Classical Conductor Ups Ante, Says “Call Me Jellyroll”

BUFFALO, New York. Conductors of major metropolitan symphony orchestras are known to be a highly competitive and egotistical lot, but a recent move by the Buffalo Symphony’s musical director has the normally-sedate world of classical music buzzing.

Scalzi:  “I also like to be called ‘The Big Boss With the Hot Sauce.'”

“It is my desire that other conductors should henceforth refer to me as ‘Jellyroll,'” said Riccardo Scalzi. “I am the big dog with the baton right now, and I think they should recognize me as such.”

Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton

The nickname “Jellyroll” was first used by Ferdinand Morton, the self-proclaimed inventor of jazz who learned his trade playing in New Orleans’ houses of prostitution. The word “jellyroll” alludes to the resemblance between the pastry and the male sexual organ, and its adoption by Morton served as public proclamation of his superior position in his predominantly male musical world.

Other conductors were quick to respond, with most saying they would not honor Scalzi by using his chosen monicker. “He ain’t da big dog,” said Isidore Mazel of the Sheboygan Philharmonic Orchestra. “I’m da big dog–I take two strong men and a boy with me when I go to the bathroom ’cause my doctor told me not to lift heavy objects.”

Ozara:  “Scalzi has sex on the brain.  He told me a story about a two-peckered billy goat who walks into a bar . . .”

Akira Marukawa, former director of the Billings, Montana Symphony Orchestra, refused to take sides in the dispute, but said that the strength of a symphony was based primarily on factors other than its conductor. “We are at best glorified timekeepers,” Marukawa said modestly. “A great symphony is made up of great musicians and a great selection of candies and snacks available at intermission, which people tell me is their favorite part of my performances.”

Mazel stood his ground, however, saying Marukawa was in no position to judge his talents. “That little schlong? Please. He couldn’t carry my jock strap to the podium.”

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Clubbing of Poet Laureate Gives Arts Groups Crowd Control Ideas

BOSTON.  When Robert Hass was clubbed by Berkeley, California, police during a recent Occupy Wall Street demonstration, the incident received wide notoriety after the former poet laureate penned an oped about it for The New York Times.  “That sent shock waves through your entire non-profit and cultural crowd control industry there,” says Jim Hampy, a former Boston police officer who now works security for the New England Philharmonic.  “If you can beat down a major poet like that guy, anybody’s fair game.”

Hass:  “Was it something I wrote?”

And so Hampy and some of his peers at other classical music organizations around the country are re-thinking their approach to the scourge of the symphony; the musically illiterate concert-goer who insists on clapping between movements.

“I’ve been given carte blanche to go after these scofflaws,” Hampy says, “but previously my hands was tied so to speak.  Now the guys in classical music security have a level playing field again.”

The origin of the taboo against clapping between movements at classical music performances is shrouded in the mists of history, with some tracing it back to 19th century German composer Richard Wagner and others saying it is of more recent vintage.  “It was Leopold Stokowski who really set the practice in stone,” says music historian Leonard Plenth-Feister of the former Philadelphia Orchester conductor.  “He was at a Flyers game one night and noticed how the audience went quiet while the Zamboni was on the ice.  He thought that would be a good thing for the classical crowd, which can get kinda rough.” 

Stokowski:  “It’s quiet when the Zamboni’s on the ice.  I can finally hear myself drink my beer.”

Whatever its roots, the prohibition against clapping between movements is, like jaywalking, a rule more frequently broken than observed, to Hampy’s dismay.  “Either you know da classical repuhtwah or ya don’t,” he says with disgust, as he reviews a tape of last weekend’s performance of Mozart’s Symphony no. 31 in D major, the “Paris” symphony.  “Look at this mook over here,” he says as he directs a laser pointer to the image of an elderly man seated in the balcony who claps after the Andante movement.  “What a freakin’ knucklehead!”

Hampy is working a matinee today featuring violin concerti by Mozart and Haydn, and he says he feels safer now that he has the tools needed to patrol his beat.  “Some people get all huffy with me,” he says.  “I sez to them I sez, the concerto ain’t over ’til the fat lady playin’ second cello puts down her bow.”

“I’m gonna need some pepper spray in the loge boxes.”

Along with two colleagues, Hampy takes his position in an aisle as the music plays, “just itching” he says to let patrons know he’s “no longer second fiddle to some guy just ’cause he gives five grand a year.”  The orchestra makes its way through the Allegro moderato movement of Haydn’s violin concerto no. 1, and as the music fades out, Hampy is ready to rumble.  “I got one in row M,” he says into his wrist walkie-talkie.  “I’m goin’ in and may need reinforcements.”

“Whadda you think this is–the freakin’ symphony?”

With that, Hampy pounces on Niall Jobsz, a local college student and lover of the arts whose knowledge of Haydn’s oeuvre is not his strong point.  “Hold it right there, pal!” Hampy says as he jabs the younger man hard in the ribs.  “Pipe down or I’ll trow youse outta here!”

Some members of the audience look on in alarm, but others nod with approval.  “It’s a slippery slope,” says Board of Trustees chair Jeffrey Huang.  “The barbarians who clap between movements today are the ones who show up in the loge boxes with Tostitos and salsa tomorrow.”