Paolo Esperanza, bass-trombonist with the Simphonica Mayor de
Uruguay, in a misplaced moment of inspiration decided to make his
own contribution to the cannon shots fired as part of the
orchestra's performance of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture at an
outdoor children's concert. In complete seriousness he placed a
large, ignited firecracker, which was equivalent in strength to a
quarter stick of dynamite, into his aluminum straight mute and
then stuck the mute into the bell of his quite new Yamaha in-line
double-valve bass trombone.
Later, from his hospital bed he explained to a reporter
through bandages on his mouth, "I thought that the bell of my
trombone would shield me from the explosion and instead would
focus the energy of the blast outward and away from me, propelling
the mute high above the orchestra, like a rocket."
However, Paolo was not up on his propulsion physics nor
qualified to use high-powered artillery and in his haste to get
the horn up before the firecracker went off, he failed to raise
the bell of the horn high enough so as to give the mute enough arc
to clear the orchestra.
What actually happened should serve as a lesson to us all
during those delirious moments of divine inspiration. First,
because he failed to elevate the bell of his horn sufficiently,
the blast propelled the mute between rows of players in the
woodwind and viola sections of the orchestra, missing the players
but straight into the stomach of the conductor, driving him off
the podium and directly into the front row of the audience.
Fortunately, the audience were sitting in folding chairs and
thus they were protected from serious injury, for the chairs
collapsed under them, passing the energy of the impact of the
flying conductor backwards into the row of people sitting behind
them, who in turn were driven back into the people in the row
behind, and so on, like a row of dominos. The sound of collapsing
wooden chairs and grunts of people falling on their behinds
increased logarithmically, adding to the overall sound of brass
cannons and brass playing as constitutes the closing measures of
Meanwhile, all of this unplanned choreography not
withstanding, back on stage Paolo's Waterloo was still unfolding.
According to Paolo, "Just as I heard the sound of the blast, time
seemed to stand still. Everything moved in slow motion. Just
before I felt searing pain to my mouth, I could swear I heard a
voice with a Austrian accent say "Fur every akshon zer iz un
eekvul und opposeet reakshon!" Well, this should come as no
surprise, for Paolo had set himself up for a textbook
demonstration of this fundamental law of physics. Having failed
to plug the lead pipe of his trombone, he allowed the energy of
the blast to send a super heated jet of gas backwards through the
mouth pipe of the trombone which exited the mouthpiece, burning
his lips and face.
The pyrotechnic ballet wasn't over yet. The force of the
blast was so great it split the bell of his shiny Yamaha right
down the middle, turning it inside out while at the same time
propelling Paolo backwards off the riser. And for the grand
finale, as Paolo fell backwards he lost his grip on the slide of
the trombone, allowing the pressure of the hot gases coursing
through the horn to propel the trombone's slide like a double
golden spear into the head of the 3rd clarinetist, knocking him
The moral of the story? Beware the next time you hear someone
in the trombone section yell out "Hey, everyone, watch this!"