On Thursday night (November 4), performing with the Grammy Award-winning Seattle Symphony, star violinist Ray Chen broke a string on his violin (that’s one of four total, mind you) and, as if he’d prepared his whole life for it, showed the conductor (Ludovic Morlot) and the first chair violinist, and switched instruments mid-stream.
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Check out the video of Chen and the Seattle Symphony performing the music of Tchaikovsky at Benaroya Hall in Downtown Seattle, pre and post-string break below.
You can hear the snap. You can hear the audience murmur. You can see Chen’s eyes widen as he settles into his new instrument, before a rousing, focused, energized solo. (The broken violin gets passed from one chair to the next.)
Mid-song, Chen’s violin was repaired. The Seattle Times reports, “Meanwhile, a violin repair took place onstage, as Chen’s instrument got handed to violinist Mae Lin. During a pause in Chen’s part, he gave an extra violin string he was carrying to Lin, who replaced the E string.”
Reportedly, Chen said he’d thought about what to do before and that violinists know they should be able to hand off the broken instrument to another player for assistance. Thankfully, for Chen and the rest of the performance, no one missed a beat, literally and figuratively.
The Seattle Times added that Chen believes the string break was the result of “extreme weather and environmental changes—being very wet outside, and dry in the practice rooms, along with his recent travels going from a drier climate in California, onto a plane, to colder, wetter Seattle.”
Those changes can affect the strings, especially the E string, which is the thinnest string with the highest amount of tension on the violin. Chen told The Seattle Times he always carries an extra E String in his pocket for just such an occasion, said Seattle Symphony spokesperson Dinah Lu.
This actually isn’t the first time this has happened for Chen, see the video below (and notice the pack of string toss!).
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