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Composer born on October 12. (Yes, I know – I’m late) Ralph Vaughan Williams

Aw, heck. I missed Ralph’s birthday. It was the 12th. He was/is one of my favorite composers. I wrote about him here last May. He was a violist as well as a composer which explains his luscious viola parts.  See the earlier blog at https://carolyndonnell.wordpress.com/2010/05/18/ralph-vaughan-williams-played-viola/

Here’s a “duet” with two small string orchestras. I don’t know a better example of lush.


Ralph Vaughn Wiliam from Wikipedia:

12 October 1872 – 26 August 1958 was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song which influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, containing many folk song arrangements set as hymn tunes, in addition to several original compositions.

Ralph Vaughan Williams was born on 12 October 1872 in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, where his father, the Revd Arthur Vaughan Williams (the surname Vaughan Williams is an unhyphenated double-barrelled name), was vicar. Following his father’s death in 1875 he was taken by his mother, Margaret Susan née Wedgwood (1843–1937), the great-granddaughter of the potter Josiah Wedgwood, to live with her family at Leith Hill Place, a Wedgwood family home in the North Downs. He was also related to the Darwins, Charles Darwin being a great-uncle. 

Composer born today: September 8. Antonin Dvořák

Antonin Dvořák

He played the viola and he studied with Brahms. Two reasons why he is one of my all time favorite composers.

In 1857 he went to the capital or Czechoslovakia, Prague, to study at the Organ School, where he studied composition, the playing of chorales and improvising, while attending also the secondary school. He played viola in the music society orchestra. In 1859, as a viola player, he joined a dance band that played in restaurants and for balls, remaining there for some years. In 1862 he was principal violist with a Czech opera house theatre orchestraWhile Dvorak was studying composition, he went through a sort of “practical training” about instrumental music, playing viola in orchestra from the age of 16 to the age of 30,  learning first hand how to write for the viola. He believed that “no instrument should be playing a part that is merely filling in, every instrument speaks a language of its own.” His first first official opus was a quintet with two violas.

Born September 8, 1841, in Nelahozeves, Bohemia (now Czech Republic); (died May 1, 1904, in Prague); son of Frantisek (a butcher and innkeeper) and Anna Zdenek Dvorak; married Anna Cermakova, November, 1873; children: Otakar, Otilie Suk, Aloisie, Anna, Antonin, Magda. Education: Prague Organ School, 1857-59.

Considered the greatest composer that the Czech nation ever produced, Antonin Dvorak wrote a career’s worth of classical works for orchestra, symphony, and choir that survive as some of the most majestic and acclaimed works of nineteenth-century Romantic music.

Dvorak entered the Austrian State Stipendium competition. Brahms sat on its jury, and was greatly impressed by the young Czech and his ability to integrate Bohemian folk melodies into a serious classical opus. Dvorak was awarded a respectable prize that year, and Brahms helped him find a publisher for his music.

Read more: Antonin Dvorak Biography http://www.musicianguide.com/biographies/1608002312/antonin-dvorak.html#ixzz0ysgyoNVT

Calling all violists. William Primrose was born today – August 23 – in 1903.

William Primrose  CBE (23 August 1904 – 1 May 1982) was a Scottish violist and teacher.

Primrose was born in Glasgow and studied violin initially. In 1919 he moved to study at the then Guildhall School of Music in London.[1] From there he moved to Belgium to study under Eugène Ysaÿe who encouraged him to take up the viola instead. In 1930, he joined Warwick Evans, John Pennington, and Thomas Petre as the violist in the London String Quartet. The group dissolved in 1935. In 1937, he began playing in the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini. When it was rumored that Toscanini would leave the Symphony in 1941, Primrose resigned. His career as a soloist took off when he started touring with Richard Crooks. He later signed with Arthur Judson, an influential concert manager. In 1946, he was the soloist in the first recording of Berlioz’s Harold in Italy.

Later in his life, Primrose became a noted teacher, writing several books on viola playing and teaching widely in Japan, Australia (where Richard Tognetti was one of his students)[3] and the USA, occasionally at the University of Southern California (with Jascha Heifetz), the Juilliard School, Eastman School of Music, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, and the Curtis Institute of Music. One of his notable students was Canadian violinist Albert Pratz. In 1972, he published his memoirs, A Walk on the North Side.

The Primrose International Viola Competition, created in 1979 in honor of William Primrose, was the first international music competition for viola players.

