Listen: Los Angeles Philharmonic Keeps Playing During Earthquake

Saturday, April 05, 2014 - 04:27 PM

The Los Angeles Philharmonic has released an audio recording of its performance on March 30, during which a 5.1-magnitude earthquake jolted Walt Disney Concert Hall as the orchestra played Ravel's Daphnis and Chloé.

The quake rattled downtown Los Angeles at 9:09 pm, about six minutes into the performance of Ravel's sensuous tone poem. Los Angeles Times music critic Richard Ginell described the moment:

"The hall rocked and rolled for several seconds — like an airplane experiencing turbulence — and the place vibrated for more than a minute. Although the orchestra seemed a bit rattled at first and the audience gasped, the unflappable veteran Charles Dutoit kept on conducting, never breaking stride, and the performance continued pretty much unimpeded."

The one-minute clip serves to illustrate Ginell's description, as the audience reacts with murmurs and a few gasps. 

Last week, a video surfaced on YouTube of the Cal State Long Beach Symphony Orchestra and its conductor apparently fleeing the stage as the earthquake hit.

Note: This video has been removed by YouTube. 

Tell us what you think: At what point should an orchestra stop performing during a natural event such as an earthquake or tornado?


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Comments [17]


That's no Shosty 7

Most of the musicians were starving, which made rehearsing difficult: musicians frequently collapsed during rehearsals, and three died. Despite the poor condition of the performers and many of the audience members, the concert was highly successful, prompting an hour-long ovation.'s_Symphony_No._7

Or Messien's Quartet for the end of Time

The quartet was premiered at the [Nazi POW camp Gorlitz], outdoors and in the rain, on 15 January 1941. The musicians had decrepit instruments and an audience of about 400 fellow prisoners and guards.

Music Endures

Apr. 08 2014 02:28 PM
Mandy Nagle from Libertyville, Illinois

I was there, a most beautiful performance. I was one of six chaperones for a band trip with 43 high school students from the Chicago area where our ground rarely shakes. I lived on the west coast until recently. When the hall started to shake many of the kids looked to me, thinking I would know just what to do. I am so thankful the conductor remained calm, I like the rest of the philharmonic took my cue from him and all 50 of the Midwesterners got the complete California experience!
Thank you!

Apr. 08 2014 10:14 AM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

To Barry:
Yes, you are right. I remember reading about that incident.

Apr. 08 2014 10:07 AM
Brent from Los Angeles

Five miles away from Disney Hall, I thought the earthquake was rather mild, its duration the only indication of its intensity. Had it been stronger, the equivalent of 1994's Northridge, the hall would have been sure to empty quickly, but in this case the orchestra did the right thing.

Apr. 08 2014 09:18 AM
Barry Owen Furrer from 41o 43.5' N 49o 56.8' W

To Ms. Luparella and DuckDeadeye~
The musicians aboard Titanic were considered employees of the White Star Line. An ironic twist to the story was the White Star Line sent a bill to one of the musician's families for failure to return the White Star uniform he was wearing at the time of the sinking!

Apr. 07 2014 10:31 PM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

DD, that was funny! I wish I could think up a witty rejoinder for that, but I think my brain was rattled by that audio clip!

Apr. 07 2014 07:53 PM
Janet from LA from Los Angeles

First, bravo, LA Phil. Second, evacuating even the stage at Disney Hall for a measly 5.1 quake would have served no purpose. Everyone was safer where they were, and playing on was not only the artistic and professional thing to do but also the safe thing. It was an indication to the audience that everything was fine and they should just settle back down in their comfy seats instead of panicking and running for the exits. The worst thing would have been a stampede. Earthquake standards in LA are very high, and the hall would have been the safest place even in a much larger quake. Finally, the epicenter was in Orange County. The Long Beach Phil, an older facility closer to the epicenter in a geologically less stable area, had much more reason to go for cover.

Apr. 07 2014 07:49 PM

"... musicians aboard the Titanic, who continued to play as the ship went down. ..."

Yeahbut -- they weren't union members. {{{Ducking and running!}}}

Kerfuffle, anyone? :-)

Apr. 07 2014 06:53 PM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

This clip is a great promo for the L.A Philharmonic!
However, the ultimate example of dedication was the musicians aboard the Titanic, who continued to play as the ship went down.

Apr. 07 2014 01:01 PM
Roger Bobo from Tokyo

Very proud of my old band.

Apr. 07 2014 05:09 AM
Bernie from UWS

I have to doubt some of your assertions @empiano. Many orchestral musicians I know are pretty jaded as workers go. Some Broadway pit musicians read magazines or novels while playing. Others are just watching the clock because they know the minute the conductor tries to go over allotted time the union steps in and calls things off. And if there's a hint that a conductor is trying to make them play under dangerous conditions, unsafe labor charges will be filed left and right. Maybe piano soloists can afford a more purist outlook but in the end, music-making is a job like any other.

Apr. 06 2014 08:16 PM

JUST music Bernie? As a professional pianist myself, I can assure you that that phrase does not exist in the mind of ANY orchestral musician. It may seem ridiculous to you, but yes, we would rather die producing beautiful music than disrupt a performance that takes us and the audience to a completely different state of mind. Please, do not belittle the passion that we have for music by saying JUST music. Music is the very essence of our being. Also, I'm not saying this is what happened here, but I know from experience that during a performance, musicians often do not even notice things that most people think would completely disrupt a performance. I have played through power outages, tornado warnings, and severe hail storms without even knowing about them until after the performance.

Apr. 06 2014 04:11 PM
Gregory from Sacramento

The orchestra knows that nothing bad can happen while the music of Ravel is in the air.

Apr. 06 2014 03:37 PM

before they get hit in the face with a chandelier

Apr. 06 2014 03:02 PM
Robert St.Onge from Cochiti Lake,NM

While Ravel's 'Daphnis and Chloe' is indeed "sensuous" as your copy-writer put it, it is a ballet, not a 'tone-poem'.

Apr. 06 2014 12:58 PM
Bernie from UWS

Given that Disney Hall was built just a decade ago, I'm sure it's been designed to withstand moderate quakes. I don't know about the hall where the other orchestra was playing. It does seem a little ridiculous though to keep playing without some acknowledgement of what's going on around you. No need to be heroic - it's just music.

Apr. 06 2014 12:33 PM
David from Flushing

Tornado-producing storms often provide notice of their approach unlike earthquakes. Management should direct people to sheltered areas away from glass when there is a threat.

Often running out of a building during a quake is unwise as one might be struck by falling glass, etc. Emergency actions could involve getting under stout tables or desks.

I would certainly not like to be on a stage under heavy theatrical lighting in the event of a quake. These fixtures are probably not designed with this in mind. The angled organ pipes are another concern at Disney Hall. One never knows if a quake is merely fore-shocks of something more serious. I would have been inclined to evacuate the hall for a time until matters were more resolved.

Apr. 05 2014 09:10 PM

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