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Stage Management



Welcome to Zeitgeist Radio. I'm Morgan Roe, founder of the Zeitgeist Academy. Every episode here on Zeitgeist Radio, I speak with someone from a unique musical subculture looking to understand their relationship with music. Zeitgeist means spirit of the times. Imagine all the things that make this moment feel different from other times.

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Morgan: ​My guest today is Thor Larsen, a singer and stage manager in San Luis Obispo, California.

​Thor, welcome to Zeitgeist Radio.

Thor: Well, thank you very much for having me.

Morgan: How would you describe yourself musically?

Thor: Well, it was a long and windy road. Um, I As a young person, I took the obligatory piano classes and a lot of that was so that my mom and the piano teacher would have some time to chat. They lived, uh, she lived up the road and I would dink on the piano and they would talk and it was a good time and this is sort of the weekly neighborhood gathering there between them.

And that went on. I, uh, went off to finished high school. I had, I really did nothing in the arts at all. I had friends that were musicians, and I, I followed along, and I'd go to the occasional concert. But we were sort of a, the Lawrence Welk family, um, sort of generationally. That's, once a week, Lawrence Welk would come on the whole, you know, thing, and it was great.

I, I liked that part of it. Uh, my, my musical tastes growing up were varied. I didn't really have any. Sort of favorite. Um, and it wasn't until I, I got the college, um, well, I did two years at a junior college up north, uh, Northern California. Uh, and then I came to Poly. I took a

Morgan: And that's,

that's uh, California Polytechnic.

For folks who aren't from here.

San Luis Obispo.

Thor: Yes, because there's more than one polytechnic. But San Luis Obispo. And I took an intro to music theory class along with all these hard classes I was supposed to take. And I was at the time an engineering major. And I had a rotten quarter. It was my first quarter down and it was awful.

It wasn't a It didn't go the way I thought college was supposed to go. And I was very excited to be there. And probably, I don't know. I don't know what happened, but I got an A in music theory. There we go. And I thought, I thought, okay, I've got to, I've got to massively leverage this because nothing else was working.

So I started taking more music classes, um, and tried to sort out and fix this, this mistake. In that and in taking these music classes and getting nasty grams from the, uh, from the engineering department because I wasn't taking their classes and large part try to try to bootstrap my GPA from that, that, that first summer, it was a summer quarter that I started in and I'll date myself a little bit.

So that was 1991 that I. Came to California Polytechnic State University saying that was a mispoke And so by by fall I was enrolled in a another music class I think maybe two Along with some of the other coursework. I had to take and one of the classes was Musicianship class as I recall I was having to sight read this line of music, and I wasn't great at it because I was not, you know, I hadn't been in high school theater or choir or anything like that.

And I sang the line, and I sang it correctly, but I sang it an octave high. And the instructor at the time was the band conductor from the university. And he said, hold on, time out. And he ran out the door and he ran down the hall. I could hear him yelling. Everybody in class knew what was going on. And he said, Tom, I found a tenor!

And then, and I was living in the dorms and the next thing, I mean, it feels like the next thing I knew I was in choir.

Morgan: Recruit choir recruiters. That's great that Tom is he's smart. If he got the band director on that choir recruiters can be, I mean, they will hunt you down. Oh, yeah, they are aggressive.

Sometimes that is

funny.

Thor: It's it ended up being a funny story. And ever since there's, there's never seems to be as many tenors as everybody else. Yeah. So long story short, I ended up changing my major to music to music. Nice. That wasn't what got me into the stage management part of things. That's a whole, so that's I guess where this is heading.

Anybody that's watching, I'm steering my hands to the left as the story turns. Um, I would. Go to school in the summers because the summer the summer class loads were different the school would clear out and be quieter And it was just sort of a I enjoyed the summers and in San Luis Obispo and at one point I I went to the music department chair at that time who was Cliff Swanson I said, do you know of any summer jobs?

I'd like to have a job I would ideally love to be able to earn enough money to pay rent for the summer I'll take whatever I could get and he said well There's, I can't really think of anything, but there's this opportunity if you want to volunteer as a stagehand for the, what was at the time, the Mozart Festival, which is now called, uh, Festival Mosaic.

And so this was in the summer of 92. It was two weeks every summer. And I said, well, yeah, that sounds, that'll be interesting. So that, we were leading up to that, and then one of the other stage people, a fellow named Joey, and I forget his last name, and I've been trying to think of it all week, um, Um, It turns out he got a real job, , and he had to, at the last minute, he had to leave and the cliff approached me and said, Hey, well we've got this open position, do you want it?

And I said, sure, that would be great. 'cause I'd make my rent. Yeah. And I had no idea what I was doing. And all of a sudden I was thrown into the deep end because, oh boy, it was two weeks of concerts all the time. Right. And rehearsals. What I realized was all of a sudden I found something that I really liked.

Nice. Because it really felt like herding cats. And at that time I didn't know anything, so I didn't know I was herding cats. It was just a lot of moving stuff, and moving, and good music, and nice people. And one thing led to another, and I ended up doing that with the, uh, with the Mozart Festival for about 13 years.

And then that parlayed into another job with the local symphony. When one of my other, um, the more senior stage people at the Mozart Festival had to move away, and he said, and he was the manager for the symphony, and he said, Hey, would you like this position? And I'd helped him out over those years because of our association with the Mozart Festival.

If he needed a backup, and I lived in town, I could give him a hand if he needed something. And so, that sort of started me down the path. So I guess it's 30 years now that I've been doing it, and it all started sort of as a mistake. A very pleasant mistake. Not lucrative, but pleasant. Good thing

you got that A.

Right? Yeah. Things could have been a lot different if I was doing well in engineering.

Morgan: I guess for folks who don't know the college, kind of the scene here, um, can you describe what the pack is? Talk about that. Oh,

Thor: the pack it's it's just short for the Performing Arts Center And it's a joint venture between the city and the college and the community of this this really great Concert

Morgan: hall.

It's awesome. It's, it's located on campus. So it's kind of like you feel like you're sort of on like on the school, but it's not, not in a way where you have to wander around and get lost too often. You know, it's, it's also very community focused and a lot of groups come through there and big acts come through there too.

Thor: Oh, very big. And, and we're lucky because for, for folks that, that don't know the West Coast very well. Uh, San Luis Obispo is almost exactly between L. A. and San Francisco, and so if there's a show traveling from L. A. to San Francisco, it can very easily get booked at the Performing Arts Center. And as halls go, and particularly, it was built more around classical music than rock and roll and that sort of thing, but as halls go, it is acoustically as good as anything but In LA or San Francisco, uh, I think it's fair to say, um, and it's continually being kept up to date in terms of its, its technology.

So it's got great equipment, good acoustics, um, at least out in the hall, you know, everything's a trade off. It's, it's well staffed, the folks that work there, and myself not included because I'm a relatively new hire in that sort of environment. Uh, but they all know what they're doing, and many of them have been there for 10, 15, 20 years, uh, since the building opened, some of them.

