Wednesday, November 28, 2007

meme me

Meme: n.
A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

I've seen a couple of nicely written internet memes lately and I would like to combine them into my own personal Ubermeme. I suppose the use of the word "personal" or "private" doesn't really mesh with the idea of an internet meme, meant to be passed around and completed on various "tagged" blogs as it spreads like a virus through the content-needy keyboards of the world. If you like my meme, consider yourself tagged!

So here it is:
Favorite moments performing
Most embarrassing moments ever
Favorite embarrassing performance moments!

In the spirit of the season, today's moment happened at the end of the Nutcracker. We played it without any cuts, and in my memory it took nigh on three hours to complete. There is something special about the stuff you play in high school- I remember that repertoire much more vividly than the things we fly through in the various gigs I have now. We used to rehearse this stuff once a week for months, and there was the added frisson of nervous self-consciousness involved with anything done in my teens.

So there we were in Davis Concert Hall at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. It's a pretty nice hall, truth be told. I loved the way the wood floor clip-clopped under high heels, and it was the most formal place I knew of in Fairbanks; still is. People predominantly wear jeans or Carharts to the symphony and in one memorable occassion a clarinetist forgot her skirt and wore only a slip, but I digress.

We had played the piece admirably- things just had a way of coming together for our pastoral symphony. I've been a ringer in a quintillion amateur groups since and know that "miracle concerts" are more related to attitude than skill. People enjoy playing, so they play. Sometimes they practice, more often not. Performances are so much better than rehearsals because the extra energy of nerves and fancy black duds helps the weekend players listen more carefully and look up at the conductor just a glance or two more often.

Three hours and a satisfied arctic audience later, we all stood to accept our standing ovation. And I felt that horrible running tickle of a dry winter nose-bleed. I turned to get off stage but there was a wall of stands behind which a line of trombones were planted, and not one of them moved but rather seemed to glare into my soul. Brass can look that way sometimes when you startle them. Finally I just shoved through where I could, my neck hot and my skirt feeling wrinkled and clingy at the back of my knees. The whole thing seems like no big deal now, but at the time as a teenager it was mortification incarnate. There were hundreds of people on stage, and hundreds more in the seats. In a town where you WILL see people you know and are expected to wave when you drive the three miles to Fred Meyer, it felt like the whole world was witnessing my unsanitary bodily malfunction at what was intended to be a rare moment of formality. I bet not one of them remembers it, but that feeling of being trapped on stage took a long time to dissipate for me.

There are lots of other stories which will no doubt appear more embarrassing to the reader, but the timing of this one made it the most personally intense. I still like to see an escape route gap in the stands behind me before we start playing. I don't have anything planned for March yet, but the possibility of blessed events coinciding with musical ones has crossed my mind. Would madame like some black towels to sit upon perhaps?

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