A performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture at New York’s Carnegie Hall ended in tragedy today, after members of the United States Army Reserve Orchestra accidentally opened fire on their fellow band members.
Details of the incident are sketchy, but according to eyewitnesses, members of the Arkansas National Guard artillery brigade, especially flown in to provide the piece’s famous cannon fire, failed to sufficiently elevate their antique smoothbore howitzers. ‘We’d already felt a whiz of air over our heads earlier on,’ one concert-goer told reporters, ‘but when the band struck up ‘God Save the Tsar’ it was as if the guns were pointing right at us.’
Another witness described how the roof of Carnegie Hall was peppered with cannonball holes during the Battle of Borodino section. ‘I guess someone from the Hall must’ve complained, because the next thing you know they were depressing the guns and loading them with grapeshot.’
Paramedics were greeted with scenes of carnage as they fought their way through blasted pieces of woodwind and a panicking audience to reach the stricken musicians. ‘The brass section took the brunt of the barrage,’ claimed one exhausted medic; ‘I’ve never seen a tuba torn in two like that before.’
Military authorities are remaining tight-lipped over the incident, but have confirmed that they are investigating a ‘blue on blue’ event in the vicinity of Midtown Manhattan. In the meantime, Britain’s Ministry of Defence has talked down the likelihood of such a tragedy happening in the UK by pointing out that, due to recent cutbacks, all artillery pieces have been replaced by swannee whistles and clown horns.