By Sarah Vonsattel, violinist
This week, New York was swept into a frenzy of Mets Mania in anticipation of Major League Baseball's 111th World Series. On October 27, the NY Mets would face the Kansas City Royals for Game 1 in their first World Series appearance since 2000. One particularly dedicated Mets fan (and author of the blog "Perfect Pitch"), MET Orchestra oboist Susan Spector, had the idea to whip up some hometown spirit at that other Met - the Metropolitan Opera.
At 9 AM on Tuesday, October 27, about two dozen MET Orchestra and Chorus members joined stagehands, electricians, props personnel, security personnel, and other employees in Lincoln Center Plaza to hold a pep rally for the NY Mets. A performance of "Meet the Mets," arranged by MET Orchestra trumpeter Peter Bond, was conducted by Mr. Met himself.
Susan Spector, second oboist of the MET Orchestra since 1992 and a die-hard Mets fan, got the ball rolling, so to speak, to make the rally happen.
"I ran into my good friend and big Mets fan, Security Guard Avo Asencio, on the morning of Friday, October 23rd, a little less than 36 hours since the Mets had clinched a World Series playoff berth," says Susan. "We gave each other huge hugs and, in our euphoria, we started talking excitedly about how cool it would be if we could do something involving all the Mets fans at the Met."
It just so happens that Avo has a cousin who works in the Marketing Department for the NY Mets. Avo contacted his cousin, and before long, the Met Opera Press Department was in touch with the Mets organization to discuss the possibility of an event such as Susan and Avo had envisioned.
Through word of mouth and a Facebook announcement, Avo spread the word about the possibility of a Mets rally at the Met. Susan contacted the chairs of the Orchestra and Chorus committees, calling for instrumentalists and vocalists and putting out feelers regarding a time that would be possible for all of the personnel involved.
Says Susan, "We wanted to pick a date and time that would give us maximum participation by the Orchestra and Chorus; thus, we had to consider rehearsal schedules for each group. At the same time, we desperately wanted to involve the team mascot, Mr. Met, who has a busy post-season schedule."
"I knew that having [Mr. Met] show up would add legitimacy to our event," says Susan. "The Met Opera Press Department are really the ones to whom the credit should go here: Sam Neuman, in particular, was in regular contact with me and with Avo. He told us that once we had set a date and time, the Mets would do everything they could to make sure that Mr. Met was there. That’s when it got really exciting! And scary! We had so little time!"
Susan now needed an arrangement of "Meet the Mets" to be sung and played by whomever showed up at the rally. She didn't think twice about asking MET Orchestra trumpeter Peter Bond, who had arranged several popular opera themes for brass ensemble during the summer of 2014.
"I remember in particular his arrangements of excerpts from Carmen and of 'Va, pensiero' from Nabucco," says Susan. "I think we even had a little impromptu flamenco dancing and air-castanets-playing for the occasion...Remembering those arrangements and Pete’s expertise, I knew that getting him involved was key to this being a success."
In spite of having been out of work the entire week due to eye surgery, Peter valiantly agreed to “take a swing at it.” Susan gave him the vocal score to “Meet the Mets” on Sunday afternoon.
According to Susan, "This was going to be a rush job for him, but he was still game. We discussed the kind of arrangement: something that was in a singable key, with a few different instrumental parts, available in a number of clefs and transpositions...And, oh, we agreed that, if possible, he would 'personalize' the team song - make it 'ours,' if you will - by inserting some tongue-in-cheek thematic quotes from the opera literature." The result was a cleverly crafted arrangement that included quotes from Bizet's Carmen as well as Wagner's Lohengrin, Die Walküre, and Siegfried.
By midday on Monday, the event had been scheduled - for 9:00 the next morning! Susan and Peter wanted to make sure that the arrangement worked, so on Monday night, at the second intermission during a performance of Puccini's Turandot, they rounded up a ragtag ensemble including two trumpets, an oboe, a bass drum, a snare drum, and a violin to give it a whirl. Everything worked!
By early Tuesday morning, the Mets rally at the Metropolitan Opera had entered the radar of the media and was even listed at the top of the NYTimes' New York Today column, prompting a last-minute call for musicians at 7:30 that morning.
The event drew a great turnout, the weather cooperated, and all in attendance had a blast.
As for Tuesday night's game? Susan, along with many of her colleagues, was performing Wagner's Tannhäuser that evening.
"Well, I really wanted to be home watching the game...but I knew that my 'team' needed me at the Met," says Susan. "The props guys and stagehands assigned to the pit were always quick to give me the score and updates as soon as an act had ended. Also, my friends in the props department kindly allowed me and other anxious Mets fans from the orchestra to watch the game on the TV in their lounge during the two intermissions."
Susan will not be missing Games 3 and 4 in Queens, however. After Saturday afternoon's HD Broadcast of Tannhäuser, she will be heading directly to Citi Field to watch her beloved Mets.
To read more about the parallels between the role of a professional team athlete and the role of an orchestral musician, visit Susan Spector's blog, Perfect Pitch.
Special thanks to:
THE ORCHESTRA MUSICIANS: Vincent Lionti, Ben Harms, Sarah Vonsattel, Craig Mumm, Jason Haaheim, Jim Ross, Peter Bond, Weston Sprott, Brad Gemeinhardt, Julia Pilant, and Pedro Díaz
THE MEMBERS OF THE MET OPERA CHORUS: Nathan Carlisle, Maria D'Amato, Anne Marie Nonnemacher, Timothy Breese Miller, Ned Hanlon, Meredith Woodend, Ross Benoliel, Karen Dixon, and Craig Montgomery
THE ARRANGER AND COPYIST: Peter Bond
THE STAGEHANDS: Sebastian Russo, Tommy Ellin, and Andrew Russo.
THE MET PRESS DEPARTMENT: Sam Neuman, Gillian Brierley, and Lee Abrahamian
PROPS MASTER: Jimmy Blumenfeld
CUSTOMER CARE/DONOR RELATIONS: Susan Hayes
NEW YORK METS PERSONNEL: Paul Asencio, Marketing; Mr. Met and His Staff; and the entire New York Mets franchise
THE MET ORCHESTRA COMMITTEE: Jessica Phillips Rieske, Julia Pilant, Weston Sprott, Billy Short, Jason Haaheim, Rob Knopper, Dan Krekeler, Joel Noyes, and Dan Shelly
THE SOCIAL MEDIA/PROMOTIONAL ASSISTANT: Melanie Spector
and THE NEW YORK METS and METROPOLITAN OPERA FANS!