WHISTLE WITH THE ORCHESTRA
Like you’re ever allowed to.
When I was little, every summer my mother and father would rent a little cottage up in South Fallsburg, NY. From Memorial Day to just past Labor Day I would live 97 miles from New York City in the area know as the Catskills. I would miss the last days of the school year ending, and the first days of the next school year beginning. There have been many movies and stories about summer in the Catskills, but mine was a little different.
For several summers when I was about seven years old, we rented a cottage across the little road from The Windsor Hotel. Along with the rental price came use of the Hotel’s facilities. These hotels had a lot of facilities so that part of the deal was golden. Every hotel had tennis courts and shuffle-board and all kind of things to do. In the 50s every hotel had a big dance band, a Latin band, and maybe a Jazz combo. Every hotel of this size had three. The Windsor Hotel was a little different, it had an orchestra.
I loved to hear the orchestral music. Two times a week I would go across the country road and watch the orchestra rehearsal. Then on Saturday night I think it was, the orchestra would perform what they had rehearsed. I would put on my little bow-tie and jacket, and listen to the music I had heard rehearse during the week.
I was diligent. I never missed a rehearsal or performance.
Early on during the rehearsals, I started whistling along with the music. I would sit in the first row of the empty concert room, 3 and a 1/2 feet below the musician’s feet, and whistle my brains out. Sometimes I would whistle just a section’s part. Sometimes I would whistle the overall sound of the orchestra. Sometimes I would whistle all the internal melody lines. But whatever I whistled, no one ever said anything to me or to stop whistling.
My whistling stamina grew quickly. I could whistle whole Beethoven symphonies, the Brandenburg Concertos, Mozart, Brahms, Bach, Stravinsky, circular whistling, both in and out so you could whistle and breath without stopping. I learned to whistle and hum at the same time. I could even whistle like my brother Charles, who fell off the park wall when he was a kid and always whistled out the side of his mouth. I could whistle like him. I could whistle anything, always in tune and in time. And no one ever stopped me.
After a couple of seasons, towards the end of one summer, I got the Chicken Pox. My mother wouldn’t let me go to rehearsal. When the orchestra’s rehearsal ended, a few members of the string section including a Mrs. Kennedy (cello) came to the bungalow colony to find out what was wrong. They couldn’t believe I missed a rehearsal. They found me in bed with the chicken pox. Actually that was when my cousin Murray taught me how to play chess, right in bed. What a great game. I didn’t think much of anything at those times but my mother thought it was very nice for them to find out what happened to me.
Many years later, I must have been in my forties working in the theater. I learned that normally, you weren’t allowed to whistle along with the orchestra. You weren’t allowed to whistle during a rehearsal and you weren’t allowed to whistle during the performance. I didn’t know, I was a kid, I had done it so many times. To this day I still whistle all the time. The only time I stopped was during the week when my father died. My mother noticed and pointed out to me I wasn’t whistling, and then I started again.