I’ve never actually bought a brand new car, I mean one of those ones where the plastic is still on the seats and the odometer has the delivery mileage only. Being a financially challenged musician and father of 3, the newest car I have ever bought was a year old. It still had that new car smell and I enjoyed it immensely as my previous car had blown up on the A3 and I hadn’t been able to afford a new one for about 6 months. I had to borrow my mother’s car and call in a lot of lifts from friends.
The eagle eyed amongst you will have spotted that the wonderful Martin Parry, 2nd flute in the LSO retired around a year ago. He had a very long and distinguished career as a flautist, before joining us, he was principal in the LPO and the BBC and studied with the great Rampal and Moyse. When I was a fresh faced young player joining the LSO, he was a constantly reassuring presence at my side, totally experienced, totally unflappable- in fact he most definitely in my mind is a classic car, with the twinkle in his eye, probably an Aston Martin.
So over the last year we have had several flute players on trial with us, as you may have noticed. I wouldn’t dream of alluding to which cars they were, it would be rude, but of course some are more reliable than others. However, if you have been watching closely, you will have noticed that we have a new model in the LSO garage. Siobhan Grealy officially started with us as second flute this week, and I am pleased to say that she is turning out to be a bit of a Porsche. Reliable, stylish but exciting with the ability to put her foot down. She’s probably very expensive too and a future classic. It also means that I am now outnumbered by women in the section by 50%. There are however, worse things in life, at least I can escape to a different dressing room!
I always thought you were supposed to run cars in gently, but this tour has been a baptism of fire. I am writing this on a plane, again, as we briefly return home before leaving again in the morning to finish off the tour. We have done 5 concerts in 5 countries with 5 different sets of banknotes. At times I have tried to pay with the wrong notes, (better than playing the wrong notes, which of course, I never do) and at least twice this week, I have tried to get into the wrong hotel room because it was the room number of the previous hotel. So I am very glad to be able to get home to see the family, however briefly, I think we have travelled even more than Valery himself this week. But probably not.
It was a bit of a shock to visit Tallinn yesterday. It is a lot further north than the other places we visited, in fact I think its as far north as the Orkneys and the temperature dropped considerably, whereas the hours of daylight increased. Tallinn is one of the most beautiful places I have been to and it’s a real shame that we were on such a tight schedule. The hall itself was quite small, only 993 seats so John Lawley tells me, which was a huge difference to Zagreb! It felt very intimate last night with the people in the balcony being directly above some of the basses, I imagine that their seats were vibrating wildly in sympathy. During the rehearsal, the local television station were filming for the news, they wanted some footage of the orchestra rehearsing with Valery. The thing is he hasn’t been too well this week, a touch of bronchitis, but of course he has insisted on doing the shows, but some of the rehearsals had been shortened. By the time we reach this stage of a tour, we have played the same pieces several times and a lot of the balance rehearsal is for…er… well balancing. So on this occasion whilst the cameras waited for Valery to take the stage, Andrew stood up and we launched into the Stravinsky. There were a lot of puzzled looks on the cameramen’s faces, they started gesticulating in Estonian, which seems to be similar to English. We played for a few minutes while they filmed the seemingly driverless juggernaut. When we all stopped playing, this Russian voice boomed out from the darkness of the stalls,
“Brass, please give 20% less and then the balance will be perfect. Please play from figure 36, I need quiet music now”
It was of course Valery. He is one of the few conductors who actually does use the balance rehearsal for balancing the sound of the orchestra. In this hall, the reverberant acoustic meant that we had to ease off at the back so that we didn’t overwhelm the strings. This was completely the opposite of the night before in Vilnius when we had to move the brass closer to the front and ask them to play louder! You just never know.
Once Valery was happy, the rehearsal finished and the tv people never did get their shots, so when I switched on the news as I went to bed last night, I saw lots of close ups of the players and a little bit of a shadowy figure in the stalls. The audience loved the concert, one member of the audience, above the basses, enjoyed it so much, he punched the air wildly looking like he was about to stage dive in the rock and roll style.
So as we travel back before we embark on a slightly less hectic part 2, we get to rest awhile, change our oil and fill up our tanks with premium grade. After this tour I shall be getting some new tyres and having a rest before my annual service. But for the next few days I shall be enjoying some more fantastic concerts with my new Porsche and of course the the fabulous Ferrari on piccolo.
Next stop Frankfurt.