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"Spamalot" pit orchestra gig

Discussion in 'Bass Humor & Gig Stories [BG]' started by BassCliff, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.
    Hello fellow bassists!

    I've been doing this gig for 14 years in a row. San Marino High School has an excellent drama department. Every spring they put on a musical production. This year they are doing "Spamalot", a Monty Python product loosely based on their movie "The Holy Grail".

    The students at this school are consistently excellent. They hit their marks, say their lines, dance their moves, sing their songs, and they aren't afraid of anything. It's a pleasure to watch them work and be involved in this project.

    The first rehearsal with the orchestra was yesterday. The orchestra is on stage behind a scrim. This is what it looks like just before curtain.


    The curtain opens, and away we go!


    The students do everything, lighting, sound, scene changes, etc. They even build their set and props.




    Here's a couple shots of the orchestra:

    From rhythm section side.


    From the horn side.


    My rig. We're using my PA this year.


    Some cast members.


    Our guitarist, Byron. This guy is a monster who also has perfect pitch.


    This is Dave, another monster player.


    In the shot with Dave is Ian, the pianist and musical director. I've been working with Ian for over 20 years and he is an excellent musician who plays several instruments. I'm surprised these guys let me hang with them. :p

    My book is not too difficult but there are a few tricky spots. It's really fun music with lots of tempo changes, key changes, feel changes, and other odd ball stuff.


    Yesterday was our first full rehearsal. We're rehearsing every night until opening on Friday night. We've got five rehearsals and six performances in the next two weeks. It's good work when you can get it.

    If you don't mind, I'll add a few more pictures to this thread during the run so you can see the costumes and everything. There are even a couple of students on wire harnesses who fly across the stage and fall off of the castle. Fun stuff!

    Break a leg!

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  2. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    Cool! I'm playing Big River at Cypress College right now.
  3. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.
    Hi Mr. elgecko,

    That's one I've never played. I'll have to look it up. I really do enjoy pit orchestra gigs. They are so different from my "normal" gigs.

    My favorites have been "Cats" and "Chicago". I've also done "Grease", "Bye Bye Birdie", "Fame", "The Wiz", "Pippin", "Little Shoppe Of Horrors", "The Music Man", "South Pacific", "The Pajama Game", "Peter Pan", "Rocky Horror Picture Show", and a few others.

    I find it hard to believe that in all the years I've done musicals I have yet to play "Oklahoma" or "Fiddle On The Roof".

    Break a leg!

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  4. elgecko


    Apr 30, 2007
    Anasleim, CA
    I've done the Wiz. That was fun. I also liked Rent, Hairspray, and The Sound of Music.

    Big River's right up your alley. It's country, written by Roger Miller. The music's good but it's REALLY talky! :meh:

    ...if you ever need a sub! :p
  5. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Cool thread; glad you're enjoying the gig. I basically learned to play bass for Jesus Christ Superstar when I was a senior in HS back in '80. The parts were from a theater production and I had the original LP back at home with the late, great Alan Spenner ripping it up. I did all I could to throw some of those licks in there in place of the bass score, which was pretty astringent, as I recall. That was a great musical experience.
  6. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    David Anderson is one Bad Ass Drummer!
  7. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.

    We did "Hairspray" last year. The guy who played the John Travolta part just nailed it. He was so much fun, had great timing, and delivered those killer lines so deadpan. It was wonderful.

    I haven't done "Rent" or "Sound Of Music" either. But there's always next year.

    I did "Jesus Christ Superstar" back in '76 or '77. That is a fun book to play too, lots of room to "make it your own". :bassist:

    Break a leg!

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  8. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.
    Hi Mr. davidhilton,

    Yes he is! The guitarist on this show, Dave's buddy Byron Frye, is also quite accomplished and well known in the industry. See http://www.byronfry.com. This is the third year we've had both of them in the pit with us. I'll tell Dave you said "Hi". ;)

    Here's a cute video from Byron.... http://youtu.be/F9APYdBa5bg

    I'm a lucky bassist. :p

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  9. kev b

    kev b

    Nov 28, 2012
    Up at the top of my bass playing experiences was being in the pit band for the pantomime Aladdin (U.S. members will have to look pantomime up, it's hard to explain)

    We were in a proper pit in an old theatre, imagine red velvet seats and Muppet Show. The audience was mostly children and the noise was terrific at times, He's BEHIND YOU!!!!

