Pit Orchestra

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

 

pit orchestra
After watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame, you might have noticed the cast of the show gesturing to the trenches below during the curtain call. This kind gesture spotlights the pit, otherwise known as the musicians who play during the show. While we have a different task than the cast of the show, our preparation process is largely the same.

We began our rehearsals a couple of months ago. Under the direction of our fearless leader Mr. Conti, we played our music together for the first time, which resulted in varying degrees of success and difficulty. For the first couple of months it was just the orchestra playing through all of the pieces until we reached a point of competency. This early stage of rehearsals is awfully misleading if you’re new to pit orchestra, as you might believe that this is the most challenging part and then the singers simply need to be integrated.

Real problems began to surface when combined rehearsals with the cast of the musical begin. It was an interesting experience as a musician to be told that you were either forty measures behind or ahead of the music, especially when you felt that you knew it like the back of your hand. As a pit musician, it is important to remember that your job is to serve the cast. This can lead to a whole host of results, such as entire sections of the pieces you have been preparing getting cut, taking pieces far faster or slower than you’ve prepared, and even having your whole part removed from a song. This is all part of the process.

The next phase of the process was moving to the stage, where all of the previous problems manifested themselves into a trash heap as choreography and acting were thrown into the mix. A war of attrition began between the adult leaders of the musical as everyone was confused about what everyone else should be doing. The pit orchestra was trapped underneath the stage in conditions that would make Harry Potter feel pity. The fact that my cello took up more space than my body, and there were wires everywhere connecting a plethora of microphones next to each instrument did not help in the already cramped space. As the show got closer and closer, the rehearsals grew longer and longer, and the only way I was able to make it through was with a soda and candy from the cafeteria every day.

Finally the performances began. The show ran fairly smoothly, except for the small hiccups that were littered throughout the performance. No need to worry, nobody in the crowd can tell that you were a measure late on your entrance, and neither can anyone else. For the final performance, we usually give a gift to Mr. Conti, and this year we got him a box of goldfish to show that we cared. If anyone out there wants to join the pit orchestra, I wish you good luck, and I wish your free time adieu for about three months.