Monday, March 26, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

It's my birthday today; for far my best gifts have been an unexpected visit from an out-of-town friend, a trip to Point Reyes on Saturday (foggy but beautiful), and a great conversation with my dad this morning. We reminisced about when I had a bit part in "An Affair to Remember" as a teen viola player. (He was thinking of the film and my role in it partly because his retirement community showed it last night.) I remember playing on the sets, and doing homework with other children since all young actors had to spend at least half the day on the set doing school assignments. My trumpet-player friend Glen Sallow (sp?) was in the film with me, as was a very cute female schoolmate who played some sort of percussion instrument (cymbal?). Our classroom was the area around the fountain which appears in the film as part of Cary Grant's mother's villa.

Our best day was the first, when we found a whole village set, and we walked the streets from Chinatown to the Old West to New York all within a few steps of each other -- every time you turned a corner, you were in a different "locale". But when the studio realized we were playing in this particular set, they stopped us because the whole village was about to fall down, and they worried for our safety.

Deborah Kerr actually conducted our little scene, but she must not have had much musical training (I heard later that another singer dubbed the songs she seemed to sing); when you conduct an orchestra in 4/4 time, you move your hand in a sort of X pattern -- up for the starting beat of the measure, down for the second beat, up and to the side for the third beat, horizontally for the fourth beat, then back to the top for the start of the next beat. Kerr couldn't stay consistent even with four beats per measure, so we had to ignore her and just play in time to the pre-recorded soundtrack.

That was another interesting bit: although you saw us on screen, and we COULD play the song, the orchestra that you hear in the film is a much larger orchestra, of older children plus some adults who were added in for this single recording. We in the VISUAL orchestra rehearsed the tune to the sheet music, then for filming, we had to pretend to play in time while an LP recording of the larger orchestra started up. I had to hold my bow up above my viola strings, never touching; children playing wind and brass instruments had to pretend to blow and just do the fingering. Only the percussionist was allowed to actually play, because nobody could figure out how to fake her part.

I never did get Kerr's autograph -- she signed some one day, then said she had to leave and would be back and sign more, but we never saw her again.

-- Rachel Holmen

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