So, they really understand the systems, and they can, they can make, it's fair to say they can make magic happen when it comes to, uh, a performance, and, and how it sounds, and, and how it works.

Morgan: So, what would you say is your most standard, like, normal gig, like, a day? Standard Friday night, Saturday night for you, like, we'll get into some, some other interesting ones that you've done, but like, what's your normal gig that you do most often, would you

Thor: say?

Well, my, my area where, where I have, have over time garnered expertise is in the area of sort of the classical venue. Uh, classical orchestra set up and with, with choirs in the choir domain and there are differences. There's, so prior to the Performing Arts Center, we were setting up in various local, uh, churches and so forth.

So it was an off site. And you would have to bring everything with you. So we're spoiled with the Performing Arts Center. They have really nice chairs. They've got all the music stands. They have certain instruments. We get instruments from the college. But from, uh, in this discussion, I will be talking mostly looking at it from the standpoint of, of setup for a symphony.

Mm hmm. Or a small chamber group, or in the case of, uh, what you and I are involved in, the, the master chorale, uh, a vocal group that. That is also tied to a modestly sized orchestra, I think it's fair to say that. It's not symphony sized, but modestly sized and can deal from sort of Baroque onward type music.

And some contemporary stuff, which we've done in the past. Looking at it that way, my normal, um, a normal concert with the symphony, there's typical and typical, is what I put down for myself, and that that is, while two concerts might look basically the same to the audience, Yeah. they can be very different with how they're put together on the stage.

And sometimes they even look the same on the stage, but the reason for it is different. And I don't

Morgan: Okay, it's so interesting. What does that mean?

Thor: It can be very nuanced. Um, so if we have a Saturday concert on a given concert week, the real prep starts probably three to four weeks out. The symphony, we start having meetings and figuring out, oh, this is, this is kind of the rough, the rough thing.

And is, is there anything that may be not normal? Is it going to be a concerto? Is it going to, what are the, what's the instrumentation if there's a soloist? It's a, you know, a solo flute concerto is a lot different than a, Stand up bass concerto, even though the physics of the thing is sort of the same.

There's a person standing there and the stage is set up, but you've got other elements to think about how big's the orchestra. So from where I, I'm not worried three to four weeks out. I'm just listening, and I may have an occasional question. It's not till about maybe two and a half weeks or so I start to think, Okay, now I need to really know more.

The other part's the business part that the symphony office takes care of, and I'm, I'm honestly not too interested in that. I don't worry about the budget, because I don't have a budget. So, I, I don't You know, in marketing, it's, that's just not, not the part of this domain that I'm interested in. So, the office sorts all that out, and then, uh, two and a half weeks out The program starting to have to be a little tighter just from the logistics of what they need to do.

So then I know I can be a little more concerned because things are, are gelling up, um, about a week and a half out before that, the last Friday rehearsal or Thursday, really for the symphony, it's Thursday, Friday, then Saturday concert. I've got to really start, maybe have some drawings of what I want the stage to look like.

I've got a pretty certain. idea of what the count is, and then we have the whole pre covid post covid counts. It's a it's a it's a whole different world. It feels like because we'd have twelve first violins ten or twelve second violins and we'd have a big group and now post covid. It's like you get six or eight maybe firsts and you might get.

Six or seven seconds and the groups are smaller people are still leery of coming in or they've made different life choices I don't know. You know, there's there's no judgment thing It's just how it is all the groups seem to have issue trying to trying to get people and as you saw this this past Weekend people drop out at the last minute.

They get sick. There's things happening And there's been a lot of that post COVID that was rarely happened. So you could get, you'd

Morgan: show up sicker than a dog, but you would not miss the gig.

Thor: You wouldn't miss the gig. And so from, from where I was, I'd get those numbers and I'd be pro. Okay. We got 12 of this, 11 of that, four bases.

You just sort of know in my head, I could map it out and go, okay, this will fit or this is going to be tight or whatever, knowing the space. And so in this case, for, for argument's sake, I'm going to say the pack because those dimensions are pretty good in my head. Um, so then we come down to the, we have a A Sunday rehearsal the week before and that's sort of people show up and the folks from out of town don't drive up for that because they have to leave again.

So it's a smaller sort of people start tightening up. Um, then there's a Tuesday rehearsal starts. Gelling a little bit more more people show up Thursday's the first big rehearsal

Morgan: So hold on before we get to Thursday. So for those ones when people are not showing up Do they tell you this like how do you know that they're not showing up or you just say no one from out of town?

Is come you got to have like because you're giving them a place to sit and a stand and like you're taking Making sure people can see like there's a lot of considerations

Thor: Well, and we're also, we're not on stage typically, we'd be in the pavilion. So that comes up at the meetings and, and I keep in touch with, uh, with the conductor and he'll say, Oh yeah, we, we have a few people missing this, this week.

So we'll have eight violins instead of 12 or whatever. And so I just jot the notes down. And honestly, if I put out an extra seat, that's not the end of the world because As I see it, those folks, they will ultimately be sitting there down the road. So you want the people to know that they're going to have a stand mate.

You don't want them to feel like they're going to have, you know, an arms width of space. There's sort of a lot of psychology that I've figured out over the years that, that helps because you ideally, when you go from a rehearsal layout to the concert layout, you're You can give the the musicians more space, right?

They feel more relaxed than going from a big practice space into a smaller hall. And all of a sudden they're all sitting on top of each other and it's uncomfortable. And so there's the added stresses of that. So if I can take them from a from a little slightly tighter configuration and go to more relaxed configuration, then then everybody can can sort of take a collective breath.

You can't always do that. There are certainly challenge concerts where that's. It's just tight and you just do what you can. But, and everybody knows that, but if you can, if you can be a little tighter early on. The closer you get to the concert, the more relaxed it is. Yeah, that's so interesting. There's just sort of people, and you don't say it.

It's just you can see it though, that people react a little bit more relaxed. You're not sitting on each other's laps. You tell everybody well ahead of time what's going to happen. At the earliest rehearsals, you'll start to talk about the changes that'll happen at the end of the week during concert time.

Because you want people to think about Big moving things, or little moving things, or the fact that they will have to get up. They can't just sit there the whole time. You can't ever spring a surprise on anybody. Think of it as, you're riding your bike, in the bike lane, and you have to avoid something and go into the road, right?

You don't wait until the last second, you're gonna get run over. You sort of project, you slowly go out into the road, and people behind you go, Okay, this guy's going out in the road, I'll keep my eye on him. And then you go around the problem, and you You get back in your bike lane and nobody's been startled or anything like that.

Musicians are the same way. You just don't want to startle anybody. It sets people off and there's enough tension in a concert that you just want everybody to be comfortable. And at the end of the day, really my job is about trying to, as I see it, you know, maybe I'm making it way too complicated, but the more comfortable I can make somebody, the more relaxed somebody can feel, the better they're going to do their job.

