Cutting the mustard in Dijon

 I don’t know what the French for joie de vivre is, but I left mine somewhere on the Barbican stage on Thursday night after Daphnis and Chloe. Well, really it was after a week which began 2 weeks earlier which had 2 performances of Daphnis, La Mer and a couple of concerti as well. For good measure we did a quick Damnation of Faust as well on Tuesday night. Sadly the devil was ill. You can’t rely on anyone these days.

Anyway, the reason I am trying to find out some key French phrases is that this weekend sees us on the Eurostar on the way to Dijon. I got home after the concert at midnight and had to leave for St Pancras at 6 am. Its fair to say that the train was very quiet indeed.

Now if you are familiar with recent LSO history, the mention of Dijon should set alarm bells ringing. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me take you back in time…in time…in time…

It was way back in, ooh, 2008 when we set out for our first ever trip to Dijon. We had been working the night before and all the instruments were on the van overnight through the tunnel. At 7.15am Sue got a call. She knows that usually means impending disaster. It was.

We arrived in Dijon on time. Our instruments didn’t. In fact they were still in England and there was no way they were going to arrive in time. It was at this point that the good people of Dijon rallied round with community spirit finding instruments for us to play on. Old ladies turned up with cellos form their attic. Young musicians bought their violins in and local music shops donated flutes so that the concert could go ahead. If it had happened in London, people would have been sing phrases such as “Ooh, its just like in the war” and “Blitz spirit”. I wonder what they say in France. So the concert did go ahead with Mahler 7 played on an odd selection of instruments with half the orchestra in concert clothes and the other half in jeans and t shirts. It sounded like the LSO but quieter, especially when the violas found two pages of their photocopied parts missing in the last movement.

So this time the van left a day earlier and arrived early and we sat quietly on the Eurostar. I had already told Sue to leave me alone as I was tired and she was sat far too close to me. It was nice and quiet while we waited to depart-until the phone rang.

To cut a long story short, Bryn our principal harp had fallen off his bicycle on the way to the train and was in hospital with 6 stitches in his head and blood all over the place. He was not coming on the trip, partly because he was concussed but also looking at the picture he sent us with his head in bandages, face covered in blood and a car down one side, the French would never have let him in.

And so followed a frantic round of phoning harp players around Europe, mots of whom were working, unavailable or about to give birth – seriously. Of course, as we were doing La Mer, we really needed 2 harps and so plans were afoot to get a player to city airport to join Valery on his private jet to get to Dijon on time. Now I know how stressful it is playing with the LSO for the first time, but listening to Jemma on the phone was hilarious.

“Hello, yes is that (harp player). Yes? Good. My name is Jemma, I am the orchestral manager of the LSO. Now I know you’ve never worked with us before but we’d like you to come in with us, are you free today? You are ? Great. well, do you know La Mer? No?Never mind, if you could get to city airport by 12 and get on a private jet to Dijon, it doesn’t have a number, and you’ll find Valery gergiev waiting for you. Get on the plane with him and he’ll get you to Dijon where you can sight read La Mer, oh and Shostakovitch 11 too, I forgot that one. There’ll be a limo to take you and Valery from the airport to the hall. Is that OK?



Are you still there?”

Karen fortunately managed to get hold of an old friend of hers who lives in Paris and was able to come down. He knew all the music and was fantastic. It also meant Valery didn’t need to make small talk all the way on the plane, which was nice.

After 15 minutes of speeches, the audience at the hall started clapping and drowned out the speakers in true revolutionary style. They left and Valery swept on for La Mer. I waited to see the look of shock as the good people of Dijon finally found out what we are supposed to sound like on proper instruments-no offence to the instruments form last year, but we did sound better. Its a great hall too and you’ll be pleased to know that we all found our joie de vivre, but I was very glad to see my bed at the end of the day.

Next stop was Paris where we have a residency at Salle Pleyel one of my favourite halls. Valery asked us to play quieter so that we only sounded seismic as it is so reverberant. However as the end of Shos 11 approached ,the pedal hit the floor and the beautiful Parisians were pinned back in their seats once again. Nicolas, the harpist was over the moon as he had been unable to get a ticket to the show in Paris, it being sold out for months. In the end of course he was playing in the concert and had a much better seat than anyone else!

I’m actually writing this on the Eurostar after the afternoon concert, which those of you who are on twitter can see a picture of. Its very quiet on here, even Jemma has stopped taking calls, Sue is asleep. Oh, no she’s not actually, but she isn’t talking for once. Valery is away from us until December and we have some time off at last.

Only joking, we are recording a new film soundtrack at 9 am in the morning until it gets dark, and the composer and conductor are on the same train home!

Its never dull here, but boy am I tired. Next stop in a couple of weeks is New York City. Stay tuned, but for now its Dijon and on and on and on …

Bryn didn't win his scrap with the pavement...


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.
This entry was posted in Dijon/Paris September 2009, Gareth Davies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Cutting the mustard in Dijon

  1. Ashley says:

    Sorry to hear about Bryns mishap! Hopefully he saved his fingers?

    Can’t wait to see you all in NYC!!!

  2. Erika says:

    Poor Bryn! Hope he heals up quickly!
    And I see you found some inspiration for your blog too. =]

  3. Tim says:

    I’ve always supposed orchestra managers must lead fairly exciting lives…I suppose this proves that they do!

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