Le Bell Canto by June LeBell

On and Off Stage

Posted November 22, 2010 at 12:00 pm

by June LeBell

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We were at one of the Sarasota Orchestra concerts recently and saw something strange. While the audience is entering the Van Wezel, the orchestra comes out on stage to tune, then leaves and, as the lights dim in the house, returns — en masse — to start the performance.

Many European orchestras tune up backstage and then come out as a group, accept the applause of the audience and start playing.

Most American orchestras tune up on stage, remain in their seats and stand as the concertmaster makes a special entrance, followed by the conductor.

Only in Sarasota does the orchestra combine these traditions and I have no idea why. It seems to me it would be much easier, once on stage, to stay there. Or be European about it and tune up in the privacy of the wings and then make your entrance to thunderous applause.

This coming and going — and coming again — seems silly, affected and unnecessary. Andy Rooney would have a ball skewering the ensemble. He’d probably say something like, “This is a concert, not a tennis match. My neck is getting stiff swiveling back and forth trying to keep up with these musicians’ entrances and exits.”

I’m generally nicer than Andy Rooney, not to mention younger, prettier and, okay, not as quick-witted. But if someone can explain this strange orchestral behavior to me, I’d really appreciate it.

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