The source of this recording will remain anonymous. It's a live recording, done from the auditorium of a community theater, so it's basically what the audience heard. It could have been recorded most anywhere in the country, that's the point. Here's the opening minute of the overture to "Gypsy"--
Amateur theater band
I've actually heard much worse. But still, isn't it a bit Ouch on the ears?
Well, that's about as good as it can get in the realm of amateur theater. I know from experience that it is incredibly difficult to round up musicians for a musical, and then once the band has been put together, it's supremely difficult, actually impossible, to get them to rehearse sufficiently. The musicians are Always the first to be paid - usually the Only people to be paid. A sizable chunk of a community theater's musical budget goes to paying these folks to play the music.
Musicians have this attitude engrained in them early on that their services are rare and special, and that they should always be paid. Meanwhile, casts for these shows toil long hours for months getting a show up. They work with recordings or a rehearsal pianist, then, if they're lucky, they rehearse a couple of times with the band before opening. It's not unusual for that to come down to just one rehearsal. And it's always a Complete Nightmare. Tempi are all over the place, the band is sloppy, too loud, under-trained, and the entire production's confidence level plummets instantly. The show limps through its run, and charitable patrons still stand up to applaud at the end, because they at least admire and appreciate the effort, even though there's no way they can think of what they saw as anything but excruciatingly amateurish.
Some more metropolitan areas will have a better pool of musicians to draw from, but the majority of community theaters have a much more limited pool to draw from. So quality does vary, of course.
Some years ago, our local theater had given up doing musicals because they were so expensive and turned out so embarrassingly. I went to the board of directors and proposed to direct a musical using recorded tracks that I would produce. That resulted in a string of highly successful shows which came across Much better than the group's musicals had before that. I produced the soundtracks with synths and samplers, later with Garritan instruments. Casts were thrilled that they could rehearse with Exactly what they'd hear during performance. Levels could be worked out so the singers weren't drowned out, and the drummer wasn't predominating with that horrible BOOOMING sound they always create in these small performance spaces. The audiences had to make that initial adjustment to hearing recorded music instead of a live band - But it always worked. In live theatre, it's the people up on stage who are most important. Music is there to back them up, and to have a secondary role. That relationship is totally out of whack when a bad sounding band keeps taking focus - and the totally wrong kind of focus.
Most of here are musicians, and some have played in pit bands for shows. We're also MIDI musicians. We're two headed beasts. We can totally sympathize with the ideal concept of always having live bands for these kinds of shows - but we also know that it's not always the best way to make for a polished, semi-professional show.
It's for these factors I'm talking about that I was grateful the initial productions of my "Dorian Gray" have used my Garritan driven tracks. At least I know the show isn't suffering because of a badly played score.
It's a bit of a dilemma, eh? And of course it's a topic that's been hot for a long time now - the debate over live versus virtual bands. I think we all know that Broadway shows and the touring equivalents now make big use of MIDI and recorded tracks. Bands of live musicians are much smaller than they used to be, and in some cases, are being totally replaced.
Sticky subject as it is - I wanted to say that in my experience, musicians in amateur theater are often The key reason that
community productions can suck as big time as they often do. Give me a good sounding virtual orchestra any time.