I have had the joy (and at times, joviality) that comes with working on stage with a sizable audience. I was on the staff of a church of about 2,000 members. Our monthly concert series brought in a number of guest artists. Once each year, I was that guest. I had developed a community choir of somewhat unprecedented size – about 400 singers, along with an awesome orchestra numbering 50 players.
With each event, I would score choir and orchestra arrangements for the entire two-hour concert. Each year we were blessed with an appreciative audience numbering more than 3,000. Many of the numbers featured piano solo supported by the choir and orchestra. While much of the music I had memorized, much of it was not. So my security blanket was my Conductor’s Score which I laid out horizontally across the music rack lying flat in front of me. You should know that the typical full orchestra score averaged 40 or more pages in length. I taped the 10 x 14 manuscript pages together in pairs and laid them on each other in proper numerical sequence as you would the pages of a book.
I so vividly recall conducting the orchestra with my Right hand and playing with my Left – until a fleeting moment when I needed my Left hand to turn the page. Having just a second to turn the page, I inadvertently grabbed what amounted to a small stack of pages as I flipped them quickly over. Somehow, losing grip on the stack, I flipped them all inside the grand piano, hearing them skate across the strings.
I continued improvising with my Left hand while attempting to re-sort the score with my Right hand. As I pulled a page at a time back onto the music rack, it became apparent that, not only were the pages now out of sequence but some of them (only some of them) were flipped over. As I proceeded to flip them back right-side-up, I realized that some of them were now positioned upside-down. What probably took 30 seconds to rectify, seemed like all of 5 minutes. What I attempted to correct with a certain aire of nonchalance, turned into a total comedy of errors. I finally grabbed the entire score of 40 or 50 pages, and closed the book, with a gesture of “oh, well” and proceeded to improvise to the final double bar, but at least with the advantage of two hands on the keys.