Mus euphoniumus

I came across this interview with Stephen Saunders, bass trombonist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, by Matt Guilford, bass trombonist with the National Symphony Orchestra, in which Saunders’ recounts his strangest experience as a performer. It is a horrifying tale – I hope I will never have a better story to tell!

Probably the most bizarre occurrence was in the early 1970’s playing in a West End Show at the Theatre Royal Covent Garden. I was playing euphonium and had an important soloistic part to play in a show called “Billy”. A little pushed for time I arrived at the theatre and went to the bandroom locker where I used to hang my instrument on a coat hook not bothering to put it away in its case after each show. I was last into the pit and the overture began straight away. After a few bars I had a solo to play which started well but became worse and worse getting sharp and losing volume. A particularly unpleasant Musical Director who shall remain nameless (Alf Railston) was glaring at me and went completely mad when the solo came back at the end of the piece and I couldn’t get a single note out of the euphonium!.

It occurred to me that perhaps something wrong with the instrument so I began to remove each valve slide and blow through it to see where the blockage was. Still under the poisonous glare of the MD who by now was scribbling something about me in the theater incident book, I got to the main tuning slide and when I put it into my mouth to blow through it I felt something fluffy on my tongue. I held it out and looked at a pair of beady little eyes and some whiskers sticking out of the tube. It was a rat! I had just put a rat in my mouth!

I think it was the tuba player who took it from me and shook it out into a large can we used as ash trays in those days while I ran out to the band room bar and rinsed my mouth out with vodka. I finished the first act hearing the rat running around the can until it managed to escape.

During the interval I went to see the theater manager to complain about vermin in my euphonium. After a pointless discussion about whether it was a mouse or a rat he told me there was a problem because the Covent Garden vegetable market had closed down and all the rats had come into the theaters for food. He than told me that at the beginning of the show a female member of the audience had, after using the toilet facilities, pulled up her tights (panty hose) with a rat inside. I suddenly thought perhaps I had got off quite lightly and said no more but always put my instrument in its case after that.

An excellent argument for keeping vodka handy backstage!

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1 Response to Mus euphoniumus

  1. Reuben says:

    Wow, Gross. Thats what you get when you play euphonium hahaha

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