Getting There Early

by ECO violinist Ted Smeltz1617206_598438563556234_1624044890_o

I’m a little pathological about getting to the gig early. REALLY early. Until I joined the ECO, I was almost always the first one at the venue. (Carolyne Wallace always beats me now. I think she needs time to pump up the bassoon reservoirs, or something.) There are several reasons for this. It’s nice to be there early and get used to being in the space. I can help set up chairs and stands, and get some good musician karma, unless I get yelled at by the stage managers. If it’s a wedding gig, there’s extra time to talk to the bride, event planner, and the celebrant. (Very important questions: How many bridesmaids, who is going to tell us when to start, and what’s the last thing that will be said before the recessional? NOTHING is worse than starting the Wedding March and having the bride turn around with a furious “NOT YET!!”) You can usually have a nice chat with the orchestra manager and get some nice gossip. DSCN3479You avoid the ‘late musician’s walk of shame’ that once happened to me early in my career when I had a flat tire on the way to a Canton Symphony rehearsal. And very occasionally, you can pull off a fantastic prank…

It was a few years ago and I was playing for a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers at the Alleyway Theater in Buffalo. I got there nearly an hour before the stage door was supposed to open, (seriously, I’ve got a problem…) and discovered it unlocked. The lights were off and I had no idea where the switches were, but the stage was only a few steps away. I felt my way onstage, took out my fiddle in the dark and began to play the Transylvanian Lullabye from Young Frankenstein. After a minute or so, I heard the lobby door open and the nervous voices of the stage manager and her assistant… “…hello…?”

I let the music trail off, waited for the next “…anyone there…?” and cut loose with my very best maniacal, Phantom of the Opera, Vincent-Price-at-the-end-of-Thriller laughter. As I listened to the panicked theater staff stampede back to the lobby, I launched into The Muppet Show theme, still giggling. Ah, the theater…

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