Sunday, January 10, 2010

Requesting Songs of an Orchestra?

Something just occurred to me: how did people transmit their musical requests to orchestras?

Think of it: You're at a swank supper club in the 1920s, and you decide you want to hear "The Kashmiri Love Song." Whether you're dancing on the floor or eating at your table, how would you convey your request to the orchestra's conductor?

Even though you often hear about people in such situations MAKING requests, you rarely hear HOW. Did they politely mention the request to their waiter or a passing busboy? Did they shout it out while applauding? Did they approach the musicians during a break? Did they leave notes on the stage? Was there an established job of standing at the edge of the stage and taking requests?

My guess is that the waiter or busboy was the go-between, but I have no proof and I'm very curious.


Brian Busby said...

Though I couldn't give you titles, I know I've seen at least a few old films in which someone walks up to the bandleader (while they're conducting) and shouts a request in their ear. Whether this was the norm, I can't say. It's always looked too easy. Me? I would've felt obliged to at least slip a fin.

Adam Thornton said...

I've seen that happen in films too, but only in the context of a notable person hijacking the orchestra as a prelude to a musical number. Have you seen it happen in a more low-key, realistic way?

Heck, thanks to you, now I'm wondering if bandleaders got tips!

Brian Busby said...

I don't think much is low-key or realistic in these films... and everyone, save the busboys and cigarette girls, seems notable. All those men in tuxedos, all those women in silk gowns... it's just another Tuesday night.