It was July, 1992, and I was booked to play percussion for the last 3 shows of that summer’s Music Theatre Wichita’s 5-show season. The shows were Gypsy, Into the Woods, and Singin’ in the Rain. I was excited for my first rehearsal with the Music Theatre Wichita Orchestra, and a little anxious to be a new member of this group of musicians.
The first rehearsal of show week (called orchestra read) was for Gypsy and was held at a nearby university on a Sunday afternoon. I arrived early to unload and set up my equipment, look over the music, get prepared mentally, and to be on time for the downbeat. I was new to this group and had met only a couple of the other musicians, so I didn’t know very many of the players’ names. That didn’t really bother me because I knew we would be playing together for a few weeks, and I would learn names as we played through the rest of the summer season. My main concerns were to play well, be professional, and display confidence in my ability to perform at my best level.
My ‘set-up’ was off to the conductor’s right behind the woodwinds and brass with the gal French horn player sitting directly in front of me. Craig Barna, our conductor, stepped up on the podium, directed the concertmaster to get us tuned up, and called the Gypsy ‘Overture’ to play first. He gave the downbeat and off we went…playing a lot of notes,…..a lot of fast notes . It felt like I was barely keeping up. After playing a few bars, he stopped the orchestra, looked over to my side, and told Bridget to play the note in measure 16 louder. So – I figured, the horn player’s name must be Bridget. We started again on the down-beat of the Overture. The conductor stopped a second time and repeated the information to the horn player. She marked something in her music, and we started up a 3rd time.
Again (egad!), another stop. Tension grew. Players began to stare, Once again, the conductor looked in my direction and yelled to Bridget to fix that measure. The orchestra was silent. (This rehearsal wasn’t getting off on a ‘good note’ so to speak……).
The horn player, thinking he had been talking to her, looked up and said that she didn’t have a note in that measure, and that she wasn’t sure what he wanted her to play. In my music, there was a whistle note in that measure, but it was crossed out and marked ‘tacet’. I hesitated for a few seconds, then decided to speak up and tell the conductor about this marked-out (tacet) measure. He looked at me (and the horn player) and said, “Bridget, it’s your note, so play it!” Both the horn player and I looked up and together said, “I’m not Bridget!” The orchestra went silent…the conductor, looking perplexed, stared at us.
A few seconds passed, the horn player spoke up to say that her name was Ann, and I followed with “My name is Ginger.” (Some whispering is now going on among the musicians.) “Well then, who is Bridget?” said the conductor. “I don’t know,” I said, “but if she is not here, that must be why the note is not being played!” The orchestra broke into laughter, and the conductor, somewhat confused, chuckled a bit and looked into his score hoping to find a solution for this missing note.
In the end, it was my whistle note that the conductor was referring to, and he was sure that my name was Bridget. I wrote that whistle note back into my part and nailed it for the rest of the performances. And, from then on, and through several more Music Theatre Wichita Summer Seasons, Craig Barna continued to call me Bridget. When other players came in to play Into the Woods and then Singin’ in the Rain, they just assumed that Bridget was my name until they looked in the program and saw Ginger. There was confusion as to whether to call me Bridget or Ginger. Some folks even called me Ginger-Bridget …….
I look back at this first rehearsal of my career with MTW, and with thanks to Craig Barna, I still chuckle at this story. And, thanks to Bridget, for opening up a door to this wonderful world of pit-orchestra playing. Even now, 27 years later, some folks still call me Bridget, and I still answer!
Just a thought …