Because it's a stressful enough job and they don't need this outside stress that, that I bring in. So to, so to bring myself back on track, we've got that, that Tuesday concert, more people are, by Thursday, if somebody's missing, in my mind, they're probably not going to be at the concert. There's a, there's a few folks that, that can come in and sometimes guest players that are, are, are really sort of.

You know, at the more elite level, they can sneak in and that one missed concert isn't going to affect them at all. But typically speaking, Thursday, it's pretty solid. Friday we're on stage and then folks can really see what this configuration is going to be like. And, and if you've got, um, if you've got a lot of percussion, for instance, that can really impact.

How much room people has and just the level of noise that they're going to hear Percussions loud and a lot of string players don't like to be next to it. So you have to bring that into account Singers are like that. How much the singers are like that too. How much room can you give people? if you have a lot of brass you you need to sort of you try your best to set it up so that The trumpets aren't blown right into the violas, for example, because that doesn't benefit anybody.

It makes the violas tense, so they don't play well. The trumpets are probably, at that point, in really close, and so they're not comfortable because So, it's just about trying to find out how to figuratively butter the bread of the stage so that everybody gets spread evenly. Okay, that was a pretty weird analogy, but somehow I can visualize it.

Um, and then you've got the dress rehearsal, and The dress rehearsal is much a rehearsal for the, for the group as it is for the stage people, um, for the lighting people, for me, and, and so we're pretty lucky because, uh, the conductors around here will, will typically do that in performance order. It's not always that way and that makes my job more challenging because you've got to think of things in retrograde if you're doing it in reverse so that you finish at the top of show so that you don't have to reset the stage.

It also means the stuff you're taking off is really the stuff you're putting on. And it makes the math a little bit more complicated if you want to make it run smoothly, so. If I have a choice, I like to be on the receiving end of a program order dress rehearsal. That makes me feel very relaxed, because I'm always nervous anyways.

But that, then I feel like I have a better understanding. It's kind of like a dance, right? It's sort of a little ballet from the standpoint of this, the stage folks. Um, I'm very fortunate in the symphony. I have, uh, I have an assistant that I never had before just these last couple of years, and she also works at the pack.

Um, shout out to Brittany, uh, and she's on top of it. And so backstage we sit and discuss what we need to do and how we're going to do it. And so it comes down to like, well, you never want to make a wasted trip in front of the public. There are people out there. You want to be on and off the stage as quickly as you can.

And, and do it in such a way that people don't even notice that you're out there. Um, so maybe they go and they turn their head and talk to the person in the seat next to them. And when they look up, whatever it was that was supposed to be done is already done. No noise, no fuss. It's just, and that is the, that is my perpetual goal is to, to be like a ninja and to come out there and manage the stuff and do what needs to be done, no matter how complicated it is, to improve from the dress rehearsal to the concert and be on and off the stage and just let the music, let the music do the talking, you know, if I could wear a cloak of invisibility and do all that stuff, I really would, because I don't, I don't care to be seen.

I think the job is best done when nobody notices. There's no clanging or banging or anything

Morgan: else. I imagine there's a lot of opportunity. There's so much, and I guess, you know, picture, like, just picture how many chairs, and how many stands, and sometimes there's, you know, a microphone, and then you add the choir, how many people are sitting.

There's a lot of people on a stage. I just see a lot of places something could go sideways. So, of course, I have to ask you, have you, what's gone sideways? Like, what are some examples of things, what, what type of stuff happens up there that, that likely we don't even know about? What types of things do you see, uh, going wrong?

Thor: Well, there's, it's, it's funny. Arguably, most of the time, nobody knows. Right. Certainly nobody in the audience. Right. And in large part, that's because They've never, they don't know how it should go right, right? So the fact that it continues from the audience standpoint implies that oh it all went right, right?

But there there are moments and I I will call a moment from this the last Choir concert this last weekend. So we for those that don't know we it was the sing along Messiah concert And then we had an intermission and then we had a brass group that came out and did some pieces And then it went to a piano.

It was piano, then brass, then back to the choir and some sing alongs and so forth. So there was a portion of that that had been choreographed not as moves on the stage but in my head and with the conductor that he would stay out, I would go up and arrange turn his stand around that the, in this particular case it was this, uh, quintet that the tuba player would sit and use the conductor's stand because that was the available stand.

So we needed a fifth stand. That was the one that was there. It was a sort of a no fuss, no must kind of change. And then when they were done, because, and, and now this will bring up this, this situation that intermission, you can do a whole lot. You have a 20 minute intermission. You can entirely rearrange a stage in 20 minutes.

You know what, what needs to be done. It's amazing. You can pull a grand piano out and put it in the middle of everything in five minutes. And. Have time to spare and massage and do what you need to do. , the idea that when you're between pieces in the same half of the show to make a change right, is much because then everybody's watching, everybody's

Morgan: watching, and it, it, it's hard to

Thor: be ninja

It breaks, it's, it's hard to be a ninja. And, and on top of that, it breaks the flow. Often, you know, the uh, uh, music directors will put pieces together so that they flow nicely. And you go from one to the other and there's either, there's thematic reasons or any number of reasons. You sort of break the fourth wall when somebody all of a sudden is jumping out there and doing some stuff that doesn't really have anything to do with music.

But the flip side is it has a lot to do with music, but just with the making of the music, but not with the music itself. So, in this particular case, the conductor wandered out and started talking. When he wasn't supposed to, so, and on top of that, he had left his music and his baton on the stage on his stand.

And so then the question is, well, do you grab the stand? Well, what do you do with this stuff? Do you just drop it on the floor? Do you have to put it somewhere? So, in this particular case, because I was also singing in the choir, I was looking at his stand. And when he wandered out, and I could see the, the house manager.

Had I knew she had to bring out some stuff again. This is Brittany. In this case, she was working for the building and not for the organization performing, but she and I had been talking backstage a lot. So she saw me and I saw her and I said, well, you got to get out here. This has changed. Our plan has changed.

Go do your thing. We'll mop up here. And so she came out and I think you saw her she brought a stand and moved his microphone stand, right? So that's this instance where that was not how that was planned to go. And

Morgan: did you like mind read? Like how did that, I know she had a headset, but you did not. How did she know?

I could

Thor: see her. I looked over, I leaned forward in my chair and I could see her in the doorway and I gave her a head nod that just said, Thumbs up, and she went out. And she, no, wow. But then, we still had the problem that the conductor's stand was standing there, and it wasn't where it was supposed to be, which was facing the tuba player.

Because he didn't have a stand. And I realized, well, there's no way around this, because if he starts just grabbing whatever, then I've got to try to figure out where that goes. immediately when they're done, because now we have to set up for the string slide again. So I jumped out of my chair, I grabbed a stand that I knew from the violas, I knew where that went, and I just left the baton and everything else on the stage, and it didn't really matter because he was sitting behind his stand, so it didn't cut the viewing angles out from anybody.