Composer born August 19. Georges Enescu.

I love the Romanian Rhaposidies, especially #1.  It has a great viola part. 🙂 – about half way through….

George Enescu (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈd​͡ʒe̯ord​͡ʒe eˈnesku]; known in France as Georges Enesco; 19 August 1881, Liveni – 4 May 1955, Paris) was a Romanian composer, violinist, pianist, conductor and teacher.

He was born in the village of Liveni (later renamed “George Enescu” in his honor), Dorohoi County at the time, today Botoşani County. He showed musical talent from early in his childhood. A child prodigy, Enescu created his first musical composition at the age of five. Shortly thereafter, his father presented him to the professor and composer Eduard Caudella. At the age of seven, he entered the Vienna Conservatory, where he studied with Joseph Hellmesberger, Jr., Robert Fuchs, and Sigismund Bachrich. He graduated before his 13th birthday, earning the silver medal. In his Viennese concerts young Enescu played works by Brahms, Sarasate and Mendelssohn. In 1895 he went to Paris to continue his studies. He studied violin with Martin Pierre Marsick, harmony with André Gédalge, and composition with Jules Massenet and Gabriel Fauré.

See more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Enescu

Queen Elisabeth of Romania with George Enescu and Dimitrie Dinicu

Composer born July 24. Ernest Bloch (Yes I know, I’m late. )

Ernest Bloch (July 24, 1880 – July 15, 1959) was a Swiss-born American composer.

He wrote some hauntingly beautiful pieces for the viola.

Back in a past life when I was halfway a decent violist,  I played a couple of them.  The piece featured here more Hebraic and less almost avant-garde than the Suite, but both just reach in and grab the longing and yearning in my hear

From Wikipedia ….

Bloch was born in Geneva and began playing the violin at age 9. He began composing soon afterwards. He studied music at the conservatory in Brussels, where his teachers included the celebrated Belgian violinist Eugène Ysaÿe. He then travelled around Europe, moving to Germany (where he studied composition from 1900-1901 with Iwan Knorr at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt), on to Paris in 1903 and back to Geneva before settling in the United States in 1916, taking American citizenship in 1924. He held several teaching appointments in the U.S., with George Antheil, Frederick Jacobi, Bernard Rogers, and Roger Sessions among his pupils. In December 1920 he was appointed the first Musical Director of the newly formed Cleveland Institute of Music, a post he held until 1925. Following this he was director of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music until 930.

In 1941 Bloch moved to the small coastal community of Agate Beach, Oregon and lived there the rest of his life. He died in 1959 in Portland, Oregon, of cancer at the age of 78. The Bloch Memorial has been moved from near his house in Agate Beach to a more prominent location at the Newport Performing Arts Center in Newport, Oregon[2].

Salvador Dali does violas

No, it’s not a nightmare nor a viola (pronounced “vee-o-la”) on drugs. Michael Tilson Thomas said he thought he was hallucinating when he first saw it, dubbing it a Salvador Dali viola.

The Pellegrina viola is an innovative ergonomic design by David Rivinus, an instrument maker in Vermont.

Like pulled taffy heated and then stretched from the top left and bottom right-hand sides, the surrealistic-appearing instrument has caused comments from [Isaac Stern] ”You shouldn’t have left it in the sun so long to [Edo de Waart] ”I thought it was my jet lag.” Rivinus himself has heard it called ‘The Hunchback,” ”The Beast, ” and ”The Gumby Viola” and even claims that someone in the orchestra screamed when they saw it for the first time.

The violin maker began working to the model in response to friends with injuries from playing conventional violas. He has been quoted as saying “I am most reluctant revolutionary you can imagine.” He says he was merely trying to put logical design –  something that worked – ahead of adherence to conventional design and the result was the Pelligrina.

Most violas are shaped like a violin, only larger. The increased size and subsequent weight makes a viola much more challenging physically than a lightweight violin. The shape works well ergonomically for the smaller violin sizes, but the viola’s expanded width and especially the extra length, present problems for even the strongest player. The weight pulls on the neck muscles. The need to extend the arm to the end of the fingerboard places the arm in an unnatural position and pulls on muscles from the shoulder all the way to the hand. If you didn’t have posture problems before playing viola you will after.