    Of course it didn't pay very well but I managed to muddle through using my meagre sight reading skills without being found out.

    We played a matinee on Boxing Day which I will never forget, the kids had been given bags of sweets which they used as missiles to hit the drums and cymbals, a big cheer going up if any shots were on target.

    I hoped the West End would follow but it was not to be, I've just been asked to play in the house band at a retro burlesque venue so time to brush up my reading I think .
  10. odin70


    Dec 26, 2007
    Nice thread!
  11. leadfingers

    leadfingers Two decades of lead guitar before finding my way. Supporting Member

    Feb 13, 2009
    Greensburg, Indiana
    Very cool! I bet that's a blast.

    I played guitar for "Grease" and "Godspell" way back in the day. What a fun time. Really helped my chops and was always interesting. Great times. :bassist:
  12. coop


    Jun 22, 2002
    Hey ! that's my friend from high school. David Anderson is a great player and a great guy to boot. Tell him Cooper said hi !:D
  13. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.
    Hi Mr. coop,

    Yes, David is a terrific player, reads his tail off, and we are getting along swimmingly. I'll tell him you said "Hi". We're either rehearsing or performing every night this week.

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  14. cronker


    Feb 13, 2007
    Might be a silly question, but why isn't the school band playing this?
  15. Space Pickle

    Space Pickle

    Apr 15, 2013
    The parts are probably too difficult. Happens a lot when high schools put on musicals.
  16. rust_preacher


    Dec 17, 2009
    I saw Spamalot in London's West End several years ago. You, and the audience, will have a blast!
  17. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.
    Hi Mr. cronker,

    The difficulty of the music could be part of it. It could also be that the school band can't spare that many musicians for the length of time it would take to rehearse the book. The actors and stage crew have been leaning lines, learning songs, building sets and props, etc, since before their Christmas break.

    I can't help but think that it would take most high school kids months to learn the music and the band has other things going on, like a spring concert or field show competitions, that they need to prepare for. I could hear a drum line practicing when I got to the school tonight.

    We do have a few students in the pit, the 2nd piano and a couple of horn players.

    Most of the actors were in their costumes tonight. They look fabulous. We've got three more dress rehearsals before opening on Friday. It's going to be a hoot!

    Break a leg!

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  18. Outside musicians were, I thought, something only UK schools did! I'd always assumed the lowering of importance music has in the curriculum was just here! I play in professional orchestra pits but also do these school shows if asked, and my experience is the same. We do get a few of the school kids in the band but reading musicians are not common. The school get a few bass and guitars but they can't read and the guitarists either read tab which is of no use with hired in pads, or they can't read jazzy chord symbols so have no idea of a Major 7 or what +5 means. Even the music teachers can't read properly! Getting a bunch of pro musos in is quite fun and if my diary lets me do it, then I do.

    In the UK it's common for the band to be paid ok money even in an amateur show in a real theatre. A sort of historic thing. Pantomime is usually a good earner. In a pro panto the band get very good money. Usually more than many of the cast!
  19. BassCliff


    May 17, 2012
    So. Cal.
    Hi Mr. paulears,

    Yes, we are paid a decent wage, nothing extravagent, but worth our while.

    You just reminded me... I've also played "Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat". That show was a ton of fun, especially the Pharaoh. :D

    Thank you for your indulgence,

  20. jelly6466


    Sep 28, 2010
    My niece is part of these same dram club tyoe activities and they also use outside, professional musicians. At least in the case of my niece's school, they want the music perfect so the students can concentrate on their parts and I was watching the musicians in the last performance (Legally Blonde) and it was a complex arrangement.

    On another note, it's good to see a high school kid with a KISS shirt on, while they might not be my favorite band at least she isn't wearing a Beiber shirt!!!