2021 Annual Summer Workshop and Performance
July 16 -18
St Clement’s Episcopal Church
Berkeley, CA 94705
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis Ralph Vaughn Williams
Mass in G
with the RTSO Chorale!
Shannon Houston, Conductor
7 - 9 pm Palache Hall - Read through
10 -1 Strings only, sectionals
2 - 3:15 Chorale touch ups with David Morris
String individual practice with roving coaches Sara and Shannon
3:30 Dress rehearsal -
Schubert then Vaughn Williams
5 Performance and reception, call time 4:30
Suggested donation $20 per session
2020 Annual RTSO Summer Intensive
Senior Concert Video!
This year, due to the pandemic we created a video to share with Senior Residences. After many hours of preparation we are ready to launch the concert! A huge thanks to Susy Hovland, Tanja Canon and David Morris for their terrific contributions. Also, many thanks to all the soloists and orchestra musicians who met in David's backyard and sent videos made from home for us to create our masterpiece! It's a fun show done with our special style! Please enjoy watching it here:
10th Anniversary Concert - August 11, 2019
Concert at Cardinal Point in Alameda, 2017
Concert In Endinburgh
Our trip to Scotland in 2014 was a fantastic experience for all participants. Please enjoy this description of our adventure!
RTSO Debuts in Edinburgh at the Fringe Festival
Five lucky members of the RTSO (Really Terrible String Orchestra) Chris Gold, Sherry Cohen, Claire Max, Jon Arons and Susanne Hering, plus Sara Usher, (our RTGM - Really Terrible General Manager - and co-conductor with David Morris), joined their parent orchestra, the RTO, on August 23rd 2014, for a sold-out concert at the beautiful Canongate Kirk on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. The RTO, the original Really Terrible Orchestra, whose program notes include "we hope, as usual, to scale the heights of musical mediocrity", has inspired the creation of 5 such orchestras in the US, of which our RTSO is one. The RTO invited members from each of its sister orchestras in the US to join them and add to the fun of the Fringe Festival.
Despite gusty winds and teeming rain, which were timed precisely for when the musicians were assembling for the pre-concert rehearsal resulting in inside-out umbrellas but undampened spirits; a wonderful and hilarious time was had by all. Among concert highlights was a rendition of "My Heart Will Go On," the theme song from the movie Titanic, performed by Kit and McConnel (a tenor and pianist team). The song started off with full orchestra backup, but Kit was forced to stop twice to request the unloading of various orchestral sections (the women and children) into the lifeboats, as he was being "drowned" out. Later the resident contra-bassoonist, Alexander McCall Smith (the well-known author of the #1 Ladies Detective Agency novels, as well as many other books), entertained the audience with a speech in which he explained that the RTO performed best with little or no rehearsal, this because the players would find the notes too difficult and the ensuing loss of self-confidence would render them incapable of producing any sounds at all. The concert concluded with the beautiful Ashokan Farewell, conducted by our own Sara Usher.
If you play a classical bowed instrument and like to have fun, please grab your instrument and come to Palache Hall on the last Sunday of the month at 6:30 to join the RTSO. Who knows where we’ll be going next?!
- Chris Gold
RTO concert speech 2014
delivered by A. McCall Smith
It has been a tradition in the RTO that at every concert there should be a speech given by a member of the orchestra or by some well-wisher, or indeed by some member of the audience chosen at random at the performance itself. I am giving it today because of my failure to attend any rehearsals for this concert.
Now this does not really make much difference: very few of the members of this orchestra make any progress at all during rehearsals and many, indeed, play even more badly after extensive rehearsing because rehearsing simply destroys what confidence they had in the beginning. You will have heard the expression “negative equity” when applied to mortgages; in the orchestral context there is something called “negative confidence”, that applies, I’m afraid, to the RTO, along with “negative understanding” and “negative timing”.
But we must not be negative today, because this is a very special RTO concert at which we are joined by representatives of five off-shoot really terrible orchetras in the United States. We very much appreciate the arrival of our American colleagues, who bring to our shores their own particular brand of musical incompetence. The RTO, you see, ladies and gentlemen, has become more than a local disaster, it has become an international, universal disaster – and we are very proud of that fact.
