Thursday, February 21, 2019

Proofreading gone wrong...

On Sunday, I had the great pleasure of hearing pianist Robert Levin give a fantastic performance of the Beethoven "Emperor" concerto with the Boston Philharmonic. I wrote a bit about it on Facebook, and a friend mentioned she'd been on a committee with the pianist when she was a student at Harvard, where Levin taught for many years. I decided I could one-up this by mentioning my own historic run-in with Levin.

I never actually met him, but many years ago, I was tasked with proofreading the program booklet for a performance of Levin's edition of Mozart's Requiem. The evening featured Levin (famous both as musicologist and pianist) as pre-concert speaker to talk about his completion of Mozart's unfinished work. So it was a pretty big deal, big audience, etc. I don't honestly have a lot of experience as a proofreader (any glance at a random blog post here should confirm that), but I thought I'd done a pretty careful job.

The day before the performance, I was talking about the work in a class and had slides up showing the text. A student raised her hand and noted that the title of Rex tremendae was amusingly misspelled in the listing of movements. I chuckled, but almost immediately went to a darker internal place as I put two and two together. I'd copied the PowerPoint text from the program draft I had "proofed."

The rest of the story is pretty much a blur. I remember making a panicked call to the print shop. I was told the programs were already being printed and it was too late to fix anything, but they did a quick check and assured me the typo wasn't there.

Nonetheless, I still showed up at the concert a bit nervous, and when I opened the big, glossy program booklet, my worst fears were immediately realized. I don't remember precisely what went through my head, but seeing the word "Tex" certainly felt like this angst-ridden music of Mozart's was pounding in my brain:

When I told my little story on Facebook, a friend mentioned that "Tex tremendae" sounded like " some sort of Texas-based superhero," and I immediately began imagining these dramatic rhythms and a large chorus sporting a Texas-sized drawl. Of course, Texas is home to lots of superior choral singing, so I'm not pretending Texas choirs would sing this way on accident - but if tasked to summon the superhero Tex Tremendae, perhaps it would sound a bit like this.

The main reason I'm posting it is because, for better or for worse, I took the time to see if I could make my virtual chorus sing with a drawl. I could still do with more vowel variety, but I also think I spent enough time on it. At least it's short.

If for some strange reason you like this, perhaps you'll enjoy my reworking of Barber as a Burger King tale...


UPDATE: If you're curious, my intent was for the "singers" to execute the text more or less like this, although that proved harder to achieve than I expected:


Mike said...

I recall a charity concert organised by the pianist Roger Woodward many years ago, where someone had made a mess of the program listings, most memorably with "Fur Elise in a minor woo", almost unrecognisably transformed from "Fur Elise in A minor, WoO".


That's awesome!