It’s been a while, but we are once again on the road. The road on this occasion is supposedly one of the most dangerous in the world and goes through the desert from the airport in Dubai to Abu Dhabi where we are performing this week. There aren’t many places we go that create a sense of being somewhere different; I don’t mean different like the beer and food tasting different, or the language is different, but where absolutely everything is unfamiliar. For instance, I remember going to Japan for the first time over a decade ago and there were so many new things to see, it was actually a shock to see a Starbucks in Tokyo. It’s a shock in London if you don’t see one every 300 metres.
The journey from the airport takes us past the world’s tallest building. Funnily enough, when we went to Taiwan a few years ago, we went up the world’s tallest building. However, the one in Dubai is even taller, although we won’t have chance to go up it. As we speed past the ultra modern landscape, familiar names spring up in endless shopping malls – and yet, they don’t seem familiar here. Soon though the road descends into darkness and we continue our straight path into the night.
Shortly afterwards I am woken up as we stop moving and I assume we have reached our hotel. However, for some bizarre reason, all three coaches have stopped to fill up with fuel. It all seems a little surreal, stopping in the night in the middle of the desert to refuel, and I’m afraid my tiredness at the end of a long day seems to be making me a little confused. A few people get off the bus to buy some water and chocolate from the shop, some have a quick cigarette. Maybe thats why it’s a dangerous road. As soon as the bus driver finishes, (refuelling, not smoking) he pulls away minus a few players who are frantically running across the forecourt. We stop. They get on. We move off.
“Has anyone seen Roman?” asks Sue.
Roman is our new leader. This I realise sounds like a line from Monty Python, but it’s true and I can’t spell his surname, whilst my spellchecker keeps wanting to call him Roman Symbolic. Unless we find him pretty quickly, symbolic he will be. Sue strides off to find him in the shop, like a lion circling an unsuspecting zebra. When she finally drags him back with his carrier bag, he is greeted with a round of applause as he gets on our bus – his bus has already left without him. Sue sits down after another succesful hunt.
We arrive late at night at the hotel. We eat, drink and then sleep.
Whilst the rest of the orchestra lay in their beds this morning, I have to jolt my body clock into the new time zone rather abruptly. As I got up at 7.30am, I tried to ignore my body screaming at me to go back to sleep, as back home it was 4.30am. However, Lennie, Kathryn and I were meeting Sir Colin Davis at the Emirates Palace to give a talk about the way we all work together. It was aimed at Business leaders and it was rumoured that the Sheikh himself was going to attend. For something that I was quite worried about, it was an enjoyable experience. Standing up in a room full of business leaders from the United Arab Emirates and talking about what a great leader Colin is is daunting at the best of times, but its even more tricky when he is sat next to you. Colin, being quite a modest man look rather embarrassed at having to hear us talk about him in such a way and in his typical way was very self deprecating. I mentioned to the assembled guests that I enjoy the eye contact we always have at key moments, such as just before a flute solo; I would look at Colin, he would look at me and then we would play. Colin of course replied that he thought I was looking at him as if to say, “look here, don’t you get in my way, this is my solo, don’t you spoil it or I shall hang you”!
I can honestly say that when I look at Colin in concerts, this thought has never crossed my mind. If you are a regular reader, you’ll know that he is one of my favourites, so if you see him, do reassure him will you? As said, I have never looked at Colin and had these thoughts. There are other conductors though…
The seminar finished with a round up of all we had discussed and the man running the event came up with some wonderful quotes from the LSO’s past. He read them out from his Emirates notepaper in the Emirates palace,
“ The LSO was founded in 1904 and is a self governing orchestra. The LSO runs a wonderful education programme for young people called Discovery. The LSO is often referred to as the Manchester United of orchestras…”
The sheikh raised his hand. “Excuse me”
“Er, yes your highness.” replied the businessman looking rather shocked that the Sheikh himself had interrupted.
“Whe you come here and tell us about the wonderful LSO, I think you mean’t to say Manchester City!”
The room roared with laughter. A very wise man indeed.
First show tonight. Stay tuned.