Perry goes to the symphony

Dear bear friends:

Life on a Symphony tour isn't all sightseeing! It's music, too and tonight, I went backstage at Suntory Hall, here in Tokyo.

I'm always happy to go backstage before a Symphony concert. The Orchestra performs in concert halls: large buildings with a stage and seats for the audience. "Backstage" is the place behind the stage where the musicians prepare to play, where the instruments are stored, and where everyone waits during intervals in the concert. To go backstage is to be part of a very select group!

Tonight, as always, I am struck by the change in my musician friends. During the day, I see many musicians in the hotel, or out sigh seeing in the city. They will be rumpled and relaxed, wearing blue jeans, telling us of a restaurant to try or a museum to visit. Backstage? Everyone is wearing their formal stage clothing: a tuxedo with tails or a long, black evening gown. Even I have changed into formal attire: I'm wearing my best black velvet bow-tie!

There is a hum of excitement. A trumpet sings the same four notes, again and again. Violin bows slide softly across violin strings, a rich throaty sound. Musicians pace, group around the little beverage bar for one last cup of tea, talk and gesture with bows or instruments. The concert will begin soon!

Several people have dressing rooms: small private rooms for the Maestro, the concertmaster, and the evening's violin soloist to rest in before the performance. Tonight, Doctor Steve has a dressing room, too! Since everyone is healthy today, Miss Cynthia and I enjoy exploring the Doctor's dressing room. We have comfortable chairs, a large mirror, and a little bathroom. There is a Japanese tea service, with hot water: "Perry, would you like some tea?" There is even a small television where we can watch the performance!

It takes more than musicians to make a Symphony concert. Backstage, I see some of my very special friends the staff members who make the concerts possible. Mister Jim is one of my favorite staff members! He is the Stage Manager: the one who makes sure everything necessary for the concert is on the stage. Chairs? Don't forget the concertmaster's special chair, Mister Jim! Are there enough music stands? Do you have all the instruments for the first musical piece?

Mister Jim, too, wears a tuxedo. I was puzzled! It's certainly not very comfortable to move heavy instruments and set up chairs in a tuxedo! Miss Cynthia explained, though, that anyone who might have to go onstage in the course of a performance must wear formal clothing. On her first tour, she told me, a very exciting thing happened. Maestro was conducting a

symphony a piece of music in four parts and was gesturing so strongly his baton hit a music stand and broke! Maestro didn't even blink, just kept on conducting with the short, broken end of his baton. At the end of the movement, out walked Mister Jim, with a replacement baton. He bowed to the Maestro, and held out the new baton. The Maestro bowed to Mister Jim, and handed him the broken baton. The show must go on and sometimes, it takes Mister Jim to save the day!

Mister Jim has some helpers: Mister Vance, Mister Dennis, and Mister Lurie. They are stage technicians, in charge of packing and unpacking all the instruments. The instruments travel in special instrument trunks. Some are VERY large--the trunks for the basses can be eight or nine feet tall! Each trunk is carefully designed to hold the instrument firmly as it is moved; many are lined in soft and beautiful velvet. Miss Cynthia perched me on an instrument trunk, and took my photograph. I held on tight, because it was a long way to the floor! Don't fall, Perry!

The orchestra's instruments are very, very valuable. You must be very skilled and careful to be a stage technician! And have big muscles, too!

The orchestra's sheet music is so important there is a special staff person just to take care of it: Mister John, the orchestra librarian. Imagine what would happen if the music got mixed up! Mister John must make sure every musician has exactly the right piece of music and that the music is properly collected and packed for the next concert.

Backstage, I see other good friends who help the orchestra. Mister John, the operations manager, is VERY important. He is in charge of EVERYTHING ­ but do you know, he's still nice to a little bear? "Hello, Perry!" he greets me, as he rushes off to see to something important. Miss Julia sees to publicity, making sure photographs are taken and the right information is given to

the newspapers about our tour. She dashes by, explaining something over her shoulder to the photographer behind her. Mister Josh is in charge of personnel; if someone is sick, Mister Josh makes sure there's a replacement musician for their part. The show must go on!

Now it IS time for the show! We must take our seats for the performance. I hope you like to go backstage as much as I do!

Your bear friend,

Perry Bear Ewer

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