25 February 2018



'Why do you need to rehearse? I can tell straight away that you are a twerp.'

I'm not much of a concert-goer, as concert-going involves two of my pet hates in life, crowds and queuing, but I do love music. The last concert I went to was in 2015, when renowned film composer Ennio Morricone played his biggest hits with a live orchestra at Dublin's 3Arena.

I'll go because it'll probably be his last time playing in Ireland, with the poor auld fella in the twilight of his years, I thought at the time. Having braved the crowds and the queuing on this- as I thought- momentous occasion, I was annoyed to discover at a later stage that he's popped up over to play Ireland again maybe twice since then, lol, and not a bother on him at all.

Far from being in the twilight of his years, he's showing every sign of continuing to tour and play his music for years to come. Good on him, I suppose, but I do wish he'd told me in advance that he was going to be popping over and back with the frequency of a pregnant woman needing the loo...!

Anyway, I love music but I'm not very musical, sadly. I love to sing and I sing all the time around the house but I have been informed that my singing voice resembles nothing so much as two ducks on a corrugated roof fighting over a bit of bread. Bit harsh, that, if you ask me.

I was given a guitar as a rather random Christmas present when I was about fourteen. I say random because I hadn't asked for it. I think it was an impulse buy, lol, on the part of the giver. I duly took the guitar, carefully encased in a bin liner, into Sister Assumpta's after-school lessons and had a bash at becoming the next Joni Mitchell.

After two lessons, Sister Assumpta asked me not to come back. I am many things but, apparently, musically talented isn't one of them. Oh well, it's the music world's loss. I could have been the world's first female Ed Sheeran but Sister Assumpta clearly was not possessed of the foresight and patience required to nurture my genius.

Speaking of genius, Federico Fellini's satirical pseudo-documentary about an orchestra having one of their rehearsals in a fabulous converted 13th century church formerly slated for the wrecking ball is a devilishly clever piece of work. It's tongue-in-cheek, of course, and if you bear that in mind you should get a good honest giggle out of it.

The camera crew wanders at will amongst the musicians before their big boss, the director or conductor of the orchestra, makes an appearance. Each of the musicians is of the rather egotistical opinion that his or her instrument is the heart and soul of the orchestra. I've made a random little collection of their musings for you music-lovers to peruse:

'The sound of a trombone is like the voice of a solitary creature.'

'Percussionists are the nicest, friendliest and funniest of musicians.'

'Violins and cellos are the basis of writing any symphony. Everything revolves around them.'

'The first violin is the mind and the heart of an orchestra. Don't forget this.'
To which a wag immediately pipes up: 'And the clarinet is the willy!' Hmmm, yes, quite...

'The trumpet is like my passport to another world. It enables you to express what's inside you. Happiness, sadness, silence.'

'We have to spend hours moistening our lips to soften them before we can play them (the
instruments).' Eeuw! Definitely too much information here, and did we need the shots of several orchestra members assiduously moistening...?

One of the musicians to a bald fellow musician: 'Comb your hair, there'll be women watching you on television...!'

After a poor little mouse is killed by the musicians in a corner of the draughty church: 'Do you know that my wife's uncle ate a mouse during the war...?' Hmmm, most riveting information indeed.

'I thought I was going to travel the world with this thing (Here, musician indicates their instrument) but instead, I'm always here.'

'I didn't choose the bass tuba. The bass tuba chose me.'

'The oboe, invented by the Chinese, is the oldest and most difficult instrument (to play). When I play, I see this great golden aura, the colour of the sun.'

'Beethoven makes everyone feel like a knight in shining armour.'

'Where does the music go, when you stop playing?' Very good question, that, like something a child might ask but very incisive.

'I wouldn't go to sleep in a house where there wasn't a harp. The harp is my whole life. Not only from a financial point of view. It's been my shelter, my friend.' This same lady, the Harp Lady, claims to have never had a man in her life because she has her harp. Well, I can think of at least two things a man can do that a harp decidedly cannot, but there's no accounting for personal tastes...

An old man reminisces fondly about the good old days when the conductor was allowed to thump erring musicians and the musicians were happy to be thumped. Not only was it an honour and a privilege but it helped them to learn. I can't see that method making a comeback in this snowflake-dominated and sissified ultra-politically correct society, can you...?

The conductor or director comes out then, ready for work. He's an ordinary middle-aged man in a sweater with curly brownish-blonde hair, but he's very dictatorial and Sergeant-Majorish towards his musicians, who are stripping off their outer layers of clothing in no time once the sweat starts dripping down their faces in earnest.

He also despises the orchestra's union representative, a heavily-moustached individual preoccupied with getting fair salaries and frequent tea-breaks for the musicians. I've compiled a collection of some of the director's wittier quotes for your delectation:

'Play gracefully, this is not a funfair!

'Too loud! Too penetrating! You should all be castrated!'

'Where are we, on a football pitch? Have you mistaken me for a referee?'

'If I were you (the musicians), I'd think less about the union and more about the music.'

'If Wagner had known about trades unions and strikes, he would never have written this opera.'

'An orchestra conductor is like a priest. He needs to have a church and parishioners.'

'Music is always sacred. It is like a Mass. Music saves us.'

The conductor adores music but really doesn't seem to like his musicians. He says he'd put a screen in front of them to cover them up if he could, lol. What a bitch! The musicians eventually stage a violent rebellion against this man who is trying to control them:

'Conductor, we don't want you anymore! If you carry on conducting, we will make you very sore!'

'Orchestra, don't fear, the conductor's death is near!'

Can the conductor be replaced by a giant metronome? Can he restore order amidst the dust, demolition and chaos that prevails in this beautiful old former church so that the musicians can play in perfect unison with each other once more? It's a big ask and a big task, but
something tells me that the music will find a way through the mess and reign supreme once more. That's what it's all about at the end of the day, isn't it, the music...?

Fellini's brilliantly cutting ORCHESTRA REHEARSAL is out on Blu-Ray now, with a whole host of extra features, from ARROW ACADEMY.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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