Tag Archives: MTT


The Symphony played Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet tonight. They didn’t play the whole thing – it was the second half of the program – but they played 45 minutes of it. I had forgotten how much I liked that piece. It took me back to my days of working American Ballet Theater (ABT) at the Opera House. They would come in every February for two weeks. It was promoted by the Opera so the Opera department heads would get the call to do the shows. That wasn’t a sure thing for me back in those days so it they were very welcome when they came.

MTT didn’t really do it like a ballet. His tempos were all over the place, but in a good way. It sounded very romantic to me tonight. Of course I’m just listening over a speaker in the lighting control room so it’s not close to the real experience. I suppose I should go out in the hall tomorrow and listen.

And Sarah is in the band! It never fails to give me enormous pride at seeing her up there.

I did have a rather strange trip down memory lane tonight, though. I saw that one of the sections being played was the death of Tybalt. It took me back to the night our cat, Tybalt, died. I was alone in the Suisun house. Nancy had moved out several months before. Tybalt had been very ill for some weeks and we all knew that the end was near. One day I went to work in the morning and didn’t come home until pretty late, 11 or so . He was right where I had left him, in the living room, cold.

All the emotions of the previous months came washing over me and I remember sitting by myself for at least an hour at the dining room table sobbing and telling Tybalt’s body ‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.’ over and over. But I texted the kids and Sarah responded. We had a kind of conversation in the midst of my tears. She comforted me.

And I knew I had saved the text so I looked in my (new) phone for a text that was 6 1/2 years ago. It wasn’t there, but upon scrolling back to look I did happen to see this picture of Jeremy, Sarah and Zach taken at the wedding of their cousin Sean in August 2015. They all look so happy and healthy . . .

. . . then I got all weepy again.


December SoundBox is over, except for the load out tomorrow morning. I plan on spending some time cleaning up my cue library and making some notes on good practices. I got caught with my pants down last night when I took a cue out of order and a few minutes later another one obliterated it. When Tim rolled the video cue, I got sound, but only out of two or three speakers in one corner of the room instead of all over. Oopsie!

Much of what I learned last year is still in my mental attic, so to speak. Seven months of essentially no time spent on CueStation has left me with cobwebs. I suppose I was over confident and didn’t check what I had carefully.

MTT noticed, and during the intermission the query came through channels to me: ‘What went wrong and is it fixed?’ ‘My bad, Maestro.’

It was an MTT program and, as such, it was tremendously interesting. What threw me, especially since I didn’t prepare properly, was the talking and video roll between every piece. Someone said to me early in the week that MTT was really doing a Lou Harrison seminar. All the music was Harrison’s. There was also an audio only roll (ten seconds of Schoenberg’s music) that I got at 5:30 Friday afternoon with sketchy instructions and no rehearsal. I played it live and at least it came out of the correct speakers . . .

The best part of the week was watching the percussionists playing literally everything including the kitchen sink. Well, there wasn’t a kitchen sink, but there were the ’50s era brake drums. Two of the pieces had no conductor and they had to find and agree on a (n unheard) pulse and maintain it while other instruments were playing something radically different.

I talked to them after the concert. They all were gathered at a table unwinding. They said it was very satisfying but mentally draining. I suppose that goes hand in hand. It was an interesting to contrast what they do with the drummers in the Skyline Band. I played a concert with them yesterday afternoon. Nathaniel and James are very good drummers but I happen to know that at least three of the Symphony percussionists are very good on kit and could probably have sat in and done the concert cold.

My favorite piece of the evening was the Suite for Violin and American Gamelan. Nadya played the violin and Jake, Raymond, Tom, Loren, Artie, and Stan filled out the gamelan. Stan had a thing that had an octave or so worth of metal bars about one foot by two mounted on huge tubes from two to six feet long. The sound just rolled out of them across the room with the violin swimming in it.

Sarah came last night which was nice but I was so twitchy about all my cues that she din’t stay up on the jump with me. She just went down on the floor and hung with her friends. I was able to chat and meet with them after the show which was nice.


My job tonight was running the house electrics at Davies Symphony Hall. I’m filling in for JJ who is on vacation. I’ve been doing this on and off for over a year now and I’m still not completely confident that I will remember all the little details.

Anyway, the Symphony is playing Mahler’s 2nd Symphony with a huge orchestra and chorus & I’m a little tense. MTT is conducting. I have a couple of internal cues so I have to hang in the light booth more than I might ordinarily. I can hear but only through speakers in the booth. About 30 minutes in I notice that the audience is unusually rapt and quiet during the very quiet parts. By the last 20 minutes – now over an hour into the piece –  when the chorus stands up to sing, I can see that the audience is hardly moving they’re so intent. A couple sitting right in front of the booth just look at each other briefly as if to say, ‘Can you believe this?’

MTT is a man possessed and yet not. He’s in complete control. Sometimes I look at the monitor that shows the face that the orchestra sees and he is seemingly relaxed. From the audience he is willowy yet taut. Once again I have to reflect on the treasure we have here in San Francisco. Now that I’ve been here with the Symphony for a while, I know more of his story. He’s a living link to great artists of the 20th Century like Gershwin and Bernstein. He often seems mercurial when shows are in development such as what I’ve witnessed in SoundBox but the results are almost always astounding. He is a treasure.

Edit after (sort of) seeing this show two more times. The band is pretty good too! It was hard to quantify my own take the second and third hearings. Actually none of them were true experiences of the music. I saw Lolly Lewis at the Friday show and I expect she will put a review up on her blog. It’s not there yet but check out her writing anyway: https://lollylewis.wordpress.com/