Tag Archives: Davies

the Symphony

I work at Davies Symphony Hall and ‘hear’ the San Francisco Symphony a lot. I put ‘hear’ in quotes because I usually ‘hear’ them from inside the lighting booth through one microphone hanging above the stage and some inexpensive speakers.

Today I went into the hall for some minor maintenance reason while the rehearsal was going on. OMG, what a sound!

I’ll tell you, live music on real instruments. There’s nothing like it!

BTW, MTT was conducting Mahler in what’s called the antiphonal setup. That is when the first and second violins are on opposite sides of the stage. No surround sound system can duplicate this!

voices of my children

After posting twice already today with posts that were largely written my children, I found myself thinking tonight about my third child, my only daughter, Sarah.

Sarah is a writer too but her writing is hidden from me. At one time I handled some diaries from her youth. I promised I would not read them and I have kept that promise. I do not know if she still writes like that. She is a very busy person although I will go out on a limb to say that her life has simplified in the last year or so.

When she first returned to California after earning her doctorate in music, she took jobs playing music wherever they presented themselves. Orchestra musicians in the Sf Bay Area sometimes refer to these jobs as ‘The Freeway Philharmonic.’ They are rather widely spread. A friend of hers from college had started a music academy and Sarah got some students there. It was nothing like a regular job, though. Her pay was directly dependent on the number of student she had. In fact, she was more like a contractor in both cases.

One reason for coming back to the Bay Are was that she wanted to continue her study of body mechanics called the Alexander Method. There was a particularly good teacher in San Francisco.

So, for two years she juggled all these things while getting more and more discouraged that she could not make a decent living without spending hours in Bay Area traffic. She even talked to me about going back to school to get a degree in something that she could make a living at.

There are really only three orchestras in the Bay Area that pay well enough for members to live decently without taking other work: San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and San Francisco Ballet. Sarah took auditions with all three of these organizations but did not play well enough to be hired. She did play well enough, however, to get put on the substitute list for all of them. Who would call first?

It was the Symphony. In October of 2015 I had the great joy of seeing my daughter’s name on the list of string players for that morning’s rehearsal at Davies Symphony Hall. I don’t think it was that first morning, but not long after, my colleague Nancy Foreman snapped this picture of the two of us in the hallway just offstage right:

I told everyone in sight how proud I was of her, and how amazing it was that she was working for the Symphony, but she always told me to be quiet. She said, ‘I’m just one mistake from never being called again!’

While perhaps not literally true, it was true in one respect: if you didn’t continue to play well, the Symphony would call someone else to sub. Sarah knew – knows! – that there are many good violinists out there who would love to play in the Symphony.

So she kept her head down and practiced like a mad person, tried to predict when the Symphony would need another violin and adjust her schedule accordingly. I don’t remember exactly how the early days went. She got a week in October, then I think it was a while before she was called again, then it was more weeks with nothing.

But by a year ago she was working almost every week for the Symphony and she had shed most of the other activities.that were discouraging her so much. Unlike the early times, she now knew sometimes as much as three weeks before the first rehearsal what music she would be playing. (At the beginning, they would often call on the morning of a rehearsal. Come in in two hours and sight read difficult music under the eyes and ears of the best musicians in the world. No pressure!)

I tried my best to allow her space at Davies. When I was there I had my own work to do and I didn’t want to add to the pressure. We see each other when it is needful and most people there know of our relationship. I’ve had the experience of tenured orchestra musicians coming up to me when she isn’t there and asking me why she’s not there, where is she, if she’s all right.They like her!

Best of all, I get to see her step out onto that stage and take her seat with that great orchestra and take care of business.

Back to my original point . . . I caught her backstage Saturday night to give her a birthday present. It was early and few other musicians were around. We chatted and I asked her how she liked the show she was doing. It was Leonard Bernstein’s operetta Candide with MTT conducting. No pressure.

I was actually surprised when she said she was really enjoying it. She said she could see the singers and hear the dialog. I said, ‘Isn’t the music difficult?’ She said yes but she practiced it.

You can see her name here in the middle of the second violins for her first week in 2015 but most of the last year she’s been playing in the firsts.

musings

I see that it’s been a week since I went out of my norm and posted on a political theme. The hope I felt only a week ago has been dashed by the passage of the Republicans’ ‘tax reform’ bill. As a side not, I put ‘hope’ in my tag window for this post and saw that it’s the first time I’ve tagged that word. That’s pretty sad that I haven’t written about hope in 18 months of this blog.

I’ve written about goals, which are kind of like hope, I think. One implies the other, although I’m not sure which would come first.

