Maestro’s baton goes up, and when it comes down the pennywhistle player has come in two notes too soon. The banjo picker misses his lick. When the song kicks in, we’re out-of-sync with the symphony orchestra. I hear it. I feel it. I see it. The mandolin player looks like a rowboat captain about to be broadsided by the battleship USS Laboon. He’s following me. I look to Maestro. He’s looking back at us, but I’m in time with his baton, so the mandolin player and I are all right. But it doesn’t matter. The band is out-of-whack. And when the interlude comes and we perform our forty-second “hoedown” dance, the fifth-wheel of the band, who bowed out during dress rehearsal but bowed back in this afternoon, is taking up too much room, and the distances we must now travel no longer match the cadence. I omit a move to get myself back into position, and somehow everyone is ready to play when the ditty comes ‘round again, though we’re not anywhere close to our intended formation.
The song ends, my bandmates take bows, and we exit. As I pack up to leave, the stage manager enters and reminds us that we need to be present for final curtain bows. Damn. I hate typical movie soundtracks, particularly when composed by John Williams, and now I’ve got to sit through thirty more minutes of it.
The actors who performed between musical selections walk on stage together and take a bow. Twelve hundred people applaud. The lights go up, Maestro takes a bow and sweeps his arms toward the symphony orchestra. We stand behind the bass section, and are waved forward. I follow the pennywhistle player who walks center-stage. The five of us clasp hands, with Maestro at the far end, we bow, and as we rise I feel my right arm raised high in the air, as if we are being applauded for having just played the Budokan arena, as if we had just done something amazing…
… and maybe we did—managed to get out of there without being shot. Amazing.