Miscommunications are common when you are on tour so far from home. We have been in parts of the world where English is not widely spoken on a day-to-day basis. In China and Taiwan I was often spoken to in Mandarin to blank apologetic stares from me and then when I said, “Sorry, I don’t speak Chinese” in my plummy English voice, blank frankly incredulous looks from them. In Seoul, a lady tried speaking to me in Korean as I entered a shop. I patronisingly mimed with embarrassing slowness, “I need some bo-dy lo-tion”, she piped up in American English, “oh sure, over here, lemme know if you need any help!”
In China I treated myself to a massage – after five minutes the lady said, “How’s my power?” Eh? You make yourself invisible or something? In Seoul I tried to ask ladies working in Toni & Guy hair salon, directions to a famous department store, “Hyundai?” I queried. “Blow dry?” she responded.
In Macau I just about got by as they speak Cantonese but I’m certainly a million miles from being fluent. On the coach to the airport, my colleagues were complaining about the loud radio blaring. I offered to speak to the driver, what I think I ended up saying was, “Dear old man, please pull down the strength of the music.” Not exactly poetic but it worked at any rate.
Hong Kong was like thirty-six hours of holiday for me, a chance to see the 20+ family and friends who had managed to secure tickets for a concert which sold out within a couple of days back in October. We had not been back to the HK Art’s festival since 2007 so it was a real treat, albeit a flying visit. My family hollered for encores and were not disappointed, I think there was a tussle over who would get the flowers generously bestowed onto me by the conductor. Thank you Daniel, I’m sooooooo grateful
Afterwards we were invited to dine at the Cipriani restaurant by LSO supporter David Tang. He most generously invited us to eat and drink to our heart’s content. Uh oh, did he know what he was letting himself in for? Being teetotal I tried to eat as much as I have spent in Shanghai Tang over the years but even with my vast appetite I failed miserably. It was a lovely event, people were merry, a few went onto catch the rugby and, not naming names, were seen stumbling into the hotel worse for wear as orchestral members were going for breakfast..
I suppose the biggest miscommunication came last night in Seoul. Playing in the huge hall of the arts centre to a packed crowd the audience applauded wildly and waved furiously. Chanting and shouting I wondered what it must be like to be at a Korean pop concert. I was beginning to understand what Psy (the only man to outbling me) must have felt like performing his “Gangnam Style” to live audiences.
The first encore was the Prokoviev’s March from The Love for Three Oranges which caused a woman in the choir stalls to exclaim, “oh?!” as it finished. Not sure if this was their type of piece but they wildy cheered on regardless. It was akin to a Samsung convention the amount of photos that were being snapped. Daniel came back to ovation after ovation and as he walked off, said to the back of the section, “Next one will be the Polonaise”. He was back in a flash and apparently mouthed, “Polonaise”/”Tchaikovsky”/”Man U rules” god knows what, because as the first chords rang out, one trumpet had evidently not been looking or was unable to lip read. Rod Franks ‘fessed up to me later – he only had one encore in his pad of music and stated, “I was taught to play what was on the page”. He had started Star Wars.
I don’t think I have ever seen conductor and orchestra collapse into heaps of laughter whilst still managing to play and I’m sure we’ll be re-telling the story for a long time. A few more ovations and we had, by now, played ten minutes of encores. Daniel retreated backstage, discreetly through the orchestra this time and came back front of stage brandishing his score of Star Wars, the roof almost came off as the audience whooped, and then it really did come off as the familiar trumpet B flat rang out as we were transported to a (samsung) galaxy (note) far far away.