the following is reprinted from a feature article of the Journal of the American Viola Society "MEET THE SECTION:"
The Violists? Of the Houston Symphony
Author’s note: The journal of the American Viola Society was to feature the violists of the Houston Symphony as part of its regular feature “Meet the Section…” However, upon arrival at Jones Hall on the appointed interview day of September 19th,* the AVS representative suddenly and inexplicably found herself set upon by a mob of unruly and bloodthirsty pirates. After much waving of what looked suspiciously like viola bows but were being referred to by the strange bunch as “cutlasses,” our interviewer was promptly bundled up and hauled onto the deck of a very odd ship. The following is a transcription of the only audible portion of the tape that was found, along with pieces of dried kelp, broken rosin, half-eaten chocolate doubloons, and a bit of a dirty red sash, washed up on the distant shores of Myanmar (Burma).
*JAVS has since found out that September 19th is International Talk Like A Pirate Day
AVS: The interview aboard the Ship o’ the Festerin’ Callus. I am with the crew:
Cap’n Morgan Flint (sotto voce: “bears a strange and disturbing resemblance to Wayne Brooks”)
Iron Roger Hacke (“Nice hat-Is that George Pascal?)
Dread Pirate Vane ( “A dead ringer for Joan DerHovesepian, except for the mustache and the artificial leg”)
Iron Anne Frankenberry (“Linda Goldstein?I thought she was allergic to parrots”)
Calico Tom Bonney (“That has GOT to be Thomas Molloy”)
Bloody Bess Kidd ( “Is that a woman? Looks like Johnny Depp in ‘Pirates of the Carribean’”)
Dirty Mary Cutler ( “hard to tell through all the dirt- but I think it’s Fay Shapiro!”)
Candy Casey Bloodletter (“for sure, Dan Strba, I’d recognize that steely-eyed glint anywhere..”)
Pegleg Jack Cotton (“Wei Jiang-I always thought he had piratical tendencies”)
Rabid Betsy Rackham (“that disfiguring scar is very sinister- Phyllis Herdliska?)
AVS: My research shows that most of you became viol…I mean pirates, at the age of 11 or 12. Why were you drawn to this life?
Pegleg Jack: lootin’ and pillagin’
Rabid Betsey: Pillagin’
(cries of assent in the background: “Lootin!!” “Pillagin!” “! Th’ grog!” “Aye! Arrr!” “Lootin!!!” Yarrgh!!)
AVS: Okay…but aside from looting and pillaging……
AVS: Did any of you play any other...INSTRUMENTS… before you became pirates?
Bloody Bess: (whispers) Lass, me dirty little secret is that I used to be a violinist afore I was led into the piratey light.
Iron Roger: Harrr! I was a lousy violinist! From th’ time I picked up me first cutlass, thar’s been no lookin’ back.
Dirty Mary: Violinist, pah! (spits) They tried ta get me ta play that lily-livered bilge-box, but ‘twas the call o’ the grog that was stronger!
Rabid Betsy: ‘Tis nobler to have the piratey sound, yarr!
Dread Pirate Vane: Aye!! Wha’ wi’ the call of the piratey sound, an’ this useless artificial leg, th’ choice was obvious.. no chorus line fer Dread Pirate Vane!
Candy Casey: Ye’re a bonny lass…ye remind me of me own mother, who bless her cursed soul thought she was doin’ a fine thing when she made me lay down me beloved guitar to sail th’ high seas…”no son ‘o mine will become a rock star..” said she, as she chained me viola bow, I mean, cutlass, into me 12 year old hand.
Cap’n Morgan: I, also, played th’ violin, ‘til one day me wee mate became a buccaneer. So to annoy ’im I stuck me bow, I mean hook, in ’is face, plucked out ’is eye, an’ took over ’is place on th’ ship. ’Tis a fine feeling, doin’ things fer spite.
Iron Anne: I was 19 when I laid down me fiddle an’ thought to meself, “Self, a parrot would make this outfit e’en finer; ‘tis a pirate’s life for me!”