I’m going down to stay with Mom and Dad today. Just one night then home again tomorrow night. Work on Saturday then back down to Santa Clara on Monday, Christmas Day. I believe we’ll have 13 for dinner. That’ll be nice. Tim shared with his siblings the birthday card Mom and Dad sent him last week. Dad wrote on it, which is not common any more, but it was somewhat disjointed. He referred to his having ‘half a brain’. I told Tim that that was the worst of what is happening to him: he knows. It won’t get better so, to me, that means treasuring what we can when we can. Thus, I visit as often as possible.

At work, I’ve been trying to develop relationships with people outside my norm. I try to take time to have real honest talk with some of the Davies Hall ushers, with some of the Symphony staff. Everyone is at work, so we all recognize that is our priority but there are private moments. Working primarily in the front of the house, I hardly have any contact with the musicians any more. The last three or four shows I’ve done, Sarah was playing but I didn’t have time to get back stage at the right moment to talk to her. It’s been extremely hard for me to get out and do things not work or family related.

new post

I see it’s been 8 days since my last flurry of posts following the death of my friend Robin. I haven’t been super busy, but I had the grind of showing up for work every day at Davies. On only one did I have to stay past 5 pm. I tried for two nights to go without sleeping pills and the results were not very good. The first night I did ok but the second night I woke up at 3 in the morning and was not able to go back to sleep. That put a bad spin on the rest of the day, as you might imagine. I started feeling like a cornered animal, desperate to escape but not knowing how to do it.

Today Sarah’s quartet is playing a very ambitious program over in the East Bay. One of the pieces, Steve Reich’s Different Trains, requires the use of amplification of the instruments along with the playback of a pre-recorded track of train sounds and speaking. I was able to arrange for the use of some of the Symphonyu’s sound equipment so in a couple of hours I’ll be going back to the hall to gather all that together and take to the concert.

The weather was hot earlier in the week but today the fog is in over Linda Mar. Windows that were thrown wide open just a couple of days ago are shut again.

I finished my jigsaw puzzle this morning. It was only 750 pieces and not too difficult. It took just under two weeks and that included not even touching it at all for several days. With no band music to prepare, I am hardly playing music at all. I might have picked up the guitar for a total of ten minutes in the last ten days.

Last Saturday was a nice day. My nephew Danny hosted a get together with just about all the Northern California Woods. The best part was seeing, and playing with, all the young kids – great nieces and nephews to me. In all, there were 5 under the age of 6 years. Here they all are with Mom and Dad.

more on goals

My follow up session with Linda was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon so I’ve been trying to focus on the idea of ‘goals’ again. All in all I feel pretty good about how the summer went: Jeremy’s move and the Germany trip. The last two weeks I’ve worked a standard 8-5 M-F schedule which is draining in a way but I felt I handled it pretty well.

Now that I’m back, it’s the turn of the other two principals at Davies to get holidays. Arno is leaving Tuesday for his usual driving trip to the Midwest. He’ll be gone five weeks. Jim, after shocking us all last year by cutting his schedule down to a ‘normal’ 40 hour week, announced he’ll be taking the month of October off completely. There are others who can and will step up to help with the shift coverage, but at the moment, it looks like the bulk of it will fall to me.

So I decided my ‘price’ will be a couple of weeks off in November. I will always want to visit Jeremy and Ashley and Rosalie but I also have an unfulfilled promise to visit Peter and Nanci in Spokane. And I like to stop in on my cousins Dan and Nettie also in Spokane.

Is this a goal worthy of discussion? Honestly, I don’t know how Linda would respond to this. I emailed her the other day that I was cancelling the session since I had been scheduled for work at that time. She hasn’t responded. The bereavement group that seemed so promising a few months ago doesn’t hold appeal.

Since I’ve been back I’ve had one day where I had a lot of time to do things and I didn’t and I felt bad about it. All the old thoughts about how I should use my time better and what those uses should be came and went. Then the next day I went to work.

I feel good that I’ve been posting pretty regularly since I got back. I feel good about being in the Skyline band again. (At the request of Zack I’m playing bass this semester.) I feel good that I have a handle on how much work I have in the weeks ahead. It’s more than I would like but if the payoff is two weeks off in November I’ll take it. Jeremy tried unsuccessfully to call me this week two times when I said I was available so I felt bad about that. Then we had a nice Skype session Friday night so I felt better. He’s having a tough time getting a decent job. Ashley is very happy with her new teaching setup but that cuts both ways with Jeremy. I don’t have a magic wand to make it all great. That would cut both ways too, I guess.

Burt Bacharach

Yesterday we had what we call an outside event at Davies. Davies ‘Symphony Hall’ was of course built for the San Francisco Symphony but other entities use it when they can. It’s a beautiful hall and prestigious. In the last six weeks, we’ve had our usual spring spate of graduation ceremonies squeezed in amongst the symphony rehearsals and concerts.

