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My Musical Vocabulary Mishap

A few years ago I got a job performing in the pit for the musical, Sweeney Todd. It was a small orchestra in the pit, so I was alone on the cello part. The score was tough but we all showed up knowing our stuff, so we could relax a bit and have some fun while we rehearsed. One day, on the way home from rehearsal, I commented to my colleague that the director had a pet name for everyone. I thought it was fun, and I especially liked mine. My friend looked puzzled. "I don't think he has a pet name for you" he said. "Yes he does" I said. "You haven't noticed?" I asked. Again, my friend, who is usually very astute, gave me a look like, I have no idea what you are taking about. "Alright then, what does he call you?" he asked. "He calls me button," I said. My friend said nothing but looked at me like I was making it all up! "Didn't you hear him say it today?" I persisted. "We came to the end of a phrase, and he said, "you got that, button?"

Well. From here on in, this story ends in fits of laughter. It turns out that in some musical circles, the word button describes a note that punctuates the end of a musical phrase. It's sorta like the two bits, from shave and a haircut. In a chamber ensemble, it is not unusual for the button to get played by a bass instrument, like a cello. Ahem. 


I realized that all along, the question was, "you got that button?" and not "you got that, button? 

I was in stitches! The story still makes me smile. And my friend too. Needless to say, I am glad I did not get carried away and thank my director for the "button" compliment in rehearsal. I would have been mortified.

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Do You Know These Ten Essential Rehearsal Words?

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