I held a musical chair in a high-visibility and long-running musical production. I found myself continuously balancing the idiosyncrasies of my higher-ups; always trying to please their colicky demands. And I was under-practiced. I was winging it.
One week end my plan was to leave my chair (and somehow make sure I still did not leave the chair) to do a variety of daring musical feats. It was to be a difficult Friday and Saturday. My first odd task was to conduct an opera which was being presented simultaneously with the Main Production. The higher-ups were somewhat upset at this activity, feeling the musicians were wasting their efforts instead of concentrating on their primary job. It was my task to perfectly execute the conducting of the opera, while not letting the performance of my "regular job" suffer.
My main difficulty was complete unfamiliarity with the opera. I didn't have a score to the opera. I didn't know where a score to the opera would be. I didn't know what opera it was. I readied to take the podium, unrehearsed, hoping there would be a score from which I could sight read. The evening approached and my primary feeling was horror. I was able to tell myself that in a few hours it would all be over, for better or worse.
My duty suddenly shifted. Not only was I to conduct the opera, I was to give a flute recital. Not only was it a recital, it was also a concerto appearance: an outdoor event with no rehearsal, no music, and no preparation. I hoped desperately that my pianist would have music from which I could sight read. And I hoped that the audience would not noticed that I had not practiced in years, or that my flute had missing sections. Where was the headjoint? Could I borrow the 2nd flutist's head? Where was my thumb key? Would anyone notice that I had to create a make-shift key out of my morning pancakes? I busied myself eating it into shape.
To ready myself for this fly-by-night series of weekend concerts, I mentally practiced getting dressed and putting on makeup. I would deal with the musical aspect of things later. The time for down-beat was arriving. I pushed my grocery cart of musical belongings out to the stage wings. I could not find the right dress. I dawned a bright red corset and propped up the skirt with paperclips and safety pins, ignoring the open rear. I would just not turn my back to the audience. The sight was not too bad if viewed only from the front. There was no time to put on makeup or earrings. It was best to go out in bare feet or flat shoes. At least my chances of falling would be reduced.
The opera was first. I readied to take the conductor's baton and podium. Luckily, before I got into the pit, the singers began the opera by themselves, acapella. As it turned out, it was not an opera, it was only the Star-Spangled Banner. They sung it out of tune and without accompaniment, the orchestra sitting gormlessly in their chairs, waiting for me. Thanks Heavens! That was over; and I didn't have to wave the stick.
I readied for the recital. My hair was a problem. It was flowing down to my feet. I was tripping over it and my skirt. I hoped I would not fall on my face. The first piece of the recital was a modern Hungarian composition, level 12, that I was to sight-read. And my thumb key was still problematic.
In a moment of genius, I decided to change up the program, playing the Mozart Concerto (in C without harp) first. The orchestra was ready and on stage. I knew I could whip the Mozart out without practice. Then I would announce to the audience that the Hungarian piece would not be performed and that I was bringing a jazz musician to perform the second half of the program. The jazzer was already there, eager to play. The audience would forgive me. This was a logical move. And with the concerto first, I could send the musicians home early. This would make everyone very happy and they would not know what an utter failure the evening was.
I winged it. I really was not a musician anymore. But my hair was nice.