Size usually makes a difference with the viola—the larger the body, the deeper and richer the sound is the usual rule. But it is this very characteristic that causes the wear and tear on the violist. Acoustically perfect proportions would result in an instrument too large for anyone to handle in the normal violin position. My own viola is a little too big for me, but I have seen very few smaller ones that can equal its depth of sound and certainly not for anywhere the money I was lucky enough to acquire mine for. (There are some small Italian violas with a wonderful sound but the last I checked they were at least $175,000.00. No thanks.)

I am kind of old-fashioned, I like the tried and true, but since I smashed up my shoulder last year and haven’t been able to handle my sweet-sounding, but very heavy viola, I have been on the lookout for alternatives. There are all kinds of experimentations in the viola world and not a few viola jokes about the difficulties of wielding this large axe, but this model looks like it might have more possibilities than most.

David Rivinus’ viola purports to have solve some of these problems by providing a playing position that is less of a strain on the violist by shortening and lightening the instrument without sacrificing a deep rich tone. A slanted fingerboard and tapered sides are supposed to ease the effort required to play and the weight is reduced by the substitution of carbon fiber for the ebony fingerboard and balsa for the internal construction. Other elements are artistic designs to go along with the overall image.

Sounds like it might be a good idea. I have never played one of his instruments myself though, so I don’t know for sure. With a price tag of 12,800, I am not likely to either. 😦  Although that is a whole lot better than 175K!  I hear there are a couple of them in the Bay Area (San Francisco Symphony – where Tilson Thomas made his famous remark), so perhaps I will have to opportunity to at least see one someday.

See Pellegrina information,  picture gallery and animated rotation at


http://www.rivinus-instruments.com/DesignConcepts.htm shows the design layouts.

Viola Jokes


Viola Jokes

Part 1

These jokes have enjoyed wide publicity. They have been mentioned in such places as Alex Beam’s Boston Globe column on Wednesday, November 30, 1994 (p. 65), John Hayward-Warburton’s article in BBC Music, and Dave Barry’s book Dave Barry in Cyberspace (pp. 153-4).


These jokes are a continually-growing collection, and unfortunately, I can no longer remember which jokes I heard from whom. If you have ever told, emailed, or otherwise communicated to me a music joke, thank you.

I also collect Jokes about other instruments.

How is lightning like a violist’s fingers?

Neither one strikes in the same place twice.

How do you keep your violin from getting stolen?

Put it in a viola case.

What’s the difference between a violin and a viola?

1.     The viola burns longer.

2.     The viola holds more beer.

3.     You can tune the violin.

We all know that a viola is better than a violin because it burns longer. But why does it burn longer?

It’s usually still in the case.

How do you get a viola section to play spiccato?

Write a whole note with “solo” above it.

How do you get a violist to play a passage pianissimo tremolando?

Mark it “solo.”

What’s the difference between a viola and a coffin?

The coffin has the dead person on the inside.

What do you do with a dead violist?

Move him back a desk.

What’s the difference between a viola and a trampoline?

You take your shoes off to jump on a trampoline.

What’s the difference between a viola and an onion?

No one cries when you cut up a viola.

What’s the definition of a minor second?

Two violists playing in unison.

What’s the definiton of “perfect pitch?”

Throwing a viola into a dumpster without hitting the rim.

Why do violists stand for long periods outside people’s houses?

They can’t find the key and they don’t know when to come in.

What’s the difference between a seamstress and a violist?

The seamstress tucks up the frills.

What’s the difference between a washing machine and a violist?


Why do so many people take an instant dislike to the viola?

It saves time.

How can you tell when a violist is playing out of tune?

The bow is moving.

How was the canon invented?

Two violists were trying to play the same passage together.

Why is playing the viola like peeing in your pants?

They both give you a nice warm feeling without making any sound.

Why is a viola solo like a bomb?

By the time you hear it, it’s too late to do anything about it.

Why is a viola solo like premature ejaculation?

Because even when you know it’s coming, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Why do violists leave their instrument cases on the dashboards of their cars?

1.     So they can park in “handicapped” parking places.

2.     If someone mistakes them for mafia, they might get some respect.

Why don’t violists play hide and seek?

Because no one will look for them.

Why do violists smile when they play?

Because ignorance is bliss and what they don’t know can’t hurt them.

Why shouldn’t violists take up mountaineering?

Because if they get lost, it takes ages before anyone notices that they’re missing.

What’s the difference between a dead skunk in the road and a crushed viola in the road?

