Well it seems only days ago that I was in Austria penning my last tour blog (oh, it was…). Since then we have played three London concerts, (two of them televised for Mezzo and all recorded for LSO Live) and done a day’s recording at Abbey Road Studios for Chinese film, “The Golden Age”. This required turning off our vibrato to facilitate an icy feel to the film and some “delicious” quarter tones which will surely entice one billion Chinese people to stay and watch the credits roll just to see which orchestra was playing so out of tune. Midweek, fellow blogger Gareth even went to Manchester to give a masterclass and recital at Chethams School so we weren’t slacking off, to say the least!
Having had a quick trip to Kipland on the Eurostar I can tell you we are now in Gay Paris and are approaching the end of this mammoth run of Berlioz with Valery Gergiev by bringing it home. The Orchestra is pretty tired, mentally and physically. I saw a colleague go through passport control having forgotten his case at security. There was a mad dash back as security were about to shut down St Pancras and call out the bomb squad over a set of unwashed tails and a change of boxers and T-shirt. AImost every player I spied was nursing a coffee and a grimace. I myself was distracted on my phone, waiting for news of my husband’s impending finger surgery (all went well, he was collected by Bosskwok, that’s my dad, and he’ll be wagging his finger at me again in no time when I’ve done a rare bout of washing up… badly).
We are all very nonchalent when it comes to travelling over to Paris. I suppose because it doesn’t feel very far, especially with the ease of taking the train and skipping the awful stress of airports – mind you there’s usually someone who has to dash home having forgotten their passport. You set your watch forward an hour and just as you nod off, it’s time to stumble off the train and into the hotel opposite Gard de Nord, vainly hoping against hope that your room is ready (today I think a grand total of 3 rooms were ready – sacre bleu!). We come here pretty often and I have to admit it’s never been my favourite place ever since my first visit here on a family trip. (Apologies to anyone on an autumn day in 1991 standing below the Eiffel Tower. I had salmonella food poisoning.) We generally don’t have a huge amount of relaxation time the closer the tour is to London. On this trip we play two concerts within about 30 hours but we do get a Sunday morning lie-in, as long as the housekeeping staff don’t decide to set their hoovers to the world war 3 setting.
So I guess rightly or wrongly we all become a little blasé when it comes to hopping across the Channel to perform for our French neighbours. I was reminded of how exotic Paris is by a friend I made on the recent trip to NY in October. A violinist in the Metropolitan Opera in New York, she is my doppelganger across the Atlantic. Oriental, into all things bling, shopping, visable on YouTube (albeit doing make-up tutorials, which is probably what I should have stuck to…), the only difference is she plays the violin well enough to be in the Met Orchestra. She emailed me a few days ago,
“Paris, OMG you are SOOOO lucky!”
Lucky? Hmm… I would have said earning a big wage, living in NYC, being part of the Met, hardly ever going on tour was pretty lucky, but from her point of view what we were doing, travelling all the time, playing concerts in beautifully cultural cities such as Paris, was extremely lucky. Mind you she probably envisaged hours of time for me browsing through Gallerie Lafayette… we did go past slowly on the coach on the way to the hall which woke some people up.
Salle Pleyel was familiar in its roasting temperature backstage, endless supply of biscuits (it would be interesting to know which visiting orchestra consumes the most) and tiny wifi hotspot backstage which is about 1 metre square right by where the double basses make their home. The usual suspects, myself included, jostle for space and give each other the evil eye as soon as the wifi disappears thanks to someone probably updating their Skype connection or downloading a film for later. There’s actually not a great deal of space, what with all our touring instrument boxes. Here’s chairman Lennie (my deskie for the last two weeks) giving me evils for nabbing the best spot for my violin case.
This was the last Berlioz concert featuring soloist Karen Cargill, with whom I have shared a meal and plenty of hot gossip with – not to be revealed here you nosy parkers – and she fittingly put Cleopatra to rest with her beautiful creamy voice and, might I add for the Francophiles, perfect French. She had a post-concert night out at the Moulin Rouge planned with her husband and I felt if anyone deserved to kick up their heels after this last two weeks it was definitely her!
The second half saw our sixth outing of Symphonie Fantastique and rather than lay back, think of England and go onto auto-pilot, I’d say we really socked it to the Parisian audience right between the eyes. They went wild and I think for everyone, tired or not, first time or 60th time in Paris, we felt pretty gratified at the appreciation of a job well done.
Today we are joined by the London Symphony Chorus for a performance of Romeo and Juliet to round off our Berlioz marathon, before scrambling back onto the train home with drinks and snacks serving as a healthy balanced dinner to prepare for our Principal Guest Conductor Daniel Harding in the morning. Day off? Nah that’s for wimps. With this crazy life – do I feel lucky? Yes, I think I do.