Last night’s outside event was Burt Bacharach. We last had Burt a couple of years ago when he appeared with the Symphony accompanying him. This concert was promoted by SF Jazz and was Burt with his band only. Burt is particularly interesting because Hal toured with him for 12 years and talks often about the great education he got from it.

When I say squeezed in, I really mean it. Yesterday the orchestra was on stage rehearsing Rite of Spring until 12:30. Large orchestra with lots of percussion. As soon as they were released, the hands fell on the stage removing stands and chairs and rearranging risers while the sound crew unloaded their truck and began to install the PA. Actually, we have an in-house PA now that is good so there was no rolling in of large speaker boxes and tedious stacking and raising them on motors.That’s all permanent now. What Hal and his guys did have to do was bring in the mixing consoles, Front Of House and monitor, run the snakes, connect everything, build the mic stands and wire the stage: mics, monitors, keyboards. All in 2 hours.

Instead of being on the sound crew as I have many times in the past, I’ve recently moved up to Head Carpenter/Stage Manager for most of these outside events. I was wrestling risers, bringing in and setting up the backline. Besides the grand piano for Burt, the band had a drummer, a bass player, a violinist, a sax guy and a trumpet guy, three singers, and three keyboard players (five keyboards). The keyboards too the most time.

So I was busy too. A little later in the afternoon, after the sound check was underway, the production manager came to me and asked who was on the crew that could do stage moves. Well, that would be me. So, she says, one of the singers plays acoustic guitar for two of the numbers on the show. They didn’t want the guitar sitting on stage so I was the one to bring it on, along with a stool, at the proper time – twice.

That’s all really normal stuff. As they (the PM and the singer) were finishing up telling me all this, they said, can you tune the guitar? They had an electronic tuner so I said sure. They didn’t ask me if I was a musician or knew anything about guitars or anything, just, can you tune it. OK. When the sound check was done, I took the guitar offstage and tuned it up.

The first number was about a half hour into the show so we got started and I went over and checked the tuning but then I started thinking. The singer never said anything else to me after that initial orientation. As far as I know he never picked up the guitar to check the tuning before he went on stage. Wow! That seems really odd to me.

The handoffs went fine and the guitar was in tune. After the show I was working with one of the keyboard guys putting things away and I mentioned it to him. He said, ‘Yeah, last week we were in LA and the guitar came out all out of tune.’ He was kind of laughing about it but I was stunned. These guys are all really good musicians but evidently they have a blind spot on this. The numbers were basically solo pieces for the guitar. Pretty exposed.

Well, they’re gone now and tonight we have somebody named Ben Gribbard. It’s a similar deal: the orchestra is on stage until 3:30, then we come in and put in the show again. 8 o’clock start, I don’t know when the sound check is. Maybe 5 or 5:30. Hal was able to leave the mixers in so that part doesn’t need to be done again. It’ll still be a panic.

By the way, Burt Bacharach was born in 1928. He’s older than my father. He’s little guy and bent over but still going out there on stage, playing the piano, talking to the audience. I didn’t think to ask how much they’re touring but there’s no end date. Rumor is that the Symphony is having him back next year. He did two hours last night on stage without a break. Amazing. He told the audience there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing.

Life

I keep saying I want to cut back but I keep failing. Last week was the return from the work weekend Monday. I was so tired when I got home I couldn’t go to band that night. Tuesday I got my laundry done and napped but had work that evening. Wednesday and Thursday I took classes for professional development in Hayward. By the end of the second day I was wondering why I bothered. The new big Yamaha mixer is interesting but the likelihood of me driving one for a job are slim to none.

Friday morning was our first graduation of the year at Davies. I stayed down there to work the evening shift. Saturday, Rose’s sister Leigh had a gathering at her house in Antioch to celebrate the life of her husband, John. Saturday traffic was an abomination. 2+ hours each way.

Sunday morning up early for the Youth Orchestra in Davies until 5 pm then a dash down to Santa Clara for Mother’s Day dinner. In addition to that, we celebrated Jane and Julian’s birthdays. Julian is 21!

Yesterday an early call (6 am) for another graduation then concert dress rehearsal for the jazz band in the evening. I did lay down and try to nap in the afternoon.

Today I am waiting for the laundry room to become free. I have a couple of errands to run but they can wait until tomorrow if it comes to that. The rehearsal showed me that I need to practice the guitar more, although I really already knew that, so I’ve done some of that already. I finished the jigsaw puzzle I’ve been picking away at for almost a month. It’s one of the hardest I’ve ever done so that is satisfying.

