Only 17 hours after arriving home from Tallinn, I am walking out of my front door again, with a fresh set of clothes you’ll be pleased to know, going to Heathrow airport. I think so anyway. As I get in the car I have to make one last check to see that I am going to the right terminal at the right airport. I am. I have the correct passport ( I have two), my flute and my tails-its time to go.
After our tour of Serbia, Croatia, Lithuania, Estonia and Hungary last week had been so successful, I was hoping that we may have softened the accusations of block voting in the Eurovision song contest. As we were a British orchestra, playing Russian music, conducted by an Ossetian, I felt sure that our enthusiastic reception at the concerts could only help Lord Lloyd Webber and his crusade to bring the crown of pop glory home. Before that however, we had some more work to do.
I have written about Frankfurt before in this blog,(https://lsoontour.wordpress.com/2009/02/13/ich-bin-ein-frankfurter) and I must admit, I really have no idea who reads it-I only get figures not faces-unless you leave a comment of course. If you read it last time, you may remember that I loved the pre concert timing ritual where the backstage staff gave us the 15 minutes till kick off announcement which made reference to the fact that it was now 1945. Well, I think they may have read the blog last time, because at the appropriate time, we all waited in silence as the speaker crackled into life.
“ladies and gentlemen of the London Symphony Orchestra, it is a pleasure to have back, you have 15 minutes before the concert. The time is 7.45”
The room was filled with the collective groans of disappointment.
The hall is huge. Really huge, you can barely see the back. When the last whip crack of Prokofiev 5 was fired off into the hall, you could quite clearly hear it bounce back of the back wall at least a second ofter we played it. Its funny though how differently audiences around the world react to the same pieces. I was interviewed for the TV in Zagreb and the presenter asked what I was expecting from the audience. It’s a difficult question to answer. Well, I suppose clapping would be good, maybe cheering and whistling, a standing ovation is always nice-but to be honest, I never expect anything, but what I get is always different. In Daytona, the audience whooped and shouted at every opportunity, they stood up every night, sometimes when we were only half way through the show. I mean the interval of course, not in the middle of a piece-they may make more noise than other places, but they know when they hear something good. The audiences here in Germany take their music very seriously too, but like to show how serious they are by dressing up smartly and sitting very still and quietly, quite often with a quizzical tilt of the head or a rub of the chin. These are all gestures learnt by politicians and used to great effect when trying to exude gravitas, sympathy or simply writing off the £6000 trouser press on expenses. However, the audience here really does know what it is doing, I must admit to feeling nervous when we play Beethoven over here.
In Cologne, last night, you can see the audience as it is a smaller hall and the lights are kept on throughout the show. We played the Classical symphony (the last one-hurray!), and as I looked out, I could see people sat in hard concentration looking, to be honest, a bit miserable after America. However as we sprinted to the end of the symphony, they erupted in applause and smiles and called Valery back on three times. It just goes to show that you can’t judge by appearances. By the time we had played No. 5, they stood up and we ended up playing two encores and I’m sure if we had had anymore to play they would have gladly stayed for more.
In my elation at having managed to play all of the Classical Symphonies without spreading it all over the ceiling or dropping the music I had completely forgotten about the tradition in Cologne of providing free beer for the orchestra after the concert! I guess they thought we had worked very hard as there was a young lady with a tray of beers standing right next to the door from the stage. I had finished my first one before my flute was cold and in its case. Marvellous.
As you can imagine, I was itching to know if our musical influence in the Baltics had extended to giving the British entry for the Eurovision a lift up the scoreboard. I arrived back at he hotel to find the dregs of the competition being shown on a gigantic television screen. There was no sign of Andrew Lloyd Webber though. I was greeted by Audun, our guest principal bassoon this week who seemed in remarkably high spirits.
I ordered a drink and said, “Did we win then?”
“Yes we did” replied Auden.
I felt a warm glow of patriotic fervour. I’ve watched Wales and England lose so many matches whilst I’ve been away from home which somehow seems to make it worse. So on this occasion, it was nice to have something to celebrate. I turned to Tom at the bar and expressed amazement at winning-he looked at me quizzically
“I don’t think we did mate”
I looked at Audun, “We won”, he said again.
Oh yes, our guest principal bassoon.
He’s Norwegian. It appears I may have overestimated our cultural impact.