Monthly Archives: July 2015

ck_BigBadVoodoo-77By Ali Mignone
the Stage Manager for Strings Music Festival. When she’s not telling roadies and musicians what to do, you can find her hiking, biking or skiing around the Yampa Valley.

Every industry has its own lingo. I assume jargon was originally invented as shorthand among people doing similar work, but I think we really use it to show off that we know things other people don’t know. For this column, I thought it would be fun to share some concert vernacular I’m familiar with—why should I be the only person in Steamboat who’s confused all the time?

  • Backline: onstage audio amplification gear and (sometimes) instruments. Artists often travel only with personal instruments and use rented backline gear at each venue.
  • House or house sound: the venue’s sound engineer. Or what the audience is hearing from their seats. Or the speakers pointing at the audience. Also called the PA. I’m often confused about what’s being talked about.
  • Line check: making sure all microphones, amps and speakers have power and are receiving signal or sending it. This is when you find out that poor coiling technique breaks cables (see “Over-under.”) Line check is usually performed by technicians, not musicians.
  • Local crew: technicians who are paid by the venue. Sometimes called house crew.
  • Monitors: the sound engineer running the band’s onstage equipment. Or what the band is hearing onstage. Or the wedge-shaped speakers pointing at the band. See earlier comment about me being confused.
  • Over-under: proper cable coiling technique that wraps the cable in a nice, neat coil. As opposed to the unfortunate extension cord coiling technique of running it over your palm and around your elbow in a giant circle of tangled mess.
  • Roadies: technicians who travel with and are paid by the band.
  • Settle up: “pay me.”
  • Snake: the giant cable that gets power to all the gear onstage or signal from all the gear onstage to the mixing boards. Each snake gets its own wheeled road box and can be terribly heavy. The trick is to only take out as much as you need and leave the rest coiled inside the box. If you lay it in carefully, both ends will be free without having to uncoil the entire 500-pound mess every time. See “Strike the Courtesy” for what happens when roadies make the locals mad.
  • Sound check: adjusting sound levels onstage and in the house. This is each musician’s chance to get the right mix in his or her monitor—a little more bass, a little more lead vocal, a little less keys. It’s also the touring sound engineer’s chance to hear what the venue sounds like and make equipment adjustments.
  • Strike the Courtesy: a (usually casual) comment from the local crew chief that tells the local crew to intentionally coil the snake in its road box with both ends on the bottom of the 500-pound coil. Or to coil it upside down, with the wrong end free on top. Either way means that the roadies will have to uncoil the entire thing at the next venue. I promise that we have never done this at Strings. But I’ve seen it at other places…

Upcoming events:

  • Monday, July 20, 5:30pm – C Street Brass at the Library (Free)
  • Tuesday, July 21, 11am – Big Bang Boom (Youth)
  • Wednesday, July 22, 6pm – Igudesman & Joo (Humorous Classical)
  • Thursday, July 23, 12:15pm – C Street Brass (Music on the Green)
  • Thursday, July 23, 7pm – A Musical Talk with Conductor Loras Schissel at Library Hall (Free)
  • Friday, July 24, 6pm – Brass and Brews at Butcherknife (Free)
  • Friday, July 24, 8pm – Lonestar (Country)
  • Saturday, July 25, 8pm – Civil War Brass Band (Classical, Multimedia)



Posted on July 16, 2015
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ck_Strings Orchestra-111

By Ali Mignone
Stage Manager for Strings Music Festival. When she’s not telling roadies and musicians what to do, you can find her hiking, biking or skiing around the Yampa Valley.


Strings’ recording engineer, Jamey Lamar, mentioned an interesting bit of trivia to me the other day.
When Vivaldi was alive, his compositions were often performed in cathedrals or other sacred spaces. His music was very popular, and people flocked to hear his work. But it wasn’t considered proper to clap inside a church. What was an appreciative audience to do at the end of something spectacular?

They coughed. The germaphobe in me is glad that one didn’t catch on.

But the conversation got me thinking about what other methods of performance appreciation might be out there. With many thanks to the Inventors of the Internet, which allowed me to do this research while the chamber orchestra musicians were rehearsing last week, I found some fun ones.

String players applaud their conductor or a fellow musician by waving their bows in the air or tapping them lightly on their instrument’s strings. Orchestras as a whole tend to applaud their conductor or a fellow musician by stomping their feet. (Hands are full.)

In deaf culture, it’s customary to show appreciation with a non-sound-generating applause. Deaf audience members will often raise their hands and spread out their fingers, then twist their wrists. It’s applause for your eyes.

Many African and Middle Eastern cultures lift up their voices and ululate to signal approval, as audience participation and as a general sign of joy and celebration.

Ancient Roman audiences used a sliding scale of approval. It started with snapping fingers for something pretty good, moved up to clapping, and then finally, for something really awesome, they would flap their togas. In an age not known for its undergarments, this might have been an alarming sight for performers. Perhaps this is why Emperor Aurelian changed this custom to waving handkerchiefs instead.

At Parliament in the UK, clapping is discouraged. So after a particularly rousing speech, white-wigged parliamentarians will yell out “Hear, hear!” or slap their desks. I have no idea why yelling and desk slapping are considered more decorous than clapping.

And remember the old days, when you lit up your Zippo and waved it slowly through the air when the music moved you? Now, you can do that with your cell phone, which has the added benefit of hiding that you’re actually recording the concert…

Regardless of the method you choose, when we are moved by something—whether it’s a stirring composition, a virtuosic performance, an inspiring oration, or honest joy in receiving good news—it’s human nature to want to share that excitement with each other. We use social shorthand by picking the method most appropriate to our culture and the situation, but I think it would be fun to branch out a little. I don’t know how to ululate, but I can wave a handkerchief to signal my approval when Exile and Juice Newton take the stage on Sunday. I’ll send them this column so they won’t be alarmed.

Posted on July 10, 2015
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