Calico Tom: When I was a lad in school, they were long on cursed fiddlers but short on buccaneers. So becomin’ one was the natural choice. Did ye know, the word "Pirate" first appeared in French literature in 1254 and was plundered (“yarr!” “ Plundered!!” “avast!” )from the Latin word, Pirata meaning "sailor or sea robber." The Latin, of course was looted (“lootin’ arr!” “yarrgh!!”) from the Greek word, “peirates,” literally meaning "one who attacks" from the root word “peira” meaning, "trial, attempt, attack." The word "peril" has the same root heritage.
Pegleg Jack: Would it be "peril" I’d be in if I lashed Calico to the riggin' and left a cod in ‘is belly so the gulls could peck out ’is talkative insides?…I also came ta be a pirate via th’ scurvy violin route… then I realized how much I liked lootin’ and pillagin’.
AVS: Why and when did you join the Ship o’ the Festerin’ Callus?
Pegleg Jack: I came in th’ summer of ’99 fer lootin’ and pillagin.’ Yarr!! (he picks his teeth with what looks like a gold bow tip)
Bloody Bess: ’Twas th’ bitter winter o’ ’94 when I took a hard look at me own festerin’ calluses. It seemed ta fit.
Candy Casey: One day in ’92 I had just finished plunderin’ wi’ the dread crooner “Ol’ Blue Eyes.” I stopped fer some grog, then, th’ next thing I know, I’m aboard th’ SOTFC…I think ‘twas gypsies…..
Cap’n Morgan: I love intense, scorchin’ heat and humidity. So as soon as I got out o’ th’ brig-L.A.- I packed up and left fer th’ SOTFC. Avast! But ‘twas years of plunderin’ an’ mutiny I had to do afore I became Cap’n.
Iron Anne: Aye, the humidity, ’tis good for th’ complexion.
Calico Tom: Lass, I been sailing wi’ th’ SOFTC since 1964. When I joined, half these swabbies tweren’t even knee deep in their own bilgewater! They will have to pry me cutlass out of me cold dead fingers afore I e’er leave this ship.
Rabid Betsy: That can be arranged, matey! Blimey! Always goin’ on about history…. Me, I got th’ post straight out o’ buccaneer school…th’ Juilliard School fer Piratical Studies.
Dirty Mary: The grog had a reputation fer bein’ better here than in Okla Homa. Yarrrgh! Pass th’ grog!
Iron Roger: I was Cap’n aboard th’ Denver Sea Foamy when I sensed a mutiny afloat. I knew ‘twas time to leave, but first I sunk my cutlass into each and evr’y one of those TREACHEROUS DOGS! I FIX’D TH’ LOT OF THOSE BISCUIT-MAGGOTS TWIXT TH’ KEEL AND SHOALING WATER, WITH CRABS FOR MATES! I---
Dread Pirate Vane: Easy, lad, ha’ some grog….I’d been sailing on a ship off th’ coast o’ Charleston when I heard about th’ opening on th’ SOTFC-known far and wide fer its good singin,’ lootin’ an’ grog.
AVS: The average length of service on the SOTFC is 18 years! Why have you been together so long?
Pegleg Jack: (nonchalantly polishing an intricately carved ivory tailpiece) Th’ lootin’ and pillagin’! Did ye not notice that we’re one o’ th’ finest looking and most friendly crews around?
Cap’n Morgan: Aye, like family we are….(grabs for the tailpiece)
Iron Anne: We ha’ eerie respect fer ea’ other (deftly plucks the tailpiece from Morgan and stashes it in her pocket).
Dirty Mary: (gulping sounds) slurs: I love me mates! We cook a bit fer ea’ other too! Who wants chum-brownies?
Rabid Betsy: Hurl one o’er here, lass!