Meanwhile, I didn't get the lid down on the piano, which was all going to be part of that same rotation, so that after they were done, the lid was already down. And so you sit there and you just have to instantly triage this and you can't stand up and spend five minutes trying to figure it out. You have to have a plan.

Right. So a lot of the job is about always having a plan. You think of every possible scenario that could break and then just hope it never happens. But if it happens, ideally you have some backdoor that you can go to in an emergency. I can bring another example. Symphony conductor at the last concert.

Conductors like their batons, and he had a, he always had sort of this quiver of batons. Well, he was down to his last two batons, and he couldn't find any. It's just they weren't available. He's from Madison, Wisconsin. They were out. There were none in San Luis Obispo. I have one from classes in college, so I brought that, and I kept it in my bag.

And in the rehearsal, or maybe it was the first piece of the show, I don't, he broke his baton. So he had one spare. And so he said, do you have yours with you? I said, yes, I do. Where is it? I said, it's right here. I'm going to lay it right here. It's in this case. If the worst thing happens and you break your baton, we've got, this is the fallback fallback baton.

Yeah. It managed not to break. But as soon as he knew there was another one, you could see he kind of relaxed. So when he's relaxed, it's a better performance. So you try to come up with all these things and think about the worst. And then the next concert that he showed up, I said, how are you doing with baton?

So I was able to get more and it was a non issue. That issue went away. Yeah, there's always some other issue, right? So it's always about having a plan. And also not letting people know how freaked out you are all the time. I'm, I'm,

Morgan: I'm constantly You look cool as a cucumber all the time. You're moving quickly though.

That's the other thing is how fast you move without tripping or Yeah, and really the whole team, everybody there like, like ninjas I guess. That's a pretty good analogy.

Thor: I think it's, it's fair to say that it goes with this conservation of motion. The more steps you take, the more zigzags you make, the more likely you're going to run into something.

So it's always about thinking the best path to get somewhere. You take the path that has the least expensive instruments. And what I mean by expensive maybe is the ones with a lot of things sticking out. Violins are kind of bad because the violin players, um, have their bow. And the bow is sometimes hooked over a finger.

It goes up one way or the other. And they're, they're very easy to sort of snag on. And many of them cost more than your car. So, you've got these issues that And that's just the bow. A few concerts ago, somebody had a 40, 000 backup bow. And it's easy to break them. You know, they're not made out of, uh Titanium.

No, they're most certainly not. So, you certainly don't want to ruin anything. Not only because it's heartbreaking at the time, but then that person can't play. So if something gets broken in a concert, then it doesn't matter how you do it. impacted the whole, the whole concert. Has that ever happened? Um, not directly, but we did have, back in the early days of the Performing Arts Center and the Mozart Festival, a gentleman, because at the Mozart Festival it was a pickup group.

Folks came from all over the country to play. And, and one of the, I think his name was Greg Barber. He was a bassoonist. And it would get so cold in that building. Because of the, it was new and they were still figuring out the building. This was in the early or late nineties. That his bassoon split. Oh no.

It just had dried out and you could literally, you heard, heard this pop.

Morgan: And it Everyone just died a little inside. Yeah, right.

Thor: Well, and he was the principal bassoon player. Oh no. And that was his principal bassoon. And, you know, that kind of puts a damper on things. Just a little bit. Especially if the bassoon player is featured or something, that instrument's out of the running.

It's got to go be repaired, and that's not inexpensive. And now he's got to go find another instrument. Yeah. Like a violin player that may play the same violin for their entire career, their entire professional career. Or maybe have two, two distinct instruments that they grow with the instrument. You can't just necessarily go grab another instrument.

You're not gonna play like you played your first one. Yeah. The last thing you want to have happen is to have something go wrong. So I can say, not And that, that

Morgan: gamut is crazy. Like, like to, to have, like on the one hand you have Uh, a bassoon, like an instrument breaking and then on the other hand you have, uh, you know, someone leaves their music on the stage and that's, that's a very big range of things that could happen.

Well, at

Thor: the choir concert, a gentleman came up and he said, I packed two instruments to bring with me. I only decided at the last minute I only needed one. I came up here, all my music was in my other case and that's LA. So he said, what, what can I do? And I said, well, I don't know. Initially, you kind of, you kind of want to say, well, not my problem.

Right. You know, you're a professional, you need, but the reality is it is my problem because it's, we want a smooth running show. So between, between Brittany and I, we were able to sort out not only, so he had a PDF of the music, But we were in the building on state machines that are imaged that may or may not connect to a printer.

So maybe if I had my laptop, which me with me, which I didn't, I could have just done something. But so we had this other, we've got a rehearsal starting in 10 minutes and this gentleman has no music and how do we make, well, in the end, this time we made it happen and he had his music all on paper and ready to go.

But, you know, in that period, we had other things we were thinking about too, right? And so that comes to some other questions here that we'll get to. But it adds to, it adds a layer of this complexity, and depending on the group, and depending on the year, like now with the symphony, there are two of us, which is fantastic.

Twenty years, it was just me, and I would just show up. And I didn't have a backup. And so when that happens, what it ends up being is it's a one to many relationship.

Morgan: There's one Thor, many musicians.

Thor: And there can be, there can be 80, we've had 80 or more musicians. And with every musician comes a chair and a stand, right?

So now you're looking at, like, uh, 160 items just there. 160 items. And then you've got music, and you've got lighting, and you've got, and depending on if you're in the venue or in another venue, if you're going up to, to San Miguel in a, in a church space that you don't own, and you're just lucky to use, that is a fantastic hall, but, you know, it's cobbled floors, and it's cold, and then you've got this, it's a whole nother Yeah.

Series of elements that come in. So it leads to this etiquette. It's a one to many scenario. If somebody has a squeaky chair versus somebody that lost their music. Versus somebody that needs to use the restroom because we're five minutes before rehearsal you have to triage all these problems, right? And and they're not really honestly, they're not the same.

There's a weight in those problems That's

Morgan: exactly and you're probably you're you probably are good at prioritizing very very quickly

Thor: I don't know if it's prioritizing sometimes. It's just well, okay, ultimately it would be prioritizing I suppose But in my mind, it's just a, a logical flow. Mm-Hmm that if somebody doesn't have their music and somebody's complaining about a squeaking chair, the squeaking chair waits.

Right? That's, that's not even a non right. That's, that's a non-starter, right? Um, if something, if somebody's shoe breaks, right? Let's think of something that this hasn't happened that I can think of in this, in this case, it's happened elsewhere, but if somebody's shoe breaks, they're not gonna play well.

Right? So, okay, you've got to deal with a shoe, but a shoe's not a two minute fix. Right. It could be a five, it could be a five minute fix, and you've got four minutes. And all you've got is a pocket knife, right? Or, you know, so you've got to MacGyver this stuff, because you don't walk around with tools all day.

