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Checklist for Orchestra Librarians

Thomas M. Brodhead

Because the number of musical and mechanical elements that must be harnessed for this work is extraordinary, the following checklist is provided for the orchestra librarian. It includes the most obvious things that should be apprehended before the first rehearsal and then during all subsequent rehearsals and performances. Additional items that are specific to the performance requirements of the conductor and ensemble may be added to the bottom:

  • Please ensure the string players understand that they are playing from desk parts. Passages marked “div.” and passages divided between two staves are to be divided between the two players at that desk, not among the players of the whole section. There is a notice about this on each cover page and a footnote on the first page of music of each part, but it still may be overlooked or misinterpreted by the players.
  • Please ensure that the principal string players are aware that because each desk plays from a separate part, unique bowings may be required for each part in their sections.
  • If you do not have a sixth physical Violin II desk, the Violin II Desk 6 part must be assigned to the last physical desk on stage, and there must be two players at that desk. For example, if you only have five Violin II desks, the fifth physical Violin II Desk should read from the Violin II Desk 6 part. The only exception to this would be if you have two dedicated, offstage (spatially-separated) Violin players playing from the dedicated Extra Violin II part.
  • If you do not have a sixth physical Viola Desk, the Viola Desk 6 part must be assigned to the last physical desk on stage, and there must be two players at that desk. For example, if you only have five Viola desks, the fifth physical Viola Desk should read from the Viola Desk 6 part. The only exception to this would be if you have a dedicated, offstage (spatially-separated) Viola player playing from the dedicated Extra Viola part.
  • Please ensure that the Percussionists know that the Low Bells (or perhaps just the subset of the four required bells) must be placed near the Extra Violin II player (on or offstage) for the passage in Movt. II, mm. 149–161. (If played offstage [i.e. spatially removed], the four bells might be played by the second Extra Violin II player who is silent during that passage.)
  • If an acoustic keyboard is being used for the Quarter-tone Piano, please ensure that the piano tuner receives a copy of the scordatura piano tuning instructions, which are contained in the opening pages of the Scordatura Quarter-tone Piano part.
  • If there is not a dedicated player for the Quarter-tone Piano and, instead, one of the Orchestra Piano players is switching to the Quarter-tone Piano for its passages, please ensure that the Scordatura Piano part is what the Orchestra Piano player is reading when playing the Quarter-tone instrument (whether electronic or acoustic). The Orchestra Piano part contains notation showing the resulting, true pitches of the Quarter-tone Piano, and some players may incorrectly conclude that the realization shown in the Orchestra Piano part is what is to be played on the Scordatura instrument, which is not the case.
  • The Indian Drum and Piccolo Timpano are combined in one part, suggesting a single player. However, if the Indian Drum player of the 2nd movement is playing with the BU in the 4th movement, then there needs to be an additional player to cover the Piccolo Timpano in the 4th Movement. In that case, if the optional Xylophone is being employed in the 2nd movement, then its player may play the Piccolo Timpano in the 4th movement; otherwise, another player will need to be found.
  • If an electronic keyboard is being used for the Bells, a skilled keyboardist will be required to play the part. Additionally, the passage in mm. 65–71 in Movt. IV will require an assistant player with minimal keyboard skills to play either the top or bottom staff. If the Triangle player has such skills, that player might be employed for those measures, as the Triangle part is tacet during that passage and thereafter.
  • Following Moore’s law, new electronic devices will replace old ones every 18 to 24 months on average. Therefore, the electronic alternatives to the Quarter-tone Piano and the six-octave Bell set provided by the publisher at the time of this publication will undoubtedly be superseded with different electronic solutions in the future. It is therefore imperative to consult the publisher regarding these electronic alternatives. Obviously, all necessary equipment and corresponding instructions should be received, reviewed, tested, and proven to be working properly before the first rehearsal. Perhaps less obvious is that the players of the equipment should be given hands-on instruction regarding the set-up and requirements of the devices they will be using. This is necessary in case the equipment should accidentally become unset in between rehearsals and require re-adjustment, a situation that the Orchestra Librarian or other appropriate personnel may not have time to correct in the typical flurry of onstage activity before a rehearsal or a performance begins.