Skid marks before the skunk.

How do you get a violin to sound like a viola?

1.     Sit in the back and don’t play.

2.     Play in the low register with a lot of wrong notes.

If you throw a violist and a soprano off a cliff, which one would hit the ground first? (two answers)

1.     The violist. The soprano would have to stop halfway down to ask directions.

2.     Who cares?

A conductor and a violist are standing in the middle of the road. which one do you run over first, and why?

The conductor. Business before pleasure.

What’s the most popular recording of the William Walton viola concerto?

Music Minus One

What do a viola and a lawsuit have in common?

Everyone is happy when the case is closed.

What is the range of a Viola?

As far as you can kick it.

What do a SCUD missile and a viola player have in common?

They’re both offensive and inaccurate.

Why are violas so large?

It’s an optical illusion. It’s not that the violas are large; just that the viola players’ heads are so small.

What’s the difference between a chain saw and a viola?

If you absolutely had to, you could use a chain saw in a string quartet.

What is the definition of a cluster chord?

A viola section playing on the C string.

Why do violists get antsy when they see the Kama Sutra?

All those positions!

If you’re lost in the desert, what do you aim for? A good viola player, a bad viola player or an oasis?

The bad viola player. The other two are only figments of your imagination.

Why shouldn’t you drive off a cliff in a mini with three violas in it?

You could fit in at least one more.

How many violists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

None. They’re not small enough to fit.

Why do people tremble with fear when someone comes into a bank carrying a violin case?

They think he’s carrying a machine gun and might be about to use it.

Why do people tremble with fear when someone comes into a bank carrying a viola case?

They think he’s carrying a viola and might be about to use it.

What’s the difference between the first and last desk of a viola section?

1.     half a measure

2.     a semi-tone

Why can’t you hear a viola on a digital recording?

Recording technology has reached such an advanced level of development that all extraneous noise is eliminated.

Did you hear about the violist who bragged that he could play 32nd notes?

The rest of the orchestra didn’t believe him, so he proved it by playing one.

Why is viola called “bratsche” in Germany?

Because that’s the sound it makes when you sit down on it.

Why can’t a violist play with a knife in his back?

Because he can’t lean back in his chair.

What instrument do violists envy most?

The harp. You only ever have to play pizzicato on open strings.

What’s another name for viola auditions?

Scratch lottery.

What is the difference between a violist and a prostitute?

1.     A prostitute knows more than two positions.

2.     Prostitutes have a better sense of rhythm.

What is the similarity between a violist and a prostitute?

Both are paid to fake climaxes.

How do you get a dozen violists to play in tune?

1.     Shoot 11 of them.

2.     Shoot all of them.

3.     Who the hell wants a dozen violists?

What’s the latest crime wave in New York City?

Drive-by viola recitals.

How does a violist’s brain cell die?


How do you call a violist with two brain cells?


Why do violists have pea-sized brains?

Because alcohol has swelled them.

How many violists does it take to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies?

Ten. One to stir the batter and nine to peel the M & M’s.

What’s the similarity between the Beatles and the viola section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra?

Neither has played together since 1970.

What is the longest viola joke?

Harold in Italy

What do you call a bunch of violists in a hot tub?

Vegetable soup.

Did you hear about the violist who played in tune?

Neither did I.

What is the main reqirement at the “International Viola Competition?”

Hold the viola from memory.

Why did the violist marry the accordion player?

Upward mobility.

How do you transcribe a violin piece for viola?

Divide the metronome marking by 2.

Why do you always bury a viola player three feet under?

Because deep down they are all very nice people.

How do you keep a violist from drowning?

Take your foot off his head.

Note: the following joke is very funny in German, but doesn’t translate well into English.
Was sind die drei Lagen auf der Bratsche?

Erste Lage, Notlage, und Niederlage.

(What are the three positions of the viola?

First position, emergency, and defeat.)

Conductor: “Start three measures before the da capo.”
Principal violist: “Hold on! We don’t have measure numbers.”

At a rehearsal, the conductor stops and shouts to the bass section: “You are out of tune. Check it, please!”

The first bassist pulls all his strings, says, “Our tuning is correct: all the strings are equally tight.”

The first violist turns around and shouts, “You bloody idiot! It’s not the tension. The pegs have to be parallel!”

Radio presenter, Tim Pollard, on BBC Radio Jersey, when introducing a piece of music by the well-known British composer, Eric Coates, said:

“All Eric Coates ever wanted to do was to write music to entertain. But for a while he was a professional viola player.”

After his retirement the violist arrived home carrying his viola case. His wife saw the case and asked “What’s that?”
(In Germany it is a standing joke that some players leave their instruments in their lockers, removing them only for rehearsals and performances.)

A violist and a ‘cellist were standing on a sinking ship. “Help!” cried the ‘cellist, “I can’t swim!”

“Don’t worry,” said the violist, “just fake it.”

A violist came home and found his house burned to the ground. When he asked what happened, the police told him “Well, apparently the conductor came to your house, and …”

The violist’s eyes lit up and he interrupted excitedly, “The conductor? Came to my house?”

A ‘cellist and three violists walked into a restaurant. Presently a waiter came over to serve them.

“Good Evening, sir,” he said to the ‘cellist. “And what would like tonight?”

“I’d like a rump steak, medium rare,” replied the ‘cellist.

“Would you like anything with that?”

“What do you have?”

“Salad?” suggested the waiter.

“No, thank you,” said the cellist.


“Ah, no.”


“Oh, they’ll have what I’m having.”

A viola player went to a piano recital. After the performance he went up to the pianist and said, “You know, I particularly liked that piece you played last–the one that started with a long trill.”

The pianist said, “Huh? I didn’t play any pieces that started with trills.”

The viola player said, “You know–[he hums the opening bars of Für Elise.]”

A violist in an orchestra was crying and screaming at the oboe player sitting directly behind him. The conductor asked, “What are you so upset about?”

The violist replied “The oboist reached over and turned one of the pegs on my viola and now it’s all out of tune!”

The conductor asked “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?”

The violist replied “I’m not overreacting! He won’t tell me which one!”

A violinist noticed at the end of each rehearsal break, one of the violists would look at the inside flap of his jacket before he sat down to resume rehearsal. This continued for several decades, and the violinist became quite curious about it. One day, during hot weather, the violist took off his jacket and went off on break. The violinist waited until everyone was off the platform, looked around, and sneaked over to the jacket. He pulled back the flap and saw a little note pinned on the inside. It read: “viola left hand, bow right.”

A man went into a novelty shop and saw an item that caught his fancy almost immediately. It was a stuffed rat. The man couldn’t take his eyes off it, and finally asked how much it cost. The answer was “$79.95, but if you buy it, you can’t return it for any reason.” The man thought this was a bit odd, but he was really taken by the stuffed rat so he bought it.

As he headed down the street with the stuffed rat, several live rats started following him. He thought this was really odd, but he kept walking. Within a few blocks, he had a huge pack of rats behind him. When he got to the river, he threw the stuffed rat into the river, and all the live rats jumped into the river and drowned.

The man returned to the shop. As soon as he walked in, the owner said “I told you you couldn’t return the stuffed rat!”

The man said “No! I don’t want to return it! I was wondering if you had any stuffed violists.”

A viola player decides that he’s had enough of being a viola player–unappreciated, all those silly jokes. So he decides to change instruments.

He goes into a shop, and says, “I want to buy a violin.”

The man behind the counter looks at him for a moment, and then says, “You must be a viola player.”

The viola player is astonished, and says, “Well, yes, I am. But how did you know?”

“Well, sir, this is a fish-and-chip shop.”

An American orchestra had just arrived in Europe for a two-week tour. One hour before the first concert, the conductor became very ill and was unable to conduct, and the orchestra suddenly had to find a substitute. The orchestra manager asked everyone in the orchestra whether they could step in and conduct, and the only person who was willing was the last chair violist.

The manager was very nervous about this. “We can’t audition you,” he said.

“No problem,” replied the violist.

“There’s no time to rehearse. You’ll have to do the concert cold.”

“I know. It’ll be all right.”

The violist conducted the concert and it was a smashing success. Since the conductor remained ill for the duration of the tour, the violist conducted all of the concerts, getting rave reviews and standing ovations at each one.

At the next rehearsal, the conductor had recovered, and the violist took his place at the back of the viola section. As he sat down, his stand partner asked him “Where’ve you been for the last two weeks?”

Once there was a violist playing in the Winnipeg Symphony. He wasn’t that wonderful a player, so he sat at the back of the section. One day he was cleaning out his attic and discovered an old lamp. He gave it a rub and out popped a genie.

“For letting me out of my lamp I’ll grant you three wishes!” he said.

The violist thought for a moment and replied, “Make me a far better musician than I am now.”

The genie told him that this would be done. He was to go to sleep, and in the morning he would be a much better musician. The next day he woke up to find himself the principal violist of the Symphony. Well, this was just great, he thought! But he knew he could do better. He rubbed the lamp again, and out popped the genie.

“You have two more wishes!” he said.

“I want you to make me a better musician than I am even now!”

Once again, the genie told him to go to bed, and when he woke up it would be so. When the violist awoke, he found he was now the principal violist of the Berlin Philharmonic. Well, the violist thought this was pretty grand, but knew he could do better yet. He rubbed on the lamp again, and once more out came the genie.

“This is your last wish.” the genie said.

“I want you to make me yet a better musician still!”

Yet again, he was told to go to sleep. The next morning, he woke up to find himself back in Winnipeg, sitting in the last desk of the second violin section.

A musician from the Chicago Symphony one day ran across an old lamp at a garage sale, took it home, washed it up, and out popped at genie.

“Thank you kind sir for releasing me from this old lamp. I regret to say that you have encountered a poor, less powerful genie, and I can only grant you one wish, but wish away.” said the genie.

“Oh that’s wonderful. I think I would really like to make a difference in the world with my one wish.”, said the musician. He thought for a moment and then reached for his atlas. “Here’s a map of the Middle East. The people who live there have been fighting for years and years. For my one wish, I would like to to bring peace to this land.”

The genie, a little caught off guard, said “Oh, well, ah… that’s a little bit too much for even this old master to handle. Aah, ya see, these people… they’re involved in that touchy religious stuff, and aah, the kids, aah, they begin fighting when they’re just teenagers. I’m afraid you’re going to have to make another wish.”

“Well, okay.” said the musician. “For my one wish, I would just once like to hear the Chicago Symphony viola section play in tune.”

The genie quickly thought for a moment and replied, “Um, let me take a look at those maps again.”

A violist was hiking in the mountains, and he came upon a shepherd who was tending a large herd of sheep that were grazing in the alpine meadow. The violist took a fancy to the sheep, and asked the shepherd: “If I can guess how many sheep you have, can I have one?”

The shepherd thought this was an odd request, but thought that there was little chance that the man would guess the exact number of sheep, so he said “Sure.”

The violist guessed “You have 287 sheep,” to the shepherd’s astonishment, since this was exactly how many sheep he had.

The violist got all excited and asked “Can I pick out my sheep now?” and the shepherd grudgingly gave his permission. The violist selected his sheep, bent over, and swung the sheep over his shoulders, to carry home with him.

The shepherd then got an idea and asked “If I guess what your occupation is, can I have my sheep back?” The violist was a bit surprised by this, but figured that it was unlikely that the shepherd would be able to guess his occupation, and went along with the deal. The shepherd then guessed “You’re a violist, aren’t you?”

The violist was very surprised and asked, “How did you know?”

The shepherd responded, “Put the dog down and we’ll talk about it.”

When “Oetzi,” the famous glacier-mummy, was found in the Alps, archeologists and anthropologists were mystified by the riddle of “Oetzi’s” nature, the chief question being: “How did he get under the ice-fields?” Thanks to a joint venture operation by leading music-anthropologists the mystery has found its solution: “Oetzi” must have been a violist. How else could the glacier have caught up with him?

In order to save money, the musicians decided to build their Union Hall themselves. As they proceeded to do the job, gradually the hierarchy of the musicians was reflected in the jobs that they did. The violists found themselves at the bottom of a ditch doing the nastiest of the digging. Above them, supervising, was a trumpet player. One violist turned to another and asked, “How come we’re working down here and he’s working up there?”

The other responded, “I don’t know, but I’ll go up there and ask.”

The violist crawled up to the top of the ditch. “Why are we down there digging while you’re up here supervising?” the violist asked the trumpeter.

“Because I’m smarter than you,” was the reply.

“Huh, I don’t understand,” the confused violist said.

“Allow me to demonstrate,” said the trumpeter. He walked up to the nearest tree, put out his open hand in front of the tree and said to the violist, “Hit my hand!”

The violist reared back with his fist and shot a punch at the trumpeter’s open hand. At the last instant, the trumpeter moved his hand out of the way so that the violist’s fist went slamming into the tree.

“OW!,” cried the violist, “I see what you mean.” He then returned to the ditch and his friend waiting below.

“Well,” said the other violist, “did you find out why he’s up there and we’re down here?”

“Yes,” said the violist, whose hand was still throbbing, “it’s because he’s smarter than us.”

“I don’t understand,” said his friend.

“Let me explain it to you,” said the violist. He then took his open hand and placed it in front of his own face.

“Now,” he said, “hit my hand with your shovel!”

A group of terrorists hijacked a plane full of violists. They called down to ground control with their list of demands and added that if their demands weren’t met, they would release one violist every hour.

Once upon a time there was a hospital where they made brain transplantations. A client asked about the prices.

The doctor said, ” Well, this Ph.D. brain costs $10,000…this brain belonged to a NASA top scientist and costs $15,000…oh yes, here we a violist’s brain as well. It costs $50000.”

The client asked, “What? How’s that possible?”

The doctor replied, “You see, it’s totally unused.”

A noted bon vivant and comic was recently flying to Berlin. He decided to strike up a conversation with his seat mate.

“I’ve got a great violist joke. Would you like to hear it?”

“I should let you know first that I am a violist”.

“That’s OK. I’ll tell it real slow!”

A psychiartrist walks into a brain shop, and says to the propriator “Hello. I am here to do some reasearch on human brains. What do you have in stock?”

“Well,” propriator began, “We have some Harvard MBA brains at $10 a pound. We also have a few NASA brains going for about $100 a pound. And, just in today, we have some fresh violist brains.”

“How much are they?” the scientist inquired.

“$1000 a pound.”

“Wow! That’s expensive! Every orchestra has them. Why are they so expesive? Are they really high quality?”

“Well, no, they’re about average. But, do you know how many violists you have to kill to get a pound of brains?”

A violist and a percussionist were walking in a park. The percussionist saw a dead crow and said to the violist, “Look, a dead crow.”

The violist looked up and asked, “Where?”

One day Timmy came home from school very excited. “Mommy, Mommy, Guess what? Today in English I got all the way to the end of the alphabet, and everyone else got messed up around ‘P’!”

His mother said, “Very good, dear. That’s because you’re a violist.”

The next day, Timmy was even more excited. “Mommy, Mommy, guess what! Today in math I counted all the way to ten, but everyone else got messed up around seven!”

“Very good, dear,” his mother replied. “That’s because you’re a violist.”

On the third day, Timmy was beside himself. “Mommy, Mommy, today we measured ourselves and I’m the tallest one in my class! Is that because I’m a violist?”

“No dear,” she said. “That’s because you’re 26 years old.”

Two years ago an orchestra was on tour in France. One evening they decided to go find some snails so they could have escargot for dinner. Everybody was given a bag and send into the vineyards.

Gradually everybody came back with their bags filled with snails. All sections were there except the violists, who returned several hours later. The concertmaster asked, “Were have you been for so long and why are your bags empty?”

“Well,” they said, “I don’t know how you managed, but It was a disaster. We saw a lot of snails, but they were quick! Just as we went to get them, rush…and they were gone!”

A man (call him Horace) went on a safari in darkest Africa with a bunch of other people and some native guides. They traveled on foot, going deep into the jungle where they could hear the screeching of birds and howling of wild cats and other fierce wild animals.

After a few days of travel, Horace came to notice that there was a constant drumming noise in the background. He asked the leader of the guides what the drumming was. He got no answer, just a stony silence. The drumming continued all day and all night for the next several days. In fact, as they traveled deeper into the jungle the drumming got even louder. Horace tried again to find out what the drumming meant by asking the other native guides, but he still got no answer.

Finally one morning, after days of marching to this drumming (which by now was sounding quite ominous), the drums suddenly stopped. The native guides screamed and ran into the jungle to hide in the undergrowth. The leader remained behind with his charges, but he was trembling with fear. Horace asked “What is wrong? Why have the drums stopped?”

The native guide replied “Very bad.”

“What?” asked Horace, who was expecting the worst.

The guide answered “When drum stops, very bad–next comes viola solo!”


For sale: Viola, German, 19th century, 405mm. Excellent condition. Recently tuned.

Established string quartet requires two violinists and a ‘cellist.

Entry Exam For The BBC Symphony Orchestra–Viola Players

The pass mark is 10% but be careful–over 45% and you are overqualified.

