Project Manager Craig Thorne gives us a progress update…
I certainly can’t take all the credit for Plan C – I must mention everyone in the Discovery team who pulled together to make it happen: Paul, Elie, Becca and Laura who spent many hours on hold and online with just about every land, sea and air transport company in the business! It’s a real testament to the dedication Discovery have for the work we undertake … failure is simply not an option.
So, too many hours at the wheel later and we eventually arrived in the south of France just after 1am on Saturday morning. The GPS told us we had exceeded the speed limit only once (!) although Tom begs to differ. A quick phone to call to the amazing Frédérique from the festival and she jumped out of bed and met us at the Hotel in Aix with our room keys and instructions for the rapidly approaching morning Youth Orchestra workshops.
We arrived early at the school and were greeted by 157 young instrumentalists, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, of course! Tom, Ginette, Paul and Joost led sectionals in the morning and the afternoon was set aside for tutti rehearsals with Mark Withers. Mark, unfortunately, was somewhere on a train in the middle of France and not due to arrive till the end of the day, so Tom dutifully conducted the strings for their arrangement of Water Music and Joost lead the wind, brass and percussion for their Rite (Lite) of Spring. Both were fantastic in their conducting débuts, and Joost even provided a few comedic moments with his instructions in French: ‘watch the conductor’ turned into ‘please watch me all day, every day’ (the girls liked this). The participants made excellent progress during the afternoon and left the day full of enthusiasm for their concert in June. It never ceases to amaze me how the wonderful LSO players carry about their work in the most expert, caring and professional way, even in the most difficult of situations.
It was apparent that air travel restrictions were likely to continue, but lucky for me I have a great team back in London, and Emily Murray (Discovery Schools Coordinator) spent most of her weekend in the office booking trains for players get home. Adding to our frustrations with cancelled flights, the TGV drivers in France were on strike over the weekend and finding suitable trains was like finding hens’ teeth. But Emily came up with the goods and Tom and Paul made it as far as Paris on Sunday evening to connect with the first available Eurostar on Monday evening [tonight].
Mark, Ginette and Joost have sessions in Aix and Marseille on Monday and Tuesday – workshop leader training, school wind and string groups, a community orchestra, and a Womens’ group creating film music. With fingers crossed we’ll all make it back to London later in the week, albeit with missed orchestra sessions and additional child-care enlisted. Joost has very kindly offered to accompany me in the car for the long journey home, for which I am very grateful. Anyway, someone needs to keep an eye out for those annoying speed cameras!