Calico Tom: (full mouth) Ngwe mmnph camaraderie
(random sounds of munching and agreement: “Arr!” “Close-knit crew!” “mmm! Good brownies!” “avast! Th’ family I never had!”)
Candy Casey: I know where Bloody Bess keeps ‘er candy stash.
Bloody Bess: (affectionately) Scurvy cur! If I din’t like yer nancy-Broadway singin’ ways, I’d plant me cutlass in the top of yer pointy head.
AVS: “nancy-Broadway singing ways”?
Dread Pirate Vane: Aye, on slow plunderin’ nights our lad Casey moonlights wi’ th’ Best Little Klezmer Band in Texas, an’ Bloody Bess may keep a banjo or two in the brig.
Candy Casey: Yarrrgh, an’ now we’ll have to make ye walk the plank fer knowin’-
Iron Roger: (giggles) THA’S WHAT HE SAID!!!!YE POX FACED--- (sounds of glugging)
AVS: Uh, speaking of hobbies, what are some of your hobbies?
Rabid Betsy: Lootin’
Candy Casey: Pillagin’
AVS: Aside from looting and pillaging-
Pegleg Jack: Photography… of th’ lootin’ and pillagin.’
Calico Tom: Ha’ ye heard me weekly radio show, “Home Prairie Pillagin’ wi’ Calico Tom?”
Dread Pirate Vane: (spears a chum-brownie with the tip of a bow) I do lawnmower art...
Dirty Mary: I do enjoy a wee bit o’ beadwork now and again…wi’ me grog.
Iron Roger: Plunderin’ an’ baseball.
Cap’n Morgan: I’m working on a rough draft o’my book “Th’ Passion of Otakar Sevcik.”
Iron Anne: Craftin’- see? Me parrot is made from beads and macaroni.
Rabid Betsy: I raise bulldogs, arr!! Because they go “arr!!”
Bloody Bess: Bulldogs? Th’ best pet fer a buccaneer is a can o’ stewed turnips in chum sauce!
AVS: I have to say, all this talk of candy and chum sauce is making me hungry….is there anything……
Candy Casey: ‘Ere you go me pretty, ‘ave some candy.
Bloody Bess: Sink me! Get yer barnacle-crusted hooks off me candy! Try these stewed turnips in chum sauce….damn! I ate me pet!
Dirty Mary: A tot o’ grog’ll do ye quite nicely, lass.
Cap’n Morgan: Tote me a wee tot too, Mary…
Iron Roger: Break out the barrel! I’ve a fierce burning in me belly to buckle me swash!
Calico Tom: Yarrrgh!! Me swash is already buckled! Pass th’ grog!!
Dread Pirate Vane: Harrr! Harr! Avast!! Pass me those fried parrot-legs, laddie!
Pegleg Jack: Yarrr, arrrr, harrrgh! (sings, to the tune of a Brahms Viola Sonata) “STICK yer CUTlass in my BILGE-bucket…”
Iron Anne: (glug glug glug)
--The tape ends here, degenerating into various noises of glugging, swash-buckling, and snatches of sea shanties – strangely all in the keys of E-flat major and F minor. The AVS representative, along with the entire crew of the Ship o’ the Festerin’ Callus, was never seen again. Recently, on clear nights off the coast of Burma (Myanmar), reports have been made of strange flickering lights, smells of chum-brownies, and snatches of sniggering laughter, punctuated by the mysterious phrase “Tha’ s what SHE said!”.
Rita Porfiris (Bloody Bess Kidd), a member of the Houston Symphony viola section (Ship o’ the Festerin’ Callus) since 1995, was born in New York City to a bunch of lily-livered landlubbers. Since she was not abducted by pirates at the tender age of 5, she later attended the Juilliard School for piratical studies, where she received both her BM(blimey mate) and MM(mizzenmast) in swash-buckling, and continued on to be a buckler of swashes in Germany as well. In addition to her plundering duties on the SOTFC, she also teaches young impressionable buccaneers the fine art of buckling swash at the University of Houston. Arrrgh!