the orchestra world viola

viola jokes, ftw

I’m a big fan of viola jokes. I don’t find them in the least bit offensive. Why? They’re mostly made up by violists, for one. They’re also based in a rather checkered early history of the instrument and its proponents. They have a basic sense of truth to them, and they’re also not at all mean-spirited. What I do find offensive are people who are very offended in a ‘holier-than-thou’ way by viola jokes. Please grow a sense of humor! Or not, you can do as you like.

Anyway, I digress. We just got done with two performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, and whichever wag was on the front stand of the orchestra that used the rental parts before we got them had a healthy sense of violist humor:


It’s a visual joke akin to the famous viola joke when the violist asks the pianist how she learned to trill so quickly. The pianist replies that she didn’t understand what the violist is talking about. The violist sings the opening to Für Elise. *rim shot*

By Charles Noble

I'm the Assistant principal violist of the Oregon Symphony.

2 replies on “viola jokes, ftw”

Sitting in the pit of “Phantom of the Opera” in LA for four years as Principal Viola back in the 90’s I wrote a viola joke out of sheer boredom and a lifetime of dreadful observations. It soon went around the LA studios, and this year I’ve seen it, illustrated no less, on Facebook. It goes like this: What’s the difference between alto clef and Greek? Some conductors can actually read a little Greek. Now I’m a conductor….

I don’t like viola jokes
and never have. I worked too hard and long to have musicians with sneers on their faces ask me if I wanted to hear a viola joke. I would say “no” of course. I’ve heard all these people play and they have no call ridiculing what I do therefore trying to elevate themselves. Yes, I’m in the middle of cocktail hour here in the eastern time zone. BTW, as Primrose said, the difference between a violist and a violinist is a college education.

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