Is There A Violin In The House?

Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang and pianist Michail Lifits delivered an impassioned, stunningly beautiful recital of Mendelssohn, Fauré, Mozart and Prokofiev at the Vancouver Playhouse on Sunday afternoon for the Vancouver Recital Society

Audiences were mesmerized by the lyric Mendelssohn that opened the program and the lush Fauré that closed the first half, with many patrons in the audience saying they were transported to another world by the beauty of their playing, myself included.

A divine, one-movement Mozart sonata followed the intermission, and then a rousing, powerful Prokofiev that nearly brought the house down, until a broken E-string brought the concert to a crashing halt at the very climax of the piece. A visibly upset Vilde left the stage to replace the broken string, only to find the replacement string in her case was defective.

There is a magic to live performance, the seamlessness perfection great artists create that sometimes only reveals itself when something goes wrong. We all know what to expect in a concert – the performance, the clapping, the intermission, an encore if we’re lucky … but what happens when it all goes awry?

Desperate, I emerged from backstage to ask the audience: “Is there a violin in the house?” Amazingly there was! John Lyon (pictured here with Vilde), a PhD student and fiddler in a bluegrass band had his violin with him, and I rushed it back to Vilde.

John Lyon and his wonderful violin with Vilde Frang
John Lyon and his wonderful violin with Vilde Frang

While Vilde tuned the instrument backstage, I came back onstage to buy her some time by telling the audience the only story I know about  a broken string:

A well-known string quartet (I don’t want to say which) was just starting to play a concert in a very small village in Ireland when a cello string broke. The cellist immediately rushed off to get a replacement string from his cello case while the other three musicians waited on stage.

After an unusually long time had passed and he didn’t return, the violist went off to find him. But he too didn’t return and the audience was getting a bit restless, so the second violinist went off to hurry his colleagues along. When he, too, didn’t return, the first violinist somewhat sheepishly asked the audience for their patience while he got it all straightened out, and went off to find the others.

Unknown-1But when he found them backstage, they had broken down into a fit of giggles because the cellist didn’t have a replacement string and there was no way to complete the concert. Unable to face the audience, they slipped out into the night as quietly as they could and drove off.

Thankfully our concert had a much happier ending! Vilde and Michail came back onstage to play a divine Heifetz transcription as an encore (Estrellita by Ponce) on the borrowed student’s violin, and the audience rose to their feet as one to cheer her outstanding sang froid! It was definitely one for the record books!