Thursday, November 18, 2010

Behind the scenes at GDYO concerts

Behind the scenes at the GDYO concerts

For most of you who attend performances by GDYO ensembles, you only see what is happening on the stage. The musicians performing. For those who get to be backstage you see the movement and hear the sounds of a venue in motion.

It’s actually all very simple what happens backstage. But it takes a well-choreographed plan to put everything in place before musicians take the stage.

It starts at the office, at a desk with a computer and a phone. The mundane task of contacting, updating, filling out and planning doesn’t take much movement at all. Except for fingers and a few head nods.

Not very exciting. But on the day of the concert, it becomes a dramatic dance.

For the operations and stage crew things start when the truck arrives and we load the percussion equipment. It’s not a hard task, but there is lots of lifting and pushing and pulling. Once loaded the truck heads to the venue with staff in tow.

The unloading dock at the Meyerson is a pretty standard loading dock, built mostly for large semis and not small rental trucks. The smell is the worst part. Because next to the loading truck is the dumpster for the food service. It’s never sweet and usually quite foul. But it does help in making things move faster.

After unloading the truck, all equipment gets put on a large elevator. This is a favorite. When the elevator goes up or down it looks as if the building is moving and the elevator is standing still. It grinds to a halt and the massive door open in to a small room. Two very large doors (big enough for a car to fit through) open into the backstage of the Meyerson.

And now begins the run and chase. Time is of the essence and there is usually very little of it. The crew and members of the percussion unload the elevator and get it to the stage. But while this is all going on another thing is happening, the stage is being set with chairs and stands.

And this is the hardest of all the tasks. For the Meyerson has risers and what creates a great view for you the audience becomes a pain of bruises and nicks as chairs and stands are lifted up and around and through. A 100-piece orchestra usually takes a good 10 minutes to set up. That is record breaking and believe it or not it’s been done in less time than that.

And while all this is going on, musicians begin to arrive and warm-up in the backstage area.

Once the stage is set a bellow calls out “On stage” and the mass of instrumentalists make their way. A bottleneck always happens at the three entrances as many stop to stare out into the empty hall or cannot find the chair they need.

Once all are settled and everyone has what they need, the rehearsal begins.

The stage crew takes a short break to discuss the concert and tactics as to what needs to be moved when. Always within earshot of the rehearsal as a conductor can yell at any minute for the need of something.

And then the rehearsal ends and the musicians return to the backstage.

The crew double checks the set up and then at the exact moment calls for all to be on stage. And so the concert begins….

But there is so much more that happens – the little bits of conversation before the conductor enters, the jokes, the laughter, the looking at the audience. There is camaraderie among thieves and the stage crew members have a moment where they are part of the show and share their own little secret. They know what is happening before, they know when there is a mistake, and they know when something goes really well. They see the nervousness of the musicians, the high energy of the conductor and all the while are having fun. Telling stories, jokes and much more.

They breathe and rest during pieces and then are on again at the end of a piece.

And when it is all over and everyone is heading to the lobby or to their cars. The stage crew stays behind and helps put away the stands and chairs. They (along with the percussionists) load everything back into the elevator and onto the truck. Doing again what they started. Sending the percussionists home, the crew heads back to the Sammons and again unloads. Many of you are already at home, reliving the moments you heard and saw. The operations and stage crew have barely left the building.

We start and we end. Our final note is the locking of the door.

Tonya Assid, Operations Manager

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