"Grin And Bear It -- Stories From Concerts"

NOTES DA CAPO - By John Puffenbarger
March, 1996

Once the Bridgeport High School Band was waiting outside Clarksburg's Washington Irving High School auditorium to perform their selections for the adjudicators at the Area 11 Band Festival. A senior member of the band turned to a sophomore and said, "This is the first time you have played at a band festival. Are you nervous?" Bravely the sophomore replied, "Nah -- there's nothing nervous to be about!"

Perhaps there is something to be nervous about at a musical performance, Many humorous things have happened at concerts and festivals in our West Virginia schools; the following are a few. The Point Pleasant High School Band, under the direction of Jim Andrews, was playing "The Universal Judgment" at the Ravenswood regional festival. A thunder-storm began, and as the music progressed to its famous dynamic ending, the storm became more fierce. It was as if Mother Nature had been hired to furnish special effects. (Your editor was one of the judges at this event, and the judges were seated on a stage where they could see the approaching storm clouds through windows around the upper part of the room. After the event all three judges admitted that each was becoming increasingly concerned watching the black, swirling clouds, and each of us had already figured out a place to seek refuge in case we spied a funnel cloud or the windows started to blow out! Meanwhile, Jim Andrews and his fine band played on as if nothing were happening).

When the Moundsville High School Band played an arrangement of the "1812 Overture" at the Nathan Goff Armory in Clarksburg, two percussion players were firing blanks from rifles to simulate the cannon shots notated in the music. The rifle fire formed perfect smoke rings which floated to the ceiling. Band director Dale Parks remarked that he had not planned that effect.

Several years ago the Fairmont State College Band was performing at Washington Irving High School. The march they were playing called for a cornet trio to stand at the beginning of the march trio and play an obbligato part. Thinking they were using the normal Manhasset-type stands, they waited until the last few measures of the second strain before rising. They were startled to find that when they raised their stands, the entire top sections came out of the bottom sections, and there was a frantic struggle to get the stands back together before the trio began. They were successful!

It has been said that a short bass drummer in a southern West Virginia high school band stumbled while marching across a wooden plank bridge and landed on top of the drum. It took two snare drummers to roll him back into a standing position.

A band was performing at the Area II Band Festival in Clarksburg when at least two-thirds of the overhead stage lights suddenly went out. The students did not lose their composure and continued to play the selection.

Fairmont native John Caroll Carr was a clarinetist in the famed John Philip Sousa band. It was Sousa's custom to wear a new pair of white gloves for each performance of the band. Carr was able to save a few of the gloves and had stored them in a box in his garage. One day his sister was helping him clean out the garage. Seeing the box with the worn gloves -- well, you guessed it -- she threw them away!

[Editor's note: Concert mishaps are nothing new. About twenty years ago an elderly Wheeling resident related a story that one time (probably for a 1906 German singing society festival) Ms. Lucy Robinson of Wheeling was directing a massed children's chorus in a concert at Wheeling's Court Theatre. All the children were ready on the risers, so Ms. Robinson gave the signal to raise the curtain. Unknown to her, her long formal gown had caught on the bottom of the curtain, and as it quickly rose so did her gown, going up over her head and leaving her in the middle of the stage attired with whatever women wore beneath their dresses in 1906. The episode "brought down the house" and provided quite an opening to the concert!]