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My Brush with Greatness

In 1969, I was a 13 year old member of a famous boychoir in Princeton NJ.
We snagged the "angel chorus" role for a performance of Mendellsohn's oratorio "Elijah".
(An oratorio is an opera without the staging, like the "Messiah").

The production was run by world renowned conductor Eugene Ormandy, who, at age 70
had been the head of the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra for 30 years.
He was about 5'5" and had a funny Hungarian accent

There was a small solo part for a "shepherd boy" and I got the gig !
Our choir was well rehearsed. My solo part, a little less so.
I'd run through it with my own director and felt I had the hang of it.

The solo part came early in the show and the angel chorus came late.
So I was sent ahead of the rest in a cab. I got where I was supposed to be,
and as I listened to the symphony and adult choir and opera stars rehearsing
for the next days performance, I had the sinking feeling that "having the hang of it"
wasn't going to cut it.

I came in early. 200 musicians and singers grind to a halt. Try again. I came in late.
Eugene Ormandy chewed me a new asshole ! I cried. An assistant hustled me offstage
and took me to a rehearsal room. I got it together. Everything turned out OK.
Later, Mr. Ormandy was very kind and pleased with my performance.

As an adult, I've been involved in putting on a Kalamazoo Blues Festival for the last 20 years
and have met many great blues musicians. My best story: 1985. Headliner Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown
wouldn't go on stage unless I procured some pot for him. Fortunately, I was able to do so.

He mixed it with tobacco and smoked it in an elaborate pipe onstage. A storm descended
and we halted the show. We hope it'll blow over. The crowd is still hanging in.

The storm lessens, but the keyboardist and bassist say "no way we're  going on until the rain stops"
(The stage was covered, but open at the front. Electrocution was a reasonable fear). 

Gatemouth said "fuck it" and finished the show in the rain with just the drummer.
He killed.

More recently Gatemouth was barely rescued from the drowning of New Orleans
and died a few days later of a broken heart. 

Bart, I've lurked for years and I enjoy your blog. I've sent you a love offering
even though my birthday is in September. Also, too, Fuck Cee Lo Green!

 David H


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