrapped it and, since it had been two hours, we took a break to get ready for the evening. Through hearsay, we were all under the impression that the people in charge were going to be feeding us during this break. So we wandered all around the building, which turned out to be rather convoluted, before finally discovering the remnants of some unappetizing cold pizza in this frigid sort of fellowship hall. So much for dinner.

The concert itself went mostly very well. Or at least, the first half did. After intermission, we were supposed to do the Brandenburg. As luck would have it, there was no audio, so after waiting awhile (presumably to get it fixed), we finally played it. In my opinion, we could just as well have skipped it. Hardly anyone in the audience was paying attention, it seemed, and at the end, we received a huge round of applause because 1.) it was finally over and we could get back to praising the Lord and 2.) it was pretty darn amazing to hear the pianist play 63 measures of counterpoint all by herself on only two brief rehearsals. After Bach, it was back to Zabdiel, and the rest of the concert. Things went smoothly enough until, a song away from the end of the program, this lady in a rather old-school evening gown got up and proceeded to sing in Spanish without any accompaniment. It was Zabdiel's sister, of course. In my opinion, this was another thing that could have been omitted from the program; in fact, I had thought it was. My guess is that, since she got all dressed up anyway, she insisted on singing, even if it was a cappella.

After a great deal of applause, Zabdiel got back onstage to sing what I thought was the last number, except that after we finished the conductor told us to play the first song of the evening as a reprise. So we did. At this point, I was sure the concert was over, but the rhythm section kept playing and Zabdiel kept singing. Finally they all finished, and the preacher got up to make some closing remarks, and then, finally, two hours later, the concert ended on a joyful note.


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