Now I would like to say a few words about how the orchestra has done over the past year and about challenges ahead. As far as this last year is concerned, it has been much the same as the year before and the year before that. In other words, nothing at all has changed, which is exactly what the RTO stands for and has always stood for. And we have no intention of changing anything in the year ahead. We shall play the same music, at the same standard, and we shall play it several times. Then we shall go back to the things we have played before, and we shall play them again. Our beloved conductor, Sir Richard, will say the same things to us as he has always said, and we shall ignore him just as we always have done. We shall not be facing any new challenges, and if one should arise, we shall ignore it.
However, it would be wrong to think that we are somewhat complacent. Far from it: we are extremely complacent. We have, though, been looking at the issue of supply of future members. This is bit of a worry – but not something that we are worried about because we have conducted some research into the future supplies of musically challenged people for orchestra membership. Our results bear a startling similarity to the figures surrounding North Sea oil. There are plenty of musically challenged people still there: indeed our researches show that the supply of musically challenged people in Scotland will last at current levels at least until the year 2056.
That involves issues of public policy, and indeed we have had dealings with the Scottish Government this year in which they sent us their newly published Guideline for Orchestras. This is a very interesting document and it reveals that the Government has certain targets for orchestras – rather like the time-keeping targets it has for trains. These targets include the advice that all orchestral players should try to finish the piece at the same time.
I must admit that there is some room for improvement in this respect. So far this year the RTO has finished a piece together on 6% of occasions. That is not very good – we freely admit it – and furthermore we accept that on half of these occasions finishing together was by accident rather than by design. We had much better success with the issue of free performances. The Government, as part of its accessibility agenda, says that all orchestras should give 10% of their performances free.
The RTO, I can report, gives all its performances free, as it is inconceivable that anybody would pay to hear us. Now somebody has mentioned to me that there were people selling tickets at the door today. They have nothing to do with us. Those people are engaged in a common scam in which they purport to sell tickets for events that are, in fact, free. We warn people every year about this, and they disregard our warning and pay good money for these unnecessary tickets. It is not our fault.
Finally, you may have noticed that there is a referendum coming up in Scotland. This is, in fact, the RTO’s referendum concert, in which the choice of pieces sends a coded political signal. That will not have escaped your attention, and I feel that I do not need to say anything more about that.
But I might just tell you about a survey that was carried out into the voting intentions of this orchestra – a survey that produced some fascinating results. Here is a summary of the main findings:
When asked about the referendum,
46 % of the orchestra said: what referendum?
15% - including the entire trumpet section – didn’t hear the question in the first place.
25% of the orchestra heard the question but did not answer it because it was asked by the conductor, Sir Richard, and they never pay any attention to what he says anyway.
93% said that any change in Scotland’s constitutional status would make no difference to them: whatever happens on September 18, on September 19 the RTO will still be unable to play very well.
These are fascinating figures, ladies and gentlemen, that might just have some effect in swinging the result one way or the other, or, on the other hand, might not. But we should not spend any more time contemplating them because the second half of the concert is coming up and the sooner the orchestra gets on with that, the sooner you’ll be able to go home. Thank you.
And the words Kit, (of Kit and James) sang to the love theme from The Titanic:
Every night in this place
I see you, I hear you
And I wonder how you go on.
Never mind the distance
And spaces between notes
You will always, always go on.
Here, there, despite all the bars
I believe that you’ll carry right on.
Once more, ignoring the score
Losing sight of the beat
And the beat will go on and on.
Loud or soft means nothing
I really mean nothing.
Quite a feat that you still go on.
Keys are just a notion
A drop in the ocean
Why should they obstruct you at all?
C, D, you don’t mind a bit
You’ll majestic’ly carry straight on
Ma-jor, or minor, who cares.
It’s all here in your heart
And your heart will go on and on.
I, can’t, believe what I see,
That these crowds come to hear you go on.
Pre-serve that brass neck, that nerve
For they’re here in their hordes
Just to hear you go and on.