• Will Rogers seldom hurt anyone with his jokes. However, in his vaudeville days, he once was preceded by a singing act called the Cherry Sisters. During his act, he said that they must have decided on their name before they learned about lemons. After making the joke, Will realized that it was hurtful, so he apologized to the Cherry Sisters.
• Jack Benny was not a virtuoso violinist, but neither was he as bad as he pretended to be to get laughs. After Mr. Benny played the violin well at a benefit, a friend said, “Jack, I didn’t know you played the violin so beautifully.” Mr. Benny replied, “When I was younger, they used to call me another Heifetz. Not Jascha — anotherHeifetz.”
• As a young boy, pianist Carl Czerny heard a family friend named Gelinek talk about how he was looking forward to meeting a pianist later that night at a party and how he and his friends were going to “thrash him” in a piano competition. The next day, however, Gelinek had to admit that he had been defeated: “That young man is possessed of the devil. Never have I heard such playing! He improvised on a theme I proposed like I never heard even Mozart improvise. Then he played compositions of his own, which are wonderful and grandiose to the highest degree.” Czerny’s father asked about the rival pianist’s name. “He is a short, ugly, swarthy, and obstinate-looking young man,” Gelinek replied, “and his name is Beethoven.”
• Composer Igor Stravinsky loved to have a good time with his friends. On his 80thbirthday, several people threw parties for him — one person invited him over for cocktails, another person invited him over for dinner, and so on. When all the little parties were over, he said, “Well, that was marvelous. Thank you very much. I’m going home.” The other people said, “Very well,” so he asked, “Isn’t anyone else going home?” They said no, for they were going out again to get drinks and perhaps do some dancing. Mr. Stravinsky then said, “What? You think that I’m going home to bed when all the rest of you are going out on the town?”
• George Frideric Handel composed the Messiah, well known for its “Hallelujah” chorus. During a rehearsal for its premiere in Dublin, he became angry at a man named Janson, who was one of the bassos. “I thought you told me that you could read music at sight,” complained Handel. “I can,” Janson replied, “but not at first sight.”
• Gioacchino Rossini was giving singing lessons to a girl whose sister asked him, “Why don’t you write any new music?” He replied, “A waste of time, my dear girl. It’s impossible for the singers to perform what I’ve already written.”
• Meredith Willson, author of The Music Man, had a great respect for Arturo Toscanini, who was an invited guest at the symphony orchestra where Mr. Willson worked. While the orchestra was practicing a dissonant symphonic poem named “Feste Romane” by Ottorino Respighi, Maestro Toscanini stopped the orchestra and told Mr. Gerhardt, a clarinet player, “F sharp, F sharp, F sharp.” This happened five or six times, with Mr. Gerhardt protesting to Mr. Willson (no one protests to Maestro Toscanini!), “I amplaying F sharp. I’ve been playing it since the beginning.” At this time, the clarinet player unconsciously — clarinet players do this occasionally by habit — held his instrument horizontally and blew some water out from under some of the very small keys. Once again, the orchestra launched into the piece and at its end, Maestro Toscanini said, “At last F sharp — grazie a Dio!” According to Mr. Willson, the water under the key had caused the note to sound F natural — and Maestro Toscanini heard the incorrect note through all the dissonance of the musical composition although the man who had actually played the note could not hear that it was incorrect!
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved