New wine in old bottles

“Good morning sir…oh, it’s you! I think I spoke to you yesterday didn’t I?”
So says the the thin young man with a wispy post pubescent attempt at a beard and a complicated haircut as he accosts me outside the Udderbelly tent as I make my way to rehearsal.

“Er, no I don’t think so.”

In fact, I know so, as I have never seen him before and as we only arrived yesterday and this is the first time I have walked through town and I would remember his haircut. It’s one of those ones that trendy hipsters have in Shoreditch, you know the ones where it looks like the hairdresser shaved the bottom bit and then ran away before attacking the floppy bit on the top – from the look of it I can only assume that he ran away when the real barber returned from lunch to find an imposter wielding his clippers.

He hands me a leaflet, puts one hand on his hip and narrows his eyes as he looks at me.

“Are you sure, only you look just like a guy I spoke to yesterday. Oh actually, you know what? I’m mixing you up with George Clooney, I had a long chat with him.”

“Yes.” I reply, “a lot of people make that mistake.”

They don’t.

“Well, why don’t you check out the show. Every day on the hour in the tent.”

I smile and walk off towards the hall, glancing at the leaflet he has thrust in my hand before depositing it with the other 500 I have been given along the Royal Mile. It won’t be a huge surprise to you to know that he was a stand up comedian.

George Clooney on a Harley

Gareth Davies on a Brompton

Joking aside, the famous Edinburgh festival is well known for its fringe events. The town is plastered with adverts for shows which cater to every taste and genre. Depending on where you are in the city, the shows vary from vaguely funny comedians (see above), to literary giants talking about their novels, to the Bottoms Up club where you can do pole dancing classes. And it’s not even May. I haven’t had chance yet to sample the events, but tomorrow after the morning rehearsal I shall wander round and see what takes my fancy.

Tonight is the second symphonies of Brahms and Szymanowski. In rehearsal today, Valery was quite vocal about the way we should approach the Brahms.

“I speak about structure.”

We put our instruments on our laps.

“You know Brahms is very structured…like bricks. You know when they built the Olympic stadium? At first…nothing.”

He waved his hands in a flat line.

“And then we get bricks, one on top of the other until we have finished stadium. This is Brahms symphony.”

Valery then sang some of the ‘bricks’ of the part of the first movement we were playing.

“I heard concert when I was student. Very good conductor, very good orchestra, but after concert I felt like something was missing. It was very good, very perfect, all bricks were there and in right place, but is that what we want? No. If you walk along, marching it is fine but it is not music. Now we have to play with musicality, we have to make music with these bricks or there is no point.”

Valery with some of the bricks he was talking about

I think that it explains itself and also quite a lot about Valery. He wasn’t asking us to simply play the notes, but to join them together, in fact, the opening phrasing of the first movement he asks exactly the opposite of another conductor I have played with and he doesn’t want it in the rehearsal just the concert. I know that when we go on stage for the second half, his eyes will be on everyone in the band moulding those bricks into music. The Syzmanowski may be the relatively unknown piece on the programme, but with an old warhorse like Brahms 2, the notes on the page are just the start. The music is somewhere in the gaps. At the Edinburgh International Festival, there are new comedians, writers and composers, but sometimes you can find something new in the most unexpected places.

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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4 Responses to New wine in old bottles

  1. Alex Hartmann says:

    I’m going to tell you a story, so this might be quite long. On my very first visit to London, I was walking down the Strand near Trafalgar Square when a young man (one of very many) insisted I take his flyer. As a tourist, I was on too tight a budget to help the women of Ghana that day or in a position to attend a protest rally two weeks later, so I declined. Repeatedly. But the young man was more insistent than I was, so I took his flyer, read it, and discovered that Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was to be performed at St. Martin in the Fields in fifteen minutes. By candlelight. For six quid! I queued up, paid up, and experienced one of the most magical nights of my life. The moral of this story is you never know what you might discover if you don’t take the time to look. Have fun exploring the Fringe. Cheers!

  2. LSO says:

    It’s true! Although I have just been offered a free seat for 50 shades- the musical. I wish I was joking.

  3. Andrea says:

    I was there yesterday and it was just a sea of odd youths with leaflets. I was offered one outside the Queens hall though for a recital that same afternoon which was very interesting and was in a museum of musical instruments which I didn’t know existed so I got to see that too. Didn’t fancy the stand-up show about Yorkshire though. The young man assured me it would be the funniest thing I saw all year. I told him “I live in Yorkshire, it’s not funny.”

  4. Anna says:

    Great post George…I mean Gareth, hard to spot the difference 🙂
    I’m sure all the bricks will be in place and the mortar will allow suitable pauses to allow the whole piece to breathe.
    Enjoy it!

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