Sunday, November 04, 2012

Stars in my eyes

Orchestra Iowa is finally back in our beautiful hall, the Paramount Theatre, after floods destroyed it 4 years ago. We are so fortunate that the orchestra has stayed afloat (hmm) this whole time, and even more fortunate to be back in this gorgeous venue. We had a Gala concert last night with Harry Connick Jr., and I was fortunate enough to be able to play English horn on a couple pieces. It wasn't a full orchestra. He had a bass player, drummer, and 2 trumpets, trombones and saxes. Orchestra Iowa provided strings (not full), 2 flutes, 2 clarinets, English horn, bassoon and horns. We had rehearsal yesterday afternoon and the concert in the evening. 

I got up the courage to go talk to Harry during the break in our afternoon rehearsal. My internal monologue: Mr. Connick? Sir? Harry? What do I call him?!
Me: Hello, Harry? Sounds really great!
Harry: Hi, thank you!
Me: I'm Jillian; I'm the English horn player. 
Don't babble.
Harry: Nice to meet you. (He shakes my hand.)
Me: My son's name is Harry, too. No relation. 
Hardy-har-har. You are such a dork, Jillian.
Harry: Gives a gracious smile.
Me: It was my grandfather's name. Harry is a very fine name.
I'm sure he finds this fascinating, Jill.
Harry: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Me: Thanks so much for playing with us.
Harry: It's my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Me: It's been really fun. Thanks again!
Harry: My pleasure, thanks!
Then I head back to my seat and my inner monologue is happy I didn't make a fool of myself or seem too star-struck. Then my violist friend Sara shows me a photo she snapped of our 45-second conversation. I feel like clarifying that I didn't ask her to take this photo! But it's a cool little momento for me. :)

That would have made me happy in itself, but it gets better.

During the second half of rehearsal, we played Harry's piece with a whole bunch of rhythmically-tricky English horn solos. At the end of the song, Harry looks toward the back of the stage, where I'm sitting, and says, "Where's my friend back there? Is it Katie? (the only other orchestra member's name he knew, our concert master)" I knew it was me, so I called out "Jillian!" (Repeated by others so he could hear.) H: "Jillian? You're killin' it back there, you're killin' it!" (Followed by clapping by orchestra...for you non-music people, "killin' it" is a good thing!) H: "You should've been on our (names city) show!" (Leaving it out so nobody gets offended if they stumble across this post!) Me: "Well, fly me out next time!" 
Harry smiled.

And he just made my day.

But it gets better.

The concert comes along. Harry is killin' it. ;) The audience was eating out of the palm of his hand. I'd never heard a crowd there applaud and cheer so loud in that theatre. Nor have I ever heard an audience so enraptured with a performer when he took time out of his set to just talk. No piano music tinkling in the background, no rush, no agenda. He was very funny and gracious. 

"My" piece comes up, and it went well, and then Harry goes into a bit about his band members--some people on this stage he's known forever, some people like this orchestra, he's just met today. "Like my friend Jillian on English horn. Where are you, Jillian? (Lights come up on stage) Stand up and take a bow." I stand up (I'm sure I'm beet-red), give a little wave, and sit back down. Harry: "Now, I only know Jillian's name because she came up to say hello today. I don't know her last name, because she just said, "I'm Jillian," but she probably doesn't know my last name either. (Crowd laughs) But we had a short conversation, and I do know she's a fantastic player, and her orchestra is lucky to have her." (More applause, and I am melting on stage.) He goes on to talk about other members of his band, and I'm thinking, Stay cool, Jill. Don't let it go to your head.

Later, Harry talks about some sci-fi convention in his hotel and this strangely-dressed woman with a paint roller in her hand that turned out to be a "wand" who snapped at his tour manager when he said "nice paint roller". Later in the concert still, Harry talks about odd people, including this orchestra, who were probably all part of the sci-fi convention. "Jillian was the woman with the paint roller!" Haha!

I had so much fun. I'm not daft though; I realize he met someone in the orchestra, had a name, and I easily became the go-to girl in order to have a story or two. But it was still very special to be singled-out and complimented, and it made my day! He'll move on to his next city and forget about little old me, but I'll have this great memory for quite a while!

So if Harry Connick Jr. or his manager is reading this, thanks for making my day! You were very gracious to me and our orchestra. I'd love an autographed photo! :) How about....c/o Dave Camwell at Simpson College; Indianola, IA 50125 ;)  ...and I'm serious about that flying me out thing. :)


Jill Cathey said...

I think that is amazing! And don't sell yourself short, I'm sure he wouldn't have bothered pointing you out if you hadn't played beautifully. Glad to hear you are back in your hall - the symphony here is on strike, really awful stuff.

Jill Cathey said...

Wow, that is terrific! What a great feeling, and being back in a fabulous place to play is wonderful too. The orchestra here is on strike, really awful stuff. Fortunately I'm working White Christmas for the next 6 weeks!

Odette said...

Your talent alone is great to read of..but to meet Harry Connick Jr would have me over the moon. I think he is just fantastic and his concerts in Australia are always a sell out. Well done on not being "star struck" and realizing you have a talent to contribute also. BTW must be nice for "celebrities" to have a conversation with someone they working along side of