From the comfort of the train speeding through the Spanish countryside, you could be forgiven for thinking that it is summer. The sun is high and the deep blue stretches far into the distance, the only clouds visible on the horizon look like chalk cliffs. But the thermometer inside the carriage says that it is only 10 degrees outside and every now and then there is a sprinkling of snow between the bare stumps of the vineyards. Still for now, as I close my eyes because of the bright sunshine streaming through the window, I doze off and dream of the summer holiday on another distant horizon.
The train we are on is from Valencia to Zaragoza. Unlike the express we caught yesterday from Madrid, this one takes 5 hours and has no buffet car. I hope that the good people of Valencia didn’t mind, but we almost cleared the station buffet out of food before we departed. We had a lovely time as Juan, our guest principal oboe is from the town and had organised for almost the entire wind section and some wannabes to go down to the beach and eat Paella.
Words cannot do justice to how good it tasted. At the concert that evening he got a cheer just for giving the A. I asked him where his family and friends were sitting.
“Oh my family are sat up there in the balcony, and in the stalls, and by the side.”
He turned round to the audience behind us, someone waved.
“Oh and back there too!”
We couldn’t lose.
By the time we reached Zaragoza, it was 2.30 in the afternoon and it turned out that it was a public holiday in the town. If you’ve ever seen the film 28 days later when the population was wiped out leaving an eerie, empty London? Well, it was like that. Sort of. With the help of Lander, our Basque violist, we found somewhere to eat and after a quick look at the cathedral (incredible), we made our way back to the hotel and then to rehearse for the final show of the tour. It is astonishing how good the hall is in a town which doesn’t have its own orchestra, but its our hall this evening. As usual, MTT checks the balance of the off stage oboe and bells before we all go and get changed for the last time. Juan is still grinning from ear to ear after last night, despite the fact that he stayed up much later than I did, surrounded by friends.
The Fantastic Symphony is always great fun to play, but very tiring. It seems like you never put your instrument down and are scrambling for breath. Tonight is no exception as MTT whips the tempi along so that the final maniacal section takes on an incredible frantic quality. At the end, the audience cheer wildly and after several curtain calls, he signals to the audience that he is off to bed. They laugh and let us go.
As Juan meets more friends and smiles even more, it is lovely to see just how much he is enjoying playing in the LSO (he is very young!). As the year goes on and the tours get longer and further from home, I shall remember him surrounded by his friends and the look of joy on his face at the end of the concerts and remember how lucky I am to sit amongst my friends embraced by this marvellous sound.