Musical Horror Stories (in honor of Halloween)
Soooooo…. Halloween. My least favorite holiday ever. (Sorry Halloween-lovers… to each his/her own.) It’s a good time for scary stories though. The musical kind.
You know… the time your piano books fell off the rack for no good reason right in the middle of a performance?
Or the time you answered an ad for an old grand piano and found that someone had spray-painted it black…even the keys?
I’m sure you have some of your own. (Feel free to play “Top That Horror Story” in the comments below.)
Here’s one that happened to me:
It was graduation time at BYU. I was working in an office right around the corner from then-President Jeffrey R. Holland. At about 4:45, President Holland came down the hall shouting, “Does anybody here play the piano?”
I said, “I do… kinda…” (It’s not my forte… forgive the pun.)
He said, “Be at my house at 6 p.m. sharp.”
It seems that the notable commencement guests were gathering for a reception in his home, and the background pianist for the evening had called off sick.
I had just enough time to rush home, change clothes, and show up empty-handed on his doorstep. The President’s lovely wife answered the door, and kindly presented me with a few books I could play from.
Horror #1. Patricia Holland studied at Juilliard. The books she handed me were full of things I couldn’t touch. Unless you needed accidental Halloween music.
Juilliard wouldn’t have given me a second look, but I *could* improvise rather well. So I started playing. Have you ever tried to decide what to play next while you’re playing something else? Your brain becomes a vacuum and you just keep fussing with chords and melodies and…
…and you play the “Cougar Fight Song.” Yup. Oh, I improvised it into a lovely, sweet, ballad-y background-sounding mush, but it was still the “Cougar Fight Song.”
Horror #2. I thought “AM I REALLY PLAYING THE “COUGAR FIGHT SONG” AT A FANCY RECEPTION???”
It totally did NOT sound like this.
This one is much cooler than what I played.
Ah well. Nobody but President Holland noticed. He caught my eye, raised his eyebrows, and went right back to his conversation without missing a beat.
I was well and truly horrified. Too bad it *wasn’t* Halloween.
Up next… this year’s Christmas Card Carol… in a few days. Finally!
Love the story!
I was asked to play the organ at stake conference once and only once. I’ve ‘played’ the organ (AKA mediocre pianist on an organ) for years at church and have used many different organs, so I was a little nervous, but not too worried. A choir was practicing on the stand up until 10 minutes before the meeting, so I didn’t have time to look at the organ before I needed to play prelude.
When I got up there, I had a little surprise. I couldn’t program the organ! It was much more complicated than any I’d touched before and all digital. Luckily, I quickly found someone to show me what to do and was able to start the prelude.
Prelude was going well, and I was even thinking that this organ was so much nicer to play on than the one in my ward’s building, when I bumped a button. To this day I have no idea what I did. The organ tone immediately went from ‘reverent church’ sound to ‘horror movie death scene’ sound. The entire congregation immediately fell silent! I tried (unsuccessfully!) to reprogram that fancy instrument.
As everyone watched in surprised silence, I eventually whispered to the stake president, “I don’t know what to do.” At which time he started the meeting a couple minutes early, and I turned down the volume so the opening hymn wouldn’t be quite so scary. Thankfully, the accompanist for the choir number reprogrammed the organ for me when the choir sang, so we ended the meeting with reverent tones.
They haven’t asked me to play for stake conference again. 🤣🤣🤣
I was playing for a wedding in the Summer. A fly flew in the open window & landed on the tip of my nose. I kept trying to blow him off to no avail. I tried to quickly lift one hand to brush him off, but he came right back! What a strange & uncomfortable experience!
I was asked to sing in Sacrament meeting 3 weeks after I’d had a baby. The day came, the sacrament was passed and the speaker portion of the meeting began. Since I knew there was a youth speaker and adult speaker before my song and my baby decided he needed to eat RIGHT THEN, I took him into the mother’s lounge. By the time I got there and tuned in, I realized it was a not a youth speaking (found out later that he was sick so they just skipped him and went straight to the 2nd speaker). No worries, I could at least give my screaming baby a good 5-10 minutes of nursing before it would be time for me, right? I had just latched him on when I heard the dreaded words, “In the name of Jesus Christ, amen,” and I realized she’d given a 3-minute testimony instead of a talk! I ripped my poor, squalling infant off, hastily did up my blouse, handed him off to a dear lady in the hall, raced into the chapel, and up to the side of the front podium (my voice is powerful so I don’t use the mic). I sang with all my heart and the music was beautiful. I noticed that the audience seemed a little stunned and squirmy as I walked off the stand and nobody would make eye contact with me. It wasn’t until I had retrieved my screaming infant and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror of the mother’s lounge when I realized I’d forgotten to reattach my bra. Not only was I largely lopsided on the stand for all to see, but my milk had proceeded to soak the entire front of my forest green dress on that side. I’m sure the congregation watched in uncomfortable horror as that little spot continued to grow as I sang! I finished feeding my hungry baby, wrapped him up in his car seat and went straight home. Nobody said a word to me about my song and many couldn’t make eye contact with me for months afterward!
Oh. My. Stars. The things mothers go through. And you’re admitting to this publicly? 😉
Our Ward Choir was due to sing Handel’s Messiah and I was the accompanist. No problem other than I had a cold that was beginning to cause my cough spasms. My hubby raced home and brought me a pill that would take care of it. It worked really well. I asked him what it was and it happened to be a drug that tried to put me to sleep. I could fight off the sleep easily enough because of the fear. What was paralyzing was the numb fingers. I made it through, but it was truly a nightmare of an event and one never to be forgotten.
One of my “Horror” stories is this. I was the organist at a large church in Fort Wayne, IN. We had two services, the second of which was televised live. In between services I would warm up the 180 voice choir in the chapel and then get to the Sanctuary before the TV service started. One particular Sunday our pastor was a little long with his sermon in the first service so I was in a time crunch between services. After getting the choir ready I was in a real rush to get into the Sanctuary. We always started the service playing “Blessed Assurance” I had prerecorded that music in case of something like this happening. I heard the recording of the organ start and I ran out on the stage, jumped on the organ bench. .Did I mention that this service was LIVE on TV? Well, some sweet soul had polished the organ for me. . including the bench. . .Did I say this was on TV? Well I jumped on the bench and slid right off the other end into a bunch of blue eucalyptus . on live TV.
Oh, that is… wow…. How do you describe something like that??? Divinely funny? 😉
Hey, kindred soul! I am an avid Halloween disliker also! Your story of the “Cougar Fight Song” improv was absolutely hilarious and I will laugh the remainder of the day thinking about it! Made my Halloween!!! Thanks for sharing your music with the church and all of us “plunkers” who play for primary on a moment’s notice and/or Sacrament meeting with fear in our hearts due to lack of practice! You are loved and appreciated! Thanks again!
Thanks so much for sharing! Your music is amazing! I am sure what you played was pretty amazing anyway!
Playing the organ at church was always daunting to me, especially on a week I was asked to be one of the speakers.
The lense on my glasses were loose, so I had to hold my head very still as I played and as I spoke, just to keep them in. After my talk, I was so relieved that I flopped down back onto the organ bench. As I did, the lenses popped out of my glasses and hit the Stake President, who was sitting near me, in the back of the head! It was time for the closing hymn and they had to announce over the pulpit that I needed anyone’s glasses to play the closing hymn. Ohhhhhhm the agony.
Oh my goodness… how could you even see with someone else’s glasses?????
Barb, Best organ playing in Sacrament Meeting story EVER! Thanks for adding to the Halloween hilarity!!!!