Gretchen and I were approached by Rogene Russell, founder and driving force behind The Fine Arts Chamber Players, to appear with a woodwind quintet at The Kennedy Center’s Imagination Celebration, at the Dallas Museum of Art. They had in the past used two dancers to liven up a part of a classic woodwind quintet suite, and thought it worked well. So, she thought using two movement trained actors would work as well. We agreed and were given a cassette tape of the piece we were to write and choreograph a piece to. It was Malcolm Arnold’s “Three Shanties”. We wrote three vignettes that took place aboard an ocean liner and featured three sets of couples in various stages of love and sea-sickness.
When the performance date arrived, we showed up at the DMA, and waited for our slot in their program. We had never actually rehearsed the piece with the musicians, but we knew the music cold from the tape, and were just hoping they would take the same tempo. It was going to be their second piece, so we waited until the first piece ended, and then took our opening positions, upstage center with our backs to audience. This is when the scariest 8 seconds occurred. The quintet stared playing, and Gretchen and I quickly shot a horrified glace at each other. We didn’t recognize the music. We had never heard this music before, and it certainly wasn’t on the tape Rogene had given us. While we both stood there, with our backs to the audience, unable to speak to each other, and trying to find a way out of this nightmare, it seemed like we were frozen in time, and that at least ten minutes went by. In reality, only 8 seconds had passed before we finally heard some music we recognized, and we jumped into the piece with grateful vigor. It turns out that the first few measures of the piece were omitted from our cassette tape. Somehow, we kept our composure and performed the trio of vignettes without a hitch.
It went so well, by the way, that the piece was voted “Best Live Performance” of the festival. Based on this success, we went on to form a theater music collaborative, with Rogene and other musicians, called the “Dream Collectors”. The Dream Collectors have performed at literally hundreds of schools, conferences and festivals for the past 29 years, and are still going today. So, it was worth those scary 8 seconds, after all!
Tell me about your scariest 8 seconds!