Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark

Hello, Trick-or-Treaters!

I like sound, but sometimes I don’t like its physics. Delay can be fun to play with, but not when you’re trying to synchronize with a live orchestra. It can be like playing straight into the dark. I’ll explain …

I was invited to play the organ with Pacific Symphony for their family Beethoven concert at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. We had a rehearsal this past Wednesday and two performances just this morning at 10:00 and 11:30.

I only played a 5-minute excerpt at the very end of the performance, but hey … Pacific Symphony! I’ll take it! This is the same orchestra I played with in October of 2008 for their Halloween Spooktacular.

They asked me to come in for this morning’s performance to play what a choir would normally sing in an excerpt of the 4th movement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony.


The organ sits a level higher than the stage where the orchestra plays. And sitting at the organ console, my back is to the orchestra. I have a little 6-inch-ish video screen to look at the conductor. So, there’s a trick to playing in sync: I can’t listen to the orchestra. If I do, I’ll come in late. I have to look at the conductor’s beats and follow those no matter what my ears hear. To me, it sounds like I’m coming in slightly early, but our music supervisors sound-checking in the audience say we line up. Kinda Twilight-Zoney.

So, I feel kind of in-the-dark, just playing my notes right as I see the beat, but not hearing it. Such it is. The physics of sound make it so I have to play in a slightly different dimension, but hey … Pacific Symphony! Such a fine, fine symphony orchestra. And that pipe organ. Mmmmmm.