Musical Interludes – A Really Terrible Orchestra & The Rock Bottom Remainders

February 1, 2011

The beloved and prolific author Alexander McCall Smith ( The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series along with many more series and stories) is in my opinion one of the most entertaining interviewees you’ll ever hear.  His dry humour is delightful and I guarantee you’ll be laughing out loud in short order when you hear him on air. He is particularly hilarious when he is speaking of the musical orchestra to which he belongs: The Really Terrible Orchestra or RTO for short. A few phrases here from an article he wrote in The New York Times:

AMS: ” My own playing set the standard. I play the bassoon, even if not quite the whole bassoon. I have never quite mastered C-sharp, and I am weak on the notes above the high D. In general, I leave these out if they crop up, and I find that the effect is not unpleasant. I am not entirely untutored, of course, having had a course of lessons in the instrument from a music student who looked quietly appalled while I played. … Another (member), a cellist, was unfortunately very hard of hearing and was also hazy on the tuning of the strings. As an aide-mémoire, he had very sensibly written the names of the notes in pencil on the bridge. This did not appear to help.”

The RTO has a wonderful time together and has even toured. They are met with great enthusiasm wherever they go.

AMS: ” We debated whether to charge for admission, but wisely decided against this. That would be going too far. So should we go to the other extreme and pay people to come? There was some support for this, but we decided against it. Instead, we would give the audience several free glasses of wine before the concert. That, it transpired, helped a great deal.”

View the RTO feature on ABC news by clicking link to Youtube.

Other writers too, apparently embrace alter egos with musical inclinations. The Rock Bottom Remainders is a rock band made up solely of writers and well known, successful ones at that. Writer and musician Kathi Kamen Goldmark had the idea to gather some of her music loving author friends and play together – they had such fun they’ve kept up with it for some 18 years. Besides Kathi, present and one-time members have included: Dave Barry, Barbara Kingsolver, Mitch Albom, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Scott Turow, Greg Iles, Ridley Pearson, Robert Fulghum, Matt Groening, Frank McCourt and Roy Blount Jr.  The group travels annually with their “Wordstock” tour and has raised almost $2 million for various charities. “We will not be playing our ‘music’ for money, because if we did, people would throw shoes at us. Rather, we will be playing to raise money for some good causes.”

Here some of the members (Dave Barry, Stephen King, Ridley Pearson) are joined by another writer and banjo player extraordinaire, Steve Martin.  (A little “bookish” trivia … Ridley Pearson has two daughters: Paige and Storey. Honest to goodness!)

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