Thomas Stevens

Classical or Popular ? II

  • General Quotes

Have you seen the movie?

Date: Summer, 1971.

Artists: The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Arthur Fiedler, then- conductor of the Boston Pops.

Event: “Pops” concert.

Place: The Hollywood Bowl.

During the rehearsal the orchestra was playing a medley of music from motion pictures. Bob DiVall, my predecessor as principal trumpeter with the orchestra, was playing the lyrical trumpet solo from the end title theme music of the motion picture, “True Grit,” when Mr. Fiedler stopped him and criticized him for playing it too much like a classical player. It should be lighter and less serious, he said, and then came the Quotable: “Haven’t you seen the movie?” Upon hearing this, our section members did their very best to keep from laughing, but, unfortunately, Mr. Fiedler noticed our reaction and admonished us to not be so dismissive about film and popular music, the usual blather symphony musicians are forced to endure from time to time from some, but not all, overly-defensive “pops” conductors when the latter believe they or the music they are doing are not being treated seriously.

In this instance, the reason we were experiencing such difficulty suppressing laughter was because three members of our trumpet section, DiVall, Irving Bush, and I, along with the Hollywood free-lancer, George Werth, comprised the trumpet section on the soundtrack recording for the movie, “True Grit,” and Bob had played the beautiful trumpet solo on the end title music of the film, the same exact solo Fiedler was criticizing him for playing in the wrong style! (This is a quintessential example of why one needs a fully developed sense of humor to survive in professional music.)

This little event became a rather well-known story in Los Angeles musical environs, and then, a few years later when Michael Tilson Thomas was conducting a rehearsal of a Gershwin piece from the late 1920s, he stopped to request a style change in a trumpet part DiVall was playing. MTT’s instructions were followed by, “and I know you didn't play the original recording of this one!”

Below: Photo with Bob DiVall, Hollywood Bowl, 1967