Monday, February 16, 2009

Another Way of Getting to Carnegie Hall

When "Practicing Practicing Practicing" pays off.

You've probably heard some of those stories about performers stepping in at the last moment to sub for an ailing artist - like the one about a young Leonard Bernstein who, after a late night of celebrations following a successful Town Hall recital, found out he was going to make his debut with the New York Philharmonic that afternoon at Carnegie Hall - without rehearsal - and on a radio broadcast?

Have you ever wondered what it's like for someone who's going through something like that?

Here's Bernstein's own recollection:

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Recalling the debut 24 years later in an interview, Bernstein said, “So out I strode, in my funny double breasted suit, and, polite pattering of applause, went wildly into the crazy three opening chords of Manfred, and it was like a great electric shock. From then on I was just sailing. I don’t know what happened, but those three chords I will never forget. Dum DUM DUM!—pause—and in that pause I knew that everything was going to be all right.”
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Recently, I've found a blog by young tenor Nicholas Phan who, given his Greek-Chinese ancestry, calls his blog Grecchinois. Today's post is one of those stories - waking up feeling not particularly good and being glad it was an uneventful day (beginning with a seemingly uninspiring horoscope, too). Then there was the phone call from his agent wondering if, by any chance, he'd be able to fill in for a possibly ailing tenor in Haydn's "The Creation" if said tenor should become ailing enough to call in sick that evening.

Well, he'd sung the part but that was seven years ago, it was in English (this performance would be in German) and it was taking place at Carnegie Hall.

Read Nick's behind-the-scenes look at his story -- and then read the New York Times review by Anthony Tomassini where, of course, one can only make passing mention of the fact the tenor soloist was a last-minute substitute without a full rehearsal, but hey...

While some careers have been made on breaks like this and others haven't -- it's a funny world, being an artist -- it certainly doesn't hurt to have a story like this in your portfolio.

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