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April 20, 2012 at 11:00 AM

Seattle Chinese Orchestra: East meets….Johnny Carson?

While talking about the Seattle Chinese Orchestra’s performance on April 20 at Town Hall (read about it here) conductor Roger Nelson recalled his and founder/director Warren Chang’s moment of fame on “The Tonight Show.” Seems someone with show-biz ties heard the orchestra and got Chang and Nelson on the show in 1986. It was not to be; Don Rickles went long and they were bumped. (Johnny Carson and guests enjoyed making jokes filled with “weird sexual innendo” about Chang’s erhu, however.) They returned in early 1987, only to be told the producers would dictate what they could play – and one number they wanted was the love theme from Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” (Seriously? Well, it was the 80s). However, Chang’s erhu didn’t go as low as the lowest notes in the melody. Nelson, from the piano, told him, “I’ll play it loud, and you play the gesture.” No one in Carson’s band could tell, Nelson reports.

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