Earthquake Story #2: Tchaikovsky Rocks

As Salt Lake City continues to be reminded of the recent 5.7 earthquake with a series of disconcerting aftershocks, I’m reminded of a similarly powerful quake almost 20 years ago.

I was with the Utah Symphony on one of its biannual excursions to southern Utah. We typically performed at the colleges in Cedar City and St. George, as there were few other places in that vast region that could hold an entire symphony orchestra on its stage.

The venue for the St. George concerts was the Southern Utah University Centrum, an arena that held everything from concerts to sporting events. The temporary stage for the orchestra was in the middle of the circular arena’s floor, directly above the Jumbotron.

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Yep, that’s where we were.

The featured work on the program was the Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 5. A popular work the world ’round, it features arguably the most beautiful French horn solo ever written in the second movement, Andante Cantabile. Every horn player lives for that moment, and that night the solo was performed by our wonderful principal horn player at the time, Shelley Showers.

The first movement, Allegro con anima,  went by without incident. But shortly after Shelley began her magnificent solo, the stage began to shake. What was it? A passing truck? Some technical issue? It became clear after about ten seconds that it was indeed an earthquake that was rocking the building.

What to do? Orchestra musicians are trained to follow the conductor. We kept on playing. Shelley didn’t miss a beat even as the Jumbotron above our heads swayed like the pendulum of a grandfather clock. At the point occurred to everyone that it might be prudent to get the hell out of there, the shaking stopped and Shelley and the orchestra simply kept playing.

Talk about professionalism. But I’ve always wondered why Shelley left Utah for the Philadelphia Orchestra not too many years thereafter.

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Seismic waves, not Tchaikovsky overtones.

I hope you enjoyed this blog. I invite you to check out my previous ones, and to visit my Writing page for all kinds of interesting reading.


2 thoughts on “Earthquake Story #2: Tchaikovsky Rocks

  1. Impressive! You didn’t say how the audience reacted. I think I would have followed the conductor’s lead too, but that’s easy to say…. St George/Bryce Canyon/Zion….and Best Friends in Kanab…do you know it? Love your stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make a very good point, and to be totally honest, I don’t even think I was aware of the audience’s reaction! My only thought was, “focus!” “Keep playing!” Funny how that gets ingrained into professional musicians psyches.
      I’ve spent many a camping trip in those areas you mention and am well aware of the work Best Friends does for needy animals.
      Thanks for your kind words.


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