Listen to the band

Some folk go to orchestral concerts just to listen to the music, but there’s so much to see and wonder about, as well. Here, an orchestra lets you into some of its secrets . . .


We’re an orchestra, a band of musicians, highly trained.
If you’d care to lend an ear, certain things will be explained!
We are ruled by dots on lines that dictate how we should act:
When to blow and scrape and bash, so our timing is exact.

You’ll have noticed lots of strings under chins, or held upright:
Mostly small ones to your left; rather big ones on your right.
If you see their left hands shaking (it’s “vibrato”, did you know?),
They are trying to find the note as they wobble to and fro.

Hear the gentle woodwind’s sound – smoothly lyrical, with trills?
It comes from perforated tubes, yet their music’s full of thrills.
There’s the oboes and the flutes, clarinets and big bassoons;
And a piccolo (it’s tiny, but it plays some jolly tunes).

In the interval you’ll see how the members of the brass
Exercise their embouchures as they drain a well-filled glass.
(Well, you need a lot of puff to play Tchaikowsky, Wagner, Liszt;
And experience has shown they play better when they’re refreshed.)

At the back, above it all, the percussion section doze,
Counting rest bars by the dozen on their fingers, thumbs and toes.
Then, quite suddenly, one stirs, lifts his cymbals: there’s a crash
(Has he dropped them?), and the noise wakes up the others in a flash.

Have they slept right through their cues? As they try to find their place,
Lots of bangs and clangs and booms echo through the concert space.
Then the audience applauds, crying “Bravo!”, wanting more,
For they think the loud finale was what’s written in the score!

We’ve rehearsed for weeks and weeks, phrasing this and stressing that;
We’ve been bullied and cajoled (“You are sharp!” or “No, that’s flat!”)
By a fellow at the front – waves his arms about a lot.
If our music is no good, he’s the bloke who should be shot!

[Photo of London Symphony Orchestra: The Telegraph]
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