You, you also have to look professional in the job. So, it's really about triaging the problems. And, and sometimes I think from the, from the etiquette standpoint is that people have to recognize that initially, when everybody's all worked up, like this poor musician who had left their music, it becomes my problem because it's part of the show, but it's not my fault that they left their music, right?

And so they have to understand that there are other things going on. We're going to do our best. But it's really not on us, right? And in this, this wasn't the case in this, in this particular instance, but just sort of breaking down sort of the flow of things. The etiquette part is sometimes somebody's personal problem isn't an operational problem.

Yeah, they just sort of have to sit back and go, maybe I can fix this chair myself. Right, right. Or if it's a little wiggly woggly, move it an inch to the left, and maybe the wiggly woggly goes away. You know, I may not have to spend time with that because the conductor can't read his score because it's not light enough.

Or, you know, the wiggly woggly weights, the conductor's being able to read his score supersedes that. Right. It's hard to. pop up a really good example. So some of these examples might be a little weird, but hopefully the, the difference in the, the weight of the problem is evident in the explanation. If that

Morgan: makes sense.

It certainly is to me. Yeah. And I'm surprised that, I mean, and again, this is why this is so interesting. I'm surprised just the stuff that you've shared, just some of these examples, like I would never expect. someone working the stage to be able to fix my, I forgot my music problem, but if you've got a problem, I guess you're just looking for anybody and at all who can help you solve it.

And, uh, the fact that you were able to make it work.

Thor: Sometimes it's just a desperation thing. Yeah. You know, that, that They know they have to get out there. They'll have wardrobe malfunctions. A strap breaks on a dress, for example. Especially if it's a soloist or you've got somebody that's really limelight.

They can't, they can't afford to sit, you know, in the seconds, in the second row of seconds and be hidden away in the crowd. They're up there and if something isn't right you've got to fix it.

look, I've been on a lot of stages, and it wasn't until I saw Thor zooming around during one of our gigs that I realized there was a lot more going on than even I knew about. Thor, by the way, is also a rock climber, and his handshake is no joke. I go into more detail in my newsletter. If you sign up, you'll also get exclusive content, blog posts, and behind the scenes insights about topics brought up by each guest.

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Morgan: Going back to the etiquette thing, part of what interested me here as well, I've been in many, many, many choral organizations. Um, almost all of my stage performing experience has been in a choir. Um, and especially on the large stages. And I've noticed that the more professional the group, the more there really does seem to be this, um, aura of etiquette and a strictness.

of etiquette, uh, that kind of across the whole organization. And I guess when I say etiquette, what I mean is, um, there's a lot of rules, like unspoken rules, especially for choral singers. I would say probably, um, you know, in Portland, one example is, um, when we would perform with the Oregon Symphony, we weren't even allowed to talk to the musicians.

Like, we couldn't be in the same area as the musicians. We were kept completely segregated in a literally, like, upstairs green room. And we were told, you are not to I mean, like, we weren't told not to talk to them, but we were told not to, not to mingle with, not to spend time with them, and I think the, the fear was that someone would trip and snap a bow, or, you know, somehow damage an instrument.

Uh, I absolutely never was on the stage, the choral, the choir loft was a little bit separate up there, but, but just, I think they took all of these little, uh, You know, when you say that you have to think through all the problems, they took that, that seriously, including behavior of, you know, a community, I mean, it was a very good group, but they were not, they're not paid, you know, it's not a professional ensemble.

So it was, that was maybe a little extreme, but on the other side, if I've, I, the gigs I've done with more community orchestras. People are maybe mingling a little bit more and, and talking and, and wandering around on the stage. They have more access, but part of it is around like you started this whole thing by saying herding cats.

And I think that's like spot on with how, how, how cat herder do you get and, and which side of those two extremes would you lean more towards preferring?

Thor: Well, that's, that's a, that's pretty insightful. Uh, I, I think that San Luis Obispo is not a union orchestra, for example, and that makes a big difference because a union group can really set some strict rules and say, yeah, this is what's this is what's going to happen.

And we're not going to play if that choir comes out on our stage, right? That makes sense for any number from insurance to anything else. But This, this organization isn't that way and, and also in this group, both from the choir and the orchestra, there are stakeholders in the building, they, they've all, a lot of them are donors to the building and, and so I think you, you have a bit of entitlement that happens, and so people feel like they can, sometimes I'm shocked that, uh, somebody will walk down off the, off the, uh, and it's a handful of people.

It's sort of, it's never a surprise, but I'm always shocked that somebody will come down off the, off the risers and play the piano, for example. Oh. It's been tuned, it's been tuned for the concert, and it drives me crazy. Yeah, no

Morgan: way.

Thor: But, I've got to straddle the fence, and there are certain times where I'll just say, you know, is that yours?

No, you know, just, because you can't be snippy snappy, because it's a small community. Mm hmm. But at the same time, and I was never good at this until I would say, and I don't know that it's something to be good at, but I never asserted myself until maybe the last few years where I, I just, I'm changing my view a little bit that I, I kind of feel that it gets in the way the risks and maybe it's a maturity thing on my part.

I've gotten older and I've realized that these risks exist and it's maybe not as cavalier as I used to be. And so, you know, I will ask people just to leave the stage. This is not their time to be on the stage. And in fact, sometimes I do it as I'm setting the stage up. If I'm there, uh, and this comes to another question, you know, what's my typical, a typical day like?

Um, if I'm there two hours early to start, or an hour and a half before everybody shows up to get things done, and some stray musician decides they didn't have anything else to do, and they plop themselves down on the stage, before I'd work around them, now I ask them to leave. Yeah, because that's kind of my time.

Yeah, and it gives you don't

Morgan: interrupt their

Thor: practice time well, and in fact, I I I don't I don't run out and Point out that they've made a mistake in the middle of the concert in the middle of a rehearsal Hey great sour note, you know go work on it. And so I don't expect that somebody they've I expect a little bit of grace if their chair isn't exactly perfect, because there's a lot of other things that have to happen, too.

So, the more time I can get to do that, and then it comes down to that leads to something that I didn't think about, but it falls into this same thing, is that you get a lot of people that want to help. Right. Hey, can I give you a hand? And it's especially true in the choral groups that want to help out on the stage.

And I'll be honest, I don't want help. Yeah. I'd like, I'd like one other person. So me and one other person. And sometimes that's somebody from the group. If I know them and I know that they, they have a pretty solid idea of what's going on. Um, or one other person that works with me staging, like Brittany and I can get an awful lot done in eight minutes.

Yeah. Because we know what we're trying to do. It's. It's not like you can throw 15 bodies at it. Instead of 8 minutes, it's 12 seconds. It doesn't work that way. And in fact, it takes 2 hours. It goes from 8 minutes to about 30 minutes. And still nobody knows what's going on because one person sets something and another person moves it again.

