Mission Impossible

After a very welcome day off where I personally did very little except move from pool to beach, the second free day saw a lot of us whizzing around at high speed. The organisers of the festival had very kindly organised for us to visit the Daytona NASCAR racing track. Being used to the kind of motorsport we see in Britain, with its turns and tight tracks, I was intrigued to see what makes a sport where the cars go around a huge banked oval track, so popular. Like everything in America, the track was huge. It is 2.5 miles long with a couple of grandstands which hold a couple of hundred thousand people. Two of the three banked corners are at an angle of 31 degrees which means you have to go fast otherwise the car slips off the track.

The best thing about our visit was that we all got to go round the track in a pace car at about 140 mph. Four lucky members climbed in the window of a real racing car and deafened us all with an even faster lap. I’m not sure which was louder though, the exhaust of Sylvain’s screaming! What a fantastic experience-I can only imagine the thrill as fifty of these cars race at 200mph, three abreast. Now I see what all the fuss is about!

I had to make a swift exit, as I had another chamber concert, Mozart’s Letters, over in Deland. Tom, Malcolm, Rebecca, Mathew and I played a concert where some of the letters Mozart wrote to his friends and family were woven in between some of his chamber music. We had the pleasure of playing in the refurbished Athens Theatre, an old vaudeville hall which had a great acoustic and a great audience. To be honest, as soon as Matt opened his mouth and his boomy English accent came out, we couldn’t really lose! After the show, we had a reception out on the street and met some lovely people who all commented that it was so nice to see us obviously enjoying ourselves. Well, whats the point in looking miserable just because you play classical music? Great theatre, great music, great audience,what’s not to smile about? We also were happy as we stayed in Deland after the show and went to a new Indian restaurant called Cress and had a fantastic curry! What a great day.

The following day, we had rehearsals for the last couple of concerts and a free evening. This was just as well as the next day went on forever.

After several of June’s cups of tea, we began with a rehearsal for the family and community concert where we were joined by a group of very enthusiastic young Floridian musicians. They were members of the AT&T youth ensemble and had been working with LSO players all week-finally they played on stage with us. Paul Rismann led the concert, which was conducted by Mike Francis, through a fast paced tour of the Enigma variations and various other pieces. By the volume of the response of the audience, I could tell they liked it!

We had a short break to get some lunch before we began the rehearsal with Lalo Schifrin for the evening show. Its always great for the LSO to let its hair down, but the skill of Lalo’s orchestration and composition means that we aren’t simply a backing band. The orchestral writing in soundtracks like Bullit, Mission Impossible and Dirty Harry are full of power and instantly take you back to the films. He once wrote a score for the Exorcist which wasn’t used in the end – the rumour is that is was too scary – seriously!! I had the chance to put a few questions to him and his wonderful band in a pre concert talk. His CV is so varied and astonishing, just reading it makes me feel like an incompetent musician. He studied classical composition in Paris with none other than Messiaen (who didn’t like him doing Jazz), and whilst playing in a bar was approached by Dizzy Gillespie to join his band. Even Alex Acuna, the drummer in Lalo’s band has god like status – he was the drummer in Weather Report and even played with Elvis Presley! However, the star of the night for many was the multi instrumentalist James Morrison. He played trombone, trumpet and flugal horn brilliantly. I can’t possibly describe what he does, you simply have to hear it, but at several points in the evening he had the LSO laughing at his sheer virtuosity and skill-this man can get higher up than I can!

On the trombone!

At one point he was doing a call and response solo by holding his trombone in his left hand and trumpet in his right and swapping between the two-unbelievable. Please do search him out, you won’t be disappointed.

In the pre concert talk, someone asked how much they practice. There were various answers as you would expect. James however said that he never practiced-he played so many instruments, how would he know which one to practice. He wasn’t joking.

A fantastic night with some truly remarkable musicians. In fact a rather humbling night to be in the company of such versatile and talented men.

I am off to practice.

About LSO

The London Symphony Orchestra is one of the world's top orchestras. Our home is at the Barbican Centre in the City of London where we play over 80 concerts every year, but we also spend quite a bit of time out on the road, touring all over the world. Recently we have toured to Germany, France, Russia, New York, Japan, Holland, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Lithuania; and coming up this year are China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, Spain, Portugal, Florida, Romania and a return visit to New York, where we are resident at the Lincoln Center.
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2 Responses to Mission Impossible

  1. Haley says:

    Hi Mr. Davies, this is Haley, I had the honor of playing my flute with you and the LSO at the community concert for the AT&T youth ensemble. I just wanted to thank you again – listening to your outstanding playing was truly the highlight of my year. I never imagined that I would have the opportunity to play with the best orchestra in the world! I also really enjoyed reading your blog. I hope you had fun in Florida.

  2. LSO says:

    Thanks! It was a pleasure to have you all play with us. We arrived home today and are very tired, but it’s back to work tomorrow! Sadly not in the Florida sun!

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