Marcus Arnold, the great conductor, had an enormous problem. It was the evening before the performance, and all the sheet music they would be playing from had just been recalled. There was some dispute over copyright between some musicians on the other side of the world, and now his orchestra had no music to play.
“Couldn’t we still perform?” he asked the administrator of the music library. “Our performance is tomorrow. I’ve sold tickets, rented the hall, and printed the programs. I even paid to advertise in the papers.”
“You wouldn’t be able to perform legally. I wouldn’t risk it. Judging by the current issues, I think the people involved are quite willing to take things to court,” the administrator replied.
Marcus looked back through their repertoire. Should they play something from a previous month? Without enough rehearsal, it would be difficult to perform to their usual standards. It would probably be better for their reputation to cancel and return the money. There was enough cushion in their budget to handle a cancellation.
And so he made a list of phone calls to make in the morning. It was going to be a long day. After thinking it all over, he decided to send out emails right away and then follow them up with a call in the morning. He wasn’t giving them much advance notice after all. Finally, he posted a message canceling the concert on social media and the orchestra website.
Despite staying up late the night before, he was up early in the morning, responding to a flood of concerned emails. As soon as possible, he called the administrative office of the concert hall. He spent a half hour on hold.
The administrative assistant who answered the phone was sympathetic but unwilling to refund any of their deposit. “We won’t require you to pay the full amount, but with the late notice we won’t be able to rent the hall to anyone else. We’re losing money here. However, since the orchestra is a regular and valued client, we will post cancellation notices for your concert at the box office at no extra charge.”
His email the night before was too late to add the news about the canceled concert to the morning’s newspaper. After a phone call, they agreed to add the information to their website. “Unfortunately, it’s really late notice. It would be better for you to let us know two days in advance in the future.”
He spent the rest of the day answering calls and emails from people who wanted refunds for their tickets. A few demanded that the orchestra perform anyway or reschedule. The next week was a mess of accounting and public relations work.
Marcus Arnold vowed never to choose any music by the litigious composer again. Not even if it sounded like it might bring about world peace. Well, maybe for world peace. Otherwise, never again.
Meanwhile, many of the orchestra members were waking up the morning of the concert to bad news. They had put in all the hard work to prepare for a concert that wasn’t going to happen. It was a sad morning for the orchestra.
A few of the orchestra members weren’t consistent with checking their email. Most of them found out from social media or friends that had heard the news and called to commiserate or vent or console. Five of them didn’t find out until they showed up at the concert hall in performance attire with their instruments.
Instead of arriving for a pre-concert rehearsal, they found the concert hall dark and locked. They all agreed that it was the right day and time for the concert, so the violinist offered to call a friend and find out why no one was there. While she was on the phone, the cellist passed the box office and ran back with the news.
“The concert is canceled,” they said in unison.
The two remaining violinists and the violist were shocked. “Now what?” the violist asked.
“We’re here, we could play on the steps, like a mini concert,” the cellist said.
“We could go to the mall and start playing. It’ll be like a flash mob,” a violinist suggested.
“I think I’m just going to go home and eat a tub of ice cream and check my emails,” the violist said. “What a lousy day.”
Luckily, the next concert was their best of the season and the orchestra recovered. Marcus Arnold always prepared back up pieces and never again scheduled a show where all the music came from one composer. And all the orchestra members checked their email every day first thing. If there was any orchestra news, everyone knew it.
The enormous problem turned out to be not so bad, in retrospect. It wasn’t great, but things turned out fine. Sometimes things are like that.