Tomorrow night, work returns. Thursday I signed on with Hal to be part of the sound crew for the Disney/Pixar movie presentation at Davies. It’s going to be an 8 am to midnight (at least) day plus I agreed to do the graduation at 7 the next morning. And the house head job in the evening . . .

All this to clear my weekend for personal things. Saturday afternoon in San Francisco Sarah’s quartet is hosting a benefit that I will attend before heading back to San Bruno in the evening for the jazz band concert. Sunday up to Rose’s brother Steve’s house in Plymouth and another chance to play with Allen Frank and his Doghouse Blues band at the Drytown Club.

Monday I think I’ll collapse but Monday evening is another jazz band rehearsal, this time for the school graduation. I really want to go up to Eagle Creek Falls before the summer madness starts so right now it looks like Tuesday or Wednesday will be my best options before Memorial Day.

I have Sarah’s next quartet concert on my calendar for Friday the 26th but yesterday realized it overlapped the Skyline graduation. Hmmm, I may have to weasel out of that one.

Zach on my mind

Seemingly out of nowhere, Zach has been back at the front of my attention. I think it’s because I’ve been on the roads a lot in the last couple of days. Actually, everything has been pretty nominal except for yesterday.

Yesterday was Tom Kent‘s CD release party in Roseville. I was going to go anyway – I had arranged for the day off – but he called me in the morning and said he wanted me to play on two of his tunes from the CD and to please bring a guitar and bass. I had played on those tunes for the CD but had missed the rehearsals for the live show. When that happened I told Tom I would just show up to the party to support him but wouldn’t play.

Anyway, that’s another story. What is germane is that I drove 280 miles yesterday including a significant portion on two lane roads. Today I just drove to work at Davies and coming home a few minutes ago I got to witness several drivers driving faster than they needed to: quick lane changes, tailgating etc.

How do I know they were going faster than they needed to? In almost every case I caught up to them at the next light and they were sitting calmly waiting for the light. All I could think of was, why are you risking the life of an innocent pedestrian or bicyclist for that 10% of the time when you get through the next light. And then what? You’re 30 seconds ahead of where you would otherwise be.

With the anniversary of Zach’s death coming up I have been thinking about some posts I want to do. One will be titled ‘that awful night’ and describe my experiences that night. Some others will be the statements made to the police by the drivers and witnesses. The last several months I have let the whole thing go but I am not finished with the legal system. I am gathering my strength to read those statements again and analyze them carefully. I have an idea what they will show but I will not say now. It may be that it will be different from what I expect. There is a 4 year statute of limitations on criminal charges.

work

Man, this working every day sucks! I’ve been trying to write a post for days and there just isn’t time. I get home, eat dinner, and poop out completely. I was off Monday (after a 16 hour day on Sunday) but went to PT  and then jazz band in the evening. I believe I didn’t turn on the computer all day.

Of course, there’s more to the story. The post I’ve been trying to write was titled ‘depressed’ so that’s the real reason. Monday those things happened but they were interspersed with lots of laying around. My therapist says it’s ok so there you go.

Honestly, today has been better. Is work the cure for depression? Hardly, but a better night’s sleep helped a lot. Sunday really kicked my ass although I was low before that.

The projects at work have been useful and, arguably, helping get me back on track. The easiest for a non-stagehand to understand is the canopy cleaning we did earlier this month. The first picture with the line array is from last summer. The second is partly done, so you can see the difference in the same light. The third is how it looks now. Yeah I am pleased to be part of making the old hall look better!

IMG_20150701_203112_305 IMG_20160805_155907_148IMG_20160805_155847_817

 

more reaction

In my post titled ‘reaction’, I remember thinking about my reaction when I started it but ended up doing mostly just a news story about the weekend. Jeremy and Ashley left on Tuesday morning and I’ve been low ever since. Actually I’ve been low ever since that Sunday when I got home.

It hasn’t helped that I’ve been working way more than I’d like to be. in the 13 days since that Tuesday, I’ve worked 11 with 2 other days being evenings only. I thought I’d be ready to get rolling right away after but that has not proven to be the case. Part of the problem is that JJ’s wife went in the hospital last weekend and I ended up working three extra days to cover for him.

I hate to say no in a case like that but at some point I’m going to have to. We are scheduled for maintenance work all this week and next followed by a week of shows followed by possibly more maintenance work followed by the Symphony Gala week. There are a couple of holes in that schedule but not enough. JJ was supposed to be in today but he bailed to care for Amy and now he won’t be in tomorrow. I feel obligated to stick it out to help him so it’s hard. Maybe I can get out of next week . . .

I got a call from Teresa today just checking in. That made me feel better. Also I saw Dr Perry tonight so that helps as well. Onward! (Still using sleeping pills, tho’. Tried a couple of times to go without but that didn’t work.)