Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Classical musicians making fun of classical musicians

Last weekend, I had the extreme pleasure of attending a chamber music concert at Spoleto Festival USA. I attended each of the 11 concerts in the 2012 season and have looked forward to this season since the day it ended last year.


The programs are adventurous, the musicians are impeccable and spirited and Geoff Nuttall, the series director, earns the superlative of the best classical music presenter I have ever seen (I am more sure of this every time I see him). No one regards the music more highly than he, but he also displays great irreverence toward it, hitting on my favorite combination of qualities: a commitment to excellence without taking things too seriously. This is a big part of Nuttall's success and popularity.

Nuttall introduced a viola and piano duo with a mixture of undying devotion to its composer and...viola jokes. 

Mind you, this category of humor adapts easily to whatever your favorite instrument to hate is; I changed "viola" to "bassoon" for my editor, who loves to mock the bass double reed. Here are Nuttall's jokes:

What do lightning and a violist's fingers have in common?
They never strike the same place twice.

What's the difference between a viola and an onion?
Nobody cries when you cut up a viola.

What does the Royal London Philharmonic viola section have in common with The Beatles?
Neither have played together since the 1970s.

Feel free to appropriate these for whatever instrument plagues you--they work especially nicely for the saxophone or bagpipes.

Here's a bonus joke, not heard at Spoleto: 

What's the difference between a viola and a vacuum cleaner?
You don't have to plug a viola in for it to suck.

Ba-dum ching.


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