  1. Who wrote the following:

a) Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6
b) Fauré’s Requiem
c) Wagner’s Ring Cycle

[5 pts.]

  1. Tschaikovsky wrote 6 symphonies including Symphony no. 4. Name the other five.
    [5 pts.]
  2. Explain “counterpoint” or write your name on the reverse of the paper.
    [10 pts.]
  3. Which of the following would you tuck under you chin?

a) a timpani
b) an organ
c) a ‘cello
d) a viola

[1 pt.]

  1. Can you explain “sonata form”? (Answer yes or no.)
    [5 pts.]
  2. Which of the following literary works was made the subject of a Verdi opera?

a) First among Equals — Jeffrey Archer
b) Macbeth — William Shakespeare
c) Noddy and Big Ears — Enid Blyton

[5 pts.]

  1. Domenico Scarlatti wrote 555 harpsichord sonatas for which instrument?
    [5 pts.]
  2. Arrange the following movements in order of speed, starting with the slowest first.

a) Quickly
b) Slowly
c) Very Quickly
d) At a Moderate Pace

[4 pts.]

  1. Where would you normally expect to find the conductor during a performance?
    [5 pts.]
  2. Which of the following wrote incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

a) Des O’Connor
b) Mickey Mouse
c) Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
d) Terry Wogan

[5 pts.]

  1. Which of the following is the odd one out?

a) Sir Colin Davis
b) Andrew Davis
c) Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
d) Desmond Lynham

[5 pts.]

  1. Arrange the following words into the name of a well known Puccini opera.

Bohème, La

[5 pts.]

  1. Within five minutes, how long is Chopin’s Minute Waltz?
    [5 pts.]
  2. From which of the following countries did Richard Strauss come?

a) Venezuela
b) Sri Lanka
c) Germany
d) Japan

[5 pts.]

  1. For what town were Haydn’s “Paris” Symphonies written?
    [5 pts.]
  2. Which is the odd one out?

a) Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet — Tchaikovsky
b) Romeo and Juliet — Berlioz
c) Romeo and Juliet Ballet — Prokofiev
d) Ten Green Bottles — anon.

[5 pts.]

  1. From which song do the following lines come?

“God save our gracious Queen, Long live our noble Queen.”

[5 pts.]

  1. Spell the following musical terms.


[5 pts.]

  1. Tosca is a character found in which Puccini opera?
    [5 pts.]
  2. Arrange the following letters to form the abbreviation for a well known British broadcasting corporation.

C, B, B.

[5 pts.]


Gen Totani has translated these jokes into Japanese. The URL is http://www.st.rim.or.jp/~gen-san/violajoke.html.

Research about Viola Jokes

Carl Rahkonen peresented his paper: No Laughing Matter: The Viola Joke as Musician’s Folklore at the National Meeting of the American Folklore Society and the Society for Ethnomusicology in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 21, 1994.

Ralph Vaughan Williams played viola.

Vaughan Williams played viola.  That is why he wrote such gorgeous  music for it.

Flos Campi (Flower of the field) for viola, wordless chorus and orchestra. Based on the Song of Solomon.

1.As the lily among thorns
2.For, lo, the winter is past
3.I sought him whom my soul loveth
4.Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s
5.Return, return, O Shulamite!
6.Set me as a seal upon thine heart


“‘Vaughan Williams played the viola, and frequently professed it was his favorite instrument. Along with the Suite for viola and orchestra of 1934, his most significant work for the instrument is the unusual Flos Campi (Flower of the Field), which combines the viola with a spare orchestral backing of strings, winds, tabor, and celesta, along with a mixed choir that sings wordlessly. It was first performed on October 10, 1925, in London, with violist Lionel Tertis, voices from the Royal College of Music, and the Queen’s Hall Orchestra conducted by Sir Henry Wood. The reaction was mixed, and even such close friends of the composer as Gustav Holst admitted themselves puzzled by this subtle and voluptuous work.

In a program note for a 1927 performance, Vaughan Williams admitted “The title Flos Campi was taken by some to connote an atmosphere of ‘buttercups and daisies….'” This is, in fact, far from the atmosphere of this work. Each of its six movements is headed by a quotation from the Old Testament’s Song of Solomon, and it is the passionate quality of that text which informs Flos Campi.”     Review by  Chris Morrison, All Music Guide