The Musicians’ Voice

Volume CV, No. 1January, 2005

The Musicians’ Voice is an open forum for discussion about the state of union affairs. The views expressed here do not express the views of Local 802. Please keep all letters to 300 words and send them to Allegro, c/o Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY 10036, or e-mail Mikael Esila, the editor, at


To the Editor:

David Rosenberg recently reviewed the touring production of “Scrooge: the Musical” in the Wilton Villager (Wilton, Conn.) It was favorable, yet this “educated” theatre professional could not even tell he was listening to an orchestra of nine. He wrote, “…The score sounds as if it’s being played by a live orchestra, even though three keyboards are doing all the work.”

I am the percussionist and here are the facts.

I play drum set, timpani, xylophone, chimes, glockenspiel and gong, and create sound effects.

In addition, we hire local musicians in each city: acoustic bass, French horn, two trumpets (who also play piccolo trumpet and flugelhorn), trombone and a conductor. It sounds very full indeed.

Three synthesizer players fill out the orchestration. However they are not “doing all the work.”

I am a member of Local 802, and I work regularly on Broadway. I have been observing the erosion of live music year by year. Mounting production costs regularly force reductions of a show’s orchestration. Three live woodwind players from the U.K. production were converted to synths for our U.S. tour.

Most listeners are unaware that Broadway and touring orchestras are comprised of the world’s greatest orchestral and studio musicians. This is due to the scaling down of full-time orchestras and increase of computerized studio sessions.

I feel strongly that American audiences need to become educated as to the huge artistic contribution of live theatre orchestras. It is rare that we are mentioned in any review, New York or elsewhere. I am frankly shocked that a professional theatre reviewer is unaware of what he is listening to.

Next time you attend a show, stick around during the exit music and take a look into the orchestra pit. Also, help your kids appreciate live music. Without the orchestra it is not a musical!

–Jon Berger