14 July 2021, 13:29 | Updated: 14 July 2021, 13:38
“It was the 1812. Conductor wanted cannons indoors. The hall fills with black smoke. Fire alarms go off, chaos ensues.”
The joyous unpredictability of live music has been missing from our lives for far too long. And as we all patiently await its full return, the musical Twittersphere has been recalling their own most memorable concert fluff-ups.
Music theory professor and classical meme guru, Robert Komaniecki, put the question out to his followers: “Musicians, can you please share the worst performance disaster you’ve ever witnessed or been a part of?”
And they delivered in their droves. Here are some of the best – prepare for your heart rate to go into overdrive…
Read more: Overheard at the symphony: funniest audience comments at a classical concert
Musicians, can you please share the worst performance disaster you’ve ever witnessed or been a part of?
I want to cringe so hard I pass out.
— Robert Komaniecki (@Komaniecki_R) July 9, 2021
- “High school, I was playing bass drum for the first time in marching band. It was a parade, so people were close to us as we marched down the street. I drew back my mallet to strike the drum, and the mallet head flew off the stick and smacked a child in the face.” – Robert Komaniecki
- “In college the concert band played 1812. Conductor thought it would be good to have cannons. Inside. They hired a guy to shoot blanks in a large barrel. He brought black powder blanks. About 3 cannon shots in, the hall fills with black smoke. Fire alarms go off. Chaos ensues.” – Brian Ebie
- “In a production of Così [fan tutte], I was singing the duet between Dorabella and Guglielmo and my skirt fell off. Just… Dropped to the floor.” – Sarah Beegle
- “Guitarist played opening lick to Fame (turned up to 11) rather than the song that was supposed to segue into Fame in our first live performance. Whole band and dancers stopped. One quivering voice eventually squeezed out Fame and it kinda got going again. This is my 2nd life.” – David Ó Muircheartaigh
- “Elementary all state choir. Photo op before final song. A kid [puke]s & runs off stage. Photo still taken. I was sent back out to conduct last tune w/ the puke onstage. Imagine Gospel step/sway/claps but w/ a whole perimeter of kids cautiously side-eyeing puke & scared to step.” – Dr Andrea Ramsey
- “I was doing a competition that was held in this beautiful greenhouse/atrium. There was no ‘stage’ entrance. After I sang, I missed the exit door and walked into a utility closet. I then had to creep out and exit as the MC was announcing the next singer in full view of the audience.” – Kate
- “Friend in a wedding band. Bride and Groom walking down the aisle and somehow the Demo button on the keyboard is pressed. In the panic to stop it, keyboardist hits all the buttons whose only effect is to ludicrously transpose the track to ever more preposterous keys.” – David Ó Muircheartaigh
- “Got asked to play percussion for Shost[akovich] 10 at short notice, student orchestra. Counted very carefully: but somehow got HALF a bar out. The orchestra played a chord then I played a cymbal clash, alternating strictly until the end. I couldn’t stop because it would make it worse.” – Chris Hutchings
- “I fainted in the middle of a performance of Howells’ Requiem. Small choir — one per part. A member of the audience rushed up with smelling salts, and I came to and vomited in her lap. Not my greatest moment.” – Laura Lawrie
- “Finale of Tosca. Keyboard player accidentally hits ‘multi percussion effect button’ for the final (very exposed) chromatic flourish. Resulting sound was like someone falling in slow motion through a storage unit.” – Gemma Ashcroft
- “There is no video of it, but I once broke 3 strings on the first chord of the solo to We Will Rock You in a music theater show. The only other instrument was the dancers stomping and clapping.” – Ozymandias Boötis
- “I sat at the piano in my brand new corset and as I wound down the stool, unbeknownst to me, the string tying me all together got wound up in the knob. Finished 1st piece, stood up and everything unravels. Took a bow and revealed much boob.” – Eliza McCarthy
Read about more performance disasters on Robert Komaniecki’s Twitter thread.