And it's just it's absolute chaos. So two people is about all I can manage and still manage a stage. So really the way

Morgan: you can help is to stay out of the way.

Thor: Exactly. And, and so I'm always trying to come up with nice ways to say that. Yeah. And, and sometimes you just have to really be blunt. I just need you to stay in your seats.

Yeah. And. But people don't like to hear that and I don't like to say it because I don't think I should have to. I feel like it should just be an understood thing. You know, it's like going into a store into somebody's house. You don't start moving all their stuff. Right. You just, you sit and have coffee and talk and enjoy yourself.

But you know, you don't rearrange the furniture.

Morgan: Unless you're you, because you do, because again, I sing with you in the choir. And you, so you're performing and you're resetting the stage, so, so you get to do

Thor: that. I, well yes, I, I do get to do that, uh, in the, that choir setting. How

Morgan: do you have the brains for that?

Like, all I can think about is, is the performance. Um, and you're, you're everywhere, and you're managing so many I mean, you were even just sharing earlier about leaning, like, noticing the fact that the conductor left his music. Like, you're paying attention to so many things. What is that like? That seems like a lot.

Thor: Well, well, then there's the video cameras, which I won't get into that. Typically, there's one or two or three of those out in the hall that I have to make sure are on and then turn off again and that they actually do come on and there's some automated things that are supposed to happen. And so you worry about that, too.

But I was I was thinking about that earlier today, like as I was writing. So to fair notice, we did have a broad brushstroke of questions. And I thought to warm up my brain, I, I sat and wrote out answers to these, which I'm not, I'm peeking at a few of them, but it, it sort of brought me into the space that normally happens kind of automatically.

And so in the choir, while I'm singing a piece, I'm not really worried about what's going on. But as we near the end of a particular piece, sometimes the last couple of measures, I've got to start thinking about what's going to happen. So I had told the two folks in front of me that when we finish this piece, I've got to step through you guys.

And I'm not going to surprise you. So this is when it's going to happen. And I'll give you a tap on the shoulder that I'm going to come through so I don't, you know, kneecap you in the back of the head or something because we're on risers. And then I gotta go do my thing and then I try to get back up on stage as smoothly as I can because it's sort of, you know, that's what everybody can see is all of a sudden this person has left the choir and then they're coming back.

What's going on? So there's this element that something's gonna happen, but in the middle of the piece, it's rare that I worry about it. When I'm singing, I'm singing the piece and I'm fully involved in the piece. But between the pieces until pieces,

Morgan: until the last few measures,

Thor: until the last few measures.

And if it's just going from one to the next, I don't worry about it. Yeah. The first half of the concert, I didn't have to do anything and I knew everything that was gonna happen and so I could just sit there and enjoy it. The second half was a little more tense because of these things In this particular concert, other concerts, they, they go very smoothly and some concerts.

When we were doing, um, some of the post covid stuff, we had several concerts where. So I do a post production of the concert for archival purposes for the for the director post COVID. One of the concerts I had nine cameras out. So I had nine cameras running in addition to coordinating with the recording staff in the building.

So we had 12 or 13 mics recording. Um, And trying to do that as well as move things and not knock cameras over. And many of them were set up right in the middle of the stage, trying to put them in places that weren't going to be disruptive. Meanwhile, knowing that, Oh, I might have, I have to move a piano and I can't run over these wires.

I can't do this. I can't do that. So it ends up being a lot. Thankfully, we've gotten away from that. We're far enough past COVID that the video isn't as important anymore. It was important when people couldn't get to the show. Yeah. And so, they'd buy a ticket to support the group, but then they would watch it at home.

Right. In the safe environs of their own homes. So, I think that that ship has sort of sailed for now. But we still want good recordings, and the video's nice to have because it helps in the post production of knowing where you are in a program. If there's a restart or something, it's always better to be able to catch it on video than sit there and listen and go, Oh yeah, wait, that wasn't the start.

Oh yeah, where's the downbeat? Oh yeah. So, video just makes that so simple. Um, so it's worth, it's worth a little extra stress for that. But I know how I am, and if I just sat there the whole time, and didn't think about other things. I think I'd miss a lot of just to the singing cues. My mind would start to drift.

And so, so I can sort of keep my mind revved up. So

Morgan: your brain is always going.

Thor: It's, it's always going, it's always going. And on the outside, I may look relaxed, but on the inside. Yeah, a couple times I've started my, my workout watch and recorded an entire concert where I'm doing all the work and you can see the peaks and valleys.

It's a full workout. How

Morgan: many steps did you, like, did you do your steps? How many steps? Uh, on one,

Thor: on one, one concert, I think I had 13, 000 steps, 13, 000 I was all over the

Morgan: place. And This is in two

Thor: hours. Yeah, it was just all over because I'm going from the, from the stage and then I'm going backstage for the warm ups.

Then I have to run back out into the hall. Sometimes I have to go up into the, uh, balconies if I needed to double check a camera or something. Then I have to be back in the hall. Then I gotta wrangle the musicians. Then I have to get in line to get in the choir. Then at intermission, you're moving all the stuff.

And depending on how big a change it is, there's a lot going on there. And then it's always running back and forth. And I personally don't like people backstage when I'm in charge. Because it's dark, and again, people can get hurt. So I try to be a good example, so I will run around the outside of the stage.

Because if it's good enough for me, it should be good enough for everybody else. So, you know, that's a, that's extra steps and I'm not, I'm not meandering by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes I've really got to book it if there's a lot going on. So it's, it's kind of, I was discussing it with somebody the other day.

It's a bit like being in a biathlon because you'll get yourself all revved up and really good and sweaty. And then you've got to shoot the gun, you know. Oh yeah, yeah. You've got to lower your pulse, slow your breathing. Because when the downbeat comes, when it's our turn to sing, I can't be all huffin and puffin It doesn't work that way.

Yeah. So, it's, it's kind of exciting. I find it to be very exciting. It's, it's, should be an Olympic sport. If they can do breakdancing, I don't know why they can't do this.

Morgan: Stage management, I love that. What's something the general public may not know about stage setup?

Thor: Other than the obvious things, right?

Putting out the chairs. Cause like I said before, you go from concert to concert. It all looks roughly the same to, to the untrained eye, to the sort of the regular concert goer, but I think the trick is that you really have to figure out the space for a given performance and there's little nuances with every space.

Um, and then you've got issues about sight lines and setting up people. So it's not just, they're all sitting there playing, but you've got to remember that you can't put anybody behind the timpani. Well, why can't it? Because timpanists stand up. And so you've got to arrange things so that the timpanist isn't in front of the brass, for instance, even if they're playing together.

So you've got to make that space. Um, there's a lot of, well, the other thing that they may not know is how much Preparation goes into it on on the on the stage management end. Of course There's a lot more that goes into it from the standpoint of signing the artists and getting people That's there's a whole that's a whole nother world.

Yeah, I keep myself out of it Yeah, I've had a few opportunities and I don't, that's, that's not my thing. That's a lot of, a lot of paperwork and, and dealing with the nuances that, that in my case I don't, I don't find terribly interesting, but again, fitting people or mundane things like if you have a piano concerto, it's best to set the stage, no pun intended.

for the piano coming out. So, in the first half, you can't have everybody downstage knowing you're going to roll a piano out because then you literally have to move everybody. And it's everything. So, you preemptively set the stage so maybe you only have to move one row of a double row of chairs to accomplish the same job.

Or, like, we had a harp concerto. Well, harps are kind of big and they're heavy and they're very expensive. And so how do you mitigate the risk in moving that? And normally the artist moves it, but we had a concert a few back where I asked the artist, so when are you going to bring the harp out? No, you're bringing the harp out.

I said, what do you mean? I'm bringing the harp out. No, I, I trust you, Thor. I want you to take the

Morgan: harp out. Here, sign this waiver.

Thor: It wasn't even like that. They just wanted me to tell you. I have a very strict policy of I won't touch an instrument. If somebody leaves an instrument on a chair, and I have to make a change, I stop.

I have to go find that musician. Because I don't know anything about that instrument. It's not mine to touch. Right. That would be the one time that some happenstance, who knows? There might be a part on the instrument that just would break anyways, right? It would be the one time and then it's, then it's my fault.

So, but if somebody asks me. They, they asked me, Hey, I need you to hold this. I'm going out in three minutes. I really have to go to the bathroom. You hold the instrument. I had somebody hand me a Stradivarius. He said, I'll be right back. And I said, I will be exactly on this spot. And I stood there as long as it took and everything else had to wait.

Somebody came up and asked a question. I said, I'm sorry. I'm, I can't move right now. No, you can't. And, and so that sort of goes into that. Those are the things that people don't see. Yeah. That, that you've planned out, you know, the next steps and then somebody does that and you've got to just put all of that on hold.

Which is fine, you can't let it stress you out, because now this is the new situation. But then you've got to figure out smooth shortcuts. Or find somebody else that can do what you're going to do and explain it in such a way that it makes sense. Because you can't just send somebody like a bull in a china shop.

You've got to say, I need this out there. You have to take it this way and face it this way, waist high. And you have to be very explicit. I mean, people aren't idiots, they can do it. If you explain it really well. Right. Right, right. I'd rather do that than stand there and wait for the artist to come back and then run out and because then I'm in a hurry, right?

And so then that makes even more problems. So that's the stuff that the audience doesn't see the things that happened back to trying to find a musician that Decides that they they had to they just go on a walk because they like the building and then they're on in 30 seconds And where are they? I see their instruments sitting there But they're not around or they're nervous or they're not feeling well, or I mean it's all happened and it's wild And then if they're stressed, you talk them down and you make them feel good.

So when they go out, that's some of these, some music, Oh, my hand still clenched talking about that violin. That was a very stressful day. That sounds so stressful. It was, it was, it was very stressful. I mean, I was honored that, uh, yeah, no, he had no issue with it, but at the same time, at the moment when it's a stressful time already, things like that can really, really ratchet it up.

Yeah.

Morgan: Well, now you can say you've held a Stradivarius. That's very cool. I, I have.

Thor: I have. You know, I'm sure this is a bit atypical if you were to go down to LA. I don't take myself too seriously. You know, I take the job seriously, but Right. I don't take myself too seriously, and I think that helps. That brings me personal sanity.

Yeah. Yeah. You know, I put my pants on like everybody else does, and we're all doing our best. We're all rowing the boat in the same direction. At the end of the day, I want a really good performance. Because, and you know, maybe I can, I can, I can visualize that by saying, I want to hear a really good performance backstage because I enjoy the music and certainly you don't do this for the money because there really isn't much.

Yeah. So you do it for these other things. And part of that is if I do my job right and they do their job right, it ends up being a really fantastic thing. And it's kind of like when you sing in the choir, um. When everybody does their homework, you get, you get so much more than any one individual. Yeah.

Right? Yeah, absolutely. Uh, you get those overtones when they belong, and you get the, you get that, that feeling that you're in the stereo, right? You're sitting inside of the stereo, listening to this performance, rather than just sitting in an easy chair, listening to the performance. You're really part of it.

Morgan: I love that imagery that I might have to use that in in this episode. Inside the stereo.

Thor: You're inside the stereo. And I can say the unprecedented level of access that I have to listening to music from different places. And over the years, I've been fortunate. to have opportunities where I could go sit out in the hall on the stage, tuck a chair in the back corner and listen from the back and watch the conductor.

Yeah. And that is something that You know, basically nobody gets to do unless you're in the orchestra. And so it, it brings back this analogy of being inside the stereo came to me probably 20 years ago, 25 years ago. Cause I'd sit in these rehearsals with the Mozart festival with. Absolutely world class performers and we've, we've had a few that have come through that, that later went on to be internet.

Hillary Hahn, for example, came and played and I could sit, I could sit on the stage and I could go sit in the back of the first violins and listen and walk around to the other side and stand with the basses and listen. I mean. That's like, that's magic. Yeah. Yeah, and you and and that to me is that whole inside the stereo Business is that when you can sit there and hear it that way versus just in a chair.

I mean, it sounds great It's literally priceless.

Morgan: No, but no one there's no ticket you can buy that would give that experience like

Thor: There is there is no ticket. So when I, I took it upon myself when COVID happened and nobody could perform and the symphony had very limited ability to give performances because you couldn't put anybody in the building.

We were able to get some limited time in the hall with really tight spacing regulations. So this, this was a whole, those couple years in there was a whole different world. Um, but we needed to have something because a performing orchestra is nothing without a performance. Right? Right. And so there were instances where I would go out and I would record people outdoor and we'd put together, I think every month and a half we do about an hour and a half movie that was in a drive in.

So we'd show it, project it, and then cars could pull up and they'd tune their radio to it and get to listen. Um, but I realized, and, and that's what got me on this, this kick with all these cameras is I would put cameras all over the orchestra. And if we had a piano, uh, soloist, you'd have the, a camera right down on the keyboard looking along his fingers, right?

Yeah. And then you'd have, if there was a harp player, you'd have a, a camera just looking at them from an angle that You knew nobody ever get to sit in. Right. Um, I had cameras aimed at the conductor. And so, you're watching him conduct and then you'd pan over to whoever he cued, for example. Right. Just, just as he's starting to point, you do the pan over to whatever section he was And that was in part, or what was driving me to do that, was in part that that's what I always got to see.

Yeah, and there was never any call to have these cameras that if you brought up in 2019 if you'd said hey, I got this idea and I was not in the symphony of that period I'd taken a little hiatus But let's say let's pretend I was if I came in and I said, hey guys, I got this idea Let's sprinkle cameras all over the stage And they'd say, you're nuts.

