Shopping in the dark just isn’t cool

I always miss my family, especially in New York where there are so many things I would like to share with them. It doesn’t seem right going up the Empire State Building on my own without my wife and/or the kids gasping in amazement. Sadly half term is the week after we get back. Of course this means before the concert I am getting increasingly desperate trying to find presents for everyone. I lurk outside a very threatening looking shop which seems to cater only for very young, thin and beautiful people, categories which do not apply to me. The music coming from inside is very loud even though it is 10am and it is so dark inside I cannot see what it actually sells. However, I know I must venture inside as I have orders from home. The shop is called Hollister and for anyone over the age of 16, it sells clothes and dreams.

I eventually pluck up courage to go in and it reminds me of an art installation a few years back at the Tate Modern where you walked into a pitch black room which makes you aware of your other senses. This shop takes it one step further, for as well as almost total darkness, your aural abilities are impaired by earsplitting music. The three bulbs they have installed seem to all be pointed directly at my eyes rendering me temporarily blind. I am looking for t-shirts for my boys. There are hundreds of them but it is so dark they all might be the same colour. Or not. I start to sweat and a young man wearing one of the t-shirts comes over.

“Hey buddy!”


My boys would be crushed with embarrassment. However that is the end of our conversation. I walk around and every so often a young man or woman wearing hardly anything pops out from behind a plant and says. “Hey buddy!” I don’t know where they get these people from but they are all unbelievably perfect specimens. Its like they’ve all been photoshopped. In real life. Not very good at small talk, mind.

Ten minutes later I am still wandering around squinting in the darkness, my face etched with pain from the decibels. I simply can’t see what I’m looking at, possibly it is a red t-shirt, or maybe it’s green. Then a young lady comes and stands next to me.

“Hey buddy!”

“Oh…er… hey!”

“Do you need some help?”

“Actually yes I do. I can’t really see what colour the t-shirts are!”

She laughs and says, “For sure, a lot of people your age say that…”

Before I can feel irritated she smiles the biggest smile I have ever seen with the whitest teeth I have ever seen. For about 5 seconds the glow of her teeth light up the racks of t-shirts. I grab a red one and a green one before she stops smiling and the light goes out once more.

“Cheers love!”

I pay and leave as fast as possible.

In my haste to leave the shop I almost bump into three ladies. They smile, slightly less impressively.

“Excuse me are you from Noo York?”

“I’m afraid not! I am from London.”

The three of them turn and look at each other.

“Oh my gawd. Did you hear his accent?”

“I did! Oh my gawd, I looooove that Briddish accent.”

“Oh wow me too. Say you know who you sound like?”

“I really have no idea.”

“He does doesn’t he?

“Yes! Yes he does!”

“You know you sound just like Hugh Grant.”

“Yes you do. Hugh Grant.”

“We love Hugh Grant!”

“We love your Briddish accent!”

“Golly really. Wow, gosh thanks. You erm… have a good day ladies.”

It is 10.30am and I have been forced into a parody of myself. I feel very uncool indeed, although I have to confess that this does have something to do with it being my 40th birthday last week. There. I’ve said it out loud.

After my stressful experience in the shops I realise I am actually rather looking forward to playing Missa Solemnis with Sir Colin in the evening. It is a piece that has really grown on me and it is also a lot easier to play in the Lincoln Center compared to the Albert Hall back in the summer, when I was still in my thirties. We start the rehearsal with the opening chords and Colin looks and listens. The balance is pretty good and after about 10 minutes he calls the rehearsal to a halt.

“Really I think we should stop. Let’s leave it until the concert.”

And so we finish early which gives everyone a chance to have a cup of tea. As I walk off stage, Colin approaches,

“Mr Davies. I owe you an apology.”

“Really Sir Colin? Whatever for?”

“For not using all of the rehearsal.”

“I don’t see many angry faces around, do you?”

He gives me one of his cheeky smiles, “No! Quite!” He disappears into the lift.

An hour or so later we all reassemble on the stage with the magnificent LSO Chorus behind. Colin walks on with the soloists and we begin. I must confess that there are times when this piece can feel like it goes on forever, but not tonight, in fact I enjoy it so much I wish it could go on forever. The reviews of the concert were good and they all try to place their finger on why it was so good. However, it simply cannot be done. Something Colin does, or something in the way he is (and I don’t just mean he is old and wise) gets right to the heart of the work. I wrote in the last blog about the affection that we have for Colin in the LSO, but the way the chorus sang for him, we aren’t the only ones. They were truly breathtaking.

Earlier on in the day I had been half listening to the TV and the story on the local news was that GQ Magazine had announced that Brooklyn was the coolest place on the planet. Specifically Williamsburg. This had obviously upset some people, mainly people in Manhattan who disagreed, and also people in Brooklyn who didn’t really want everyone coming in and spoiling it. So after a day when I had been too uncool to find the correct t-shirt and then reminded some women of Hugh Grant it had been a relief to be part of a concert that was way beyond cool. Who needs to worry about being cool when you get to work with Colin in NYC in a performance like that!

Sharon grabbed me immediately after the show.

“Come on, we are going out to celebrate your 40th birthday!”

In secret, she had organised about 20 people to meet us in a restaurant. I was touched.

“So where are we going?” I asked.

“It’s a little restaurant I found. It’s really cool!”

“Great, where is it then?” I asked as we descended into the subway.

“We have to get on the train because it’s in Williamsburg in Brooklyn.” she said.

I smiled. Did you see the thing about GQ Magazine on the news today then?”

“No. What was that then?”

“Oh nothing. Let’s go.”

Sharon just is cool.

Editor’s note
You all know of course that Gareth is the LSO’s very talented Principal Flute, as well as a very talented writer. Don’t miss the chance to check out just how talented when he steps out of the Orchestra to perform Nielsen’s Flute Concerto on Wednesday 9 November at the Barbican in London. Get tickets here.

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.
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2 Responses to Shopping in the dark just isn’t cool

  1. Elizabeth Owen says:

    Good luck for tonight and we hope that you enjoy the concert.

    By the way we live in north Wales and make special journeys to see LSO concerts. The hotel we stay at is already heavily booked for next summer. Would it be possible for you to give us the dates when you will be at the proms next year and any other concerts like COL Festival or Olympic stuff? We don’t need to know the programmes just the dates please. BBC will not publish Proms booklet until the end of April which will make it impossiboe for those of us who live way out to come.
    Many thanks

  2. LSO says:

    Hi Elizabeth – will send you an email!
    Jo (editor & admin)

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