5. The viola joke and fun stuff

Is this the World’s oldest viola joke?

“There is a joke, if you can call it that, which says the viola (or the sound of the viola, or maybe the people who play the viola – who knows?) is very cold.

Well, it’s not really a joke as such because it has no actual punch line, nor any rational, or even irrational explanation as to why this state should exist. It is presupposing that that is what violas are and thus the effect, notwithstanding the absence of cause, is that somehow being synonymous with very low temperature makes them hilariously funny – over and over. Call me dull, but I really don’t get it. Help me out, someone?

I have never discovered the origin of the joke or, indeed, an explanation. However, I have found that it is quite ubiquitous; wherever you may travel in the universe, apparently, that is what you seem to find. So it has become a sort of folkloreFolklore, schmokelore!

There are many viola jokes (mostly awful, where you simply replace any alleged underdog with the word ‘viola’) but I suspect that this is one of the oldest. So if Absolute Zero is the ultimate cold then it’s an ironic name for a viola quartet, don’t you think? I quite like it, I think I shall write them some music.” From the memoirs of Sancho Engaño, composer. Translated by Alison Thomas – Manager, Absolute Zero Viola Quartet

Can you spot the odd one out? It may not be that obvious
The Royal College of Conducting exam paper
You can meet some odd characters in the BBC

Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to be a conductor, or even a great Maestro for that matter? Well now is your chance to find out. “The Conductor’s Handbook” by Imrich von Wörstenbeat (principal of The Royal College of Conducting) has all you need to know. Although it is important to stress that his views as expressed in his writings do not reflect those of ourselves, or indeed any sane person in our opinion. But you might find it interesting and entertaining nonetheless. However, to warn you in advance, his ‘likes and dislikes’ can be summarized thus:
Likes: Himself.
Dislikes: Musicians, percussionists, journalists, all living composers, journalists, soloists, women, foreigners, journalists, other conductors, and journalists.
Chapter one
Chapter two
Chapter three
Chapter four
Chapter five
Chapter six
Chapter seven
Chapter eight
Chapter nine
Chapter ten
Chapter eleven
Chapter twelve

Interpretation: seeing the message in the music; what the music says to you, is so important, don’t you think?

How well do you know your symphonic repertoire? Are you, like us, a viola knurd? Here’s a chance to test your knowledge – and you might even win a prize!

The quizzes below are all about orchestral viola-parts. Follow the instructions, then if you think you have the correct answers send us an email (even if you don’t recognise a piece you may be able to make an educated guess). Good luck, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Quiz 1

Quiz 2

Quiz 3

Quiz 4

Quiz 5

How well do you know your composers? Here’s a chance to test your knowledge. Email your answers to us and you might even win a prize.

Composer Quiz

Viola jokes: Should you wish to pursue this sordid topic further, there are a number of websites devoted to just this subject. Try:







Get in touch, we’d love to hear from you: abzeroviolaquartet@gmail.com