That's the dumbest thing ever, at least on this local level. Right? I mean, big shows, they do it and they have big, they have camera people, and it's a whole nother level of crazy. This is, this is all post production stuff. But then you produce something where people, they're hearing the same thing, but they're seeing it from just a completely different perspective.

And it became an opportunity, and I can say I put in a lot of hours doing that in post production because I felt like I was really driven to show that side of things. Now the house is open again, and we're selling out, and it doesn't matter. Nobody's interested. They're not going to go watch it. But for that brief period, that was sort of a window where all of a sudden you could Turn this into something that it wouldn't that didn't

Morgan: exist that insight into your life

Thor: Well, maybe maybe it was part of that or just I felt I felt very fortunate I like we started this program with I fell into this opportunity It was dumb luck if somebody had asked me before in fact, I remember years ago I had a discussion with a friend who was a Cellist up in Santa Rosa in the Sanford Santa Rosa Symphony.

I said this was Early on in my music career, and I said, Why? Why do you really need a conductor you all know the music you're all sitting there playing together and it appears to me half the time You're not paying attention to it Why can't you well fast forward 30 years and it's very clear to me why?

and How this facilitates the bigger picture, you know, and then of course singing in the choir you see it even more what what Tom can do Tom Davies the conductor of the the choir that we're in What he can do with just a simple hand gesture. It's kind of, it's kind of like he uses the force. You don't even, it's almost like you can't sing loud if he wants you to sing quietly.

When he makes the appropriate gesture. Yeah part of the the bigger picture, so I'm digressing from the original question

Morgan: No, this actually leads really nicely into my final question and I asked this for every guest so zeitgeist means spirit of the times and It's like the the collection of you know, what it feels like to be part of something at any point in time and Um, I've started using this term zeitgeist moment for, for musical purposes for that, that feeling when, when you just feel like music comes alive, something is happening and you are plugged into it.

And um, and I think you, most people know, it's honestly harder to describe it like everyone is like, Oh yeah, I know that moment. Um, this is, I feel like this is leading nicely into what is one for you and then I'll share one. Uh, that I think is related, um, to our conversation here, but what was a recent or a particularly memorable Zeitgeist moment for you?

Well, I have

Thor: to, I have to go way back and it, the irony is it was the opening of the hall, the opening of the Performing Arts Center, uh, at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, uh, um, There were four conductors locally that came up and they each did a movement of, uh, Beethoven's Ninth. Nice. And the, the final movement of course, is the choral movement.

And that was Tom Davies conducting that piece. So we had the, the conductor of the high school. We had Cliff Swanson, who, uh, was the dean of the music department at the time. And also it was. an oversized part in having the building put together. Um, Gary Lamprecht, who was the high school conductor at the time and conducts vocal arts, another local group here, and then Tom Davies wrapped it up.

And I remember they're all excellent conductors. And, and this moment, of course, uh, the ode to joy, just. in and of itself is so powerful. And it just gives me goosebumps. And then to listen to it gives me goosebumps, but to sing it. And at that point I was still very young in my singing career. We were on the stage because everybody locally wanted to be part of this.

So I think we had a hundred musicians on the stage. I think we had 120 in the choir on that stage that we were on this weekend. It was packed. There were risers going up the side to obviously a completely full house. There was standing room only. And I remember Tom Davies came up and this was the moment.

So you asked about the moment. Yeah, everybody had done their pieces. The, the, the, uh, The, the regular, uh, orchestral movements were fantastic because it's Beethoven and, and the groups really, really excelled in this performance. And I remember Tom Davies came up. And he, he had him take his podium away. And so all of a sudden you're like, what's going on?

Because we'd rehearsed it with music. Well, he memorized the whole piece and he started conducting what had to be the single most rousing choral piece I've ever been involved with. And we've done some really cool music, but at that moment with that many people, 120 people singing Ode to Joy in a brand new hall.

With a outsized orchestra. I mean, it was really something. That sounds amazing. Just thinking about it now kind of makes me a little bit sort of wiggly. Because it was just, it was such a big event. And, and it was at that moment, like, And I don't even remember what I had to do with the stage at that point.

I don't even know how involved I was. I parked cars, I did some other stuff with the, it was a big event. I just remember that. I mean, that overshadows everything. And that moment where, He took his poet and he said, Take this away. I don't want it. And and to this day, that's that's what just there was that one split second that I feel like it sort of changed everything in and truly the in the stereo moment that it was just it was like that.

Wasn't the old, uh, Memorex, um, poster with the guy on the sofa with his hair. Is it live or is it Memorex kind of, that's what it was like. It was just so much, it was so much everywhere all the time for. Was that 12 minutes or 15 minutes or whatever? Oh, so there you go It was a long explanation to a simple question But it needed a little bit of lead in because it still gives me goosebumps and makes me kind of a little bit weepy Really?

I'm not normally a weepy guy

Morgan: No, that's that sounds that's awesome I'll share one of mine that it was probably so for me. It was the first time I really caught a glimpse of, um, levels of, uh, professionalism when it came to stage. Um, I was so fortunate in Portland symphonic to, we got asked to basically be the backup band for Andrea Bocelli.

And, um, obviously that was awesome. It was in the Moda center, huge. concert venue in Portland. Um, it was packed. The music was amazing, of course, but there was one particular moment where I noticed, you know, there were camera guys everywhere and they were so focused. And there was one moment where I noticed that the camera person had an entire dedicated staff member whose job was to mind the cord, the power cord.

And they, they were also laser focused on this cable and winding it, letting it out, bringing it in, letting it out. So that camera person could move around without having to worry about stepping on the cable. And that, that moment, you know, getting on the stage, getting ready for this performance of a lifetime and, and, you know, looking over and seeing that level of attention to detail, it's, it's something that was so outside the realm of what I ever would have thought, like, I would never have thought But now, you know, once, once I saw it, I was like, oh, yeah, that probably is an issue.

Um, but that, that moment made an impact on me, just to see like, wow, things can, like, this can really go a lot farther. And I had never seen that world, you know, I'd been on a lot of stages, but never to that degree. So, uh, yeah, that was, that was a memorable moment for me. Good Zeitgeist moment, where I felt like I plugged into something, a whole new scene that I, I had not been aware of.

Um, I saw into your world, Thor, for the first time.

Thor: You pulled back the curtain

Morgan: for a moment. Pulled back the curtain and I was like, whoa! Details, so much detail. Yeah, who thinks of that stuff? Well, you guys do. So, uh, well Thor, thank you so much for being on my podcast. This was a whole lot of fun. Well,

Thor: thank you.

This might be the only podcast I'm ever on in my life, so

Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Zeitgeist Radio. If you'd like to take the next step in your musical journey, head over to zeitgeistacademy. com slash radio to join my newsletter. Seriously. It's fun and informative, and I never spam or sell your information. That's zeitgeistacademy. com slash radio.

Music for this episode was created by Ian Boswell. Please hit that subscribe button and tell all your friends you found a cool new podcast. See you next time.


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