Happy new year! We are on the first LSO tour of 2014 and already Gareth has brought the curse of South Eastern trains with him. After a packed house last night in Geneva’s gloriously ornate Victoria Hall we stumbled from our hotel to the station in order to catch the direct train to Paris, or so we thought… A blissful three hours in Kipland awaited me, complete with new neck pillow. (Yes I pushed the boat out over Christmas). Alas, after only minutes we reached the first stop whereupon the train kept juddering on and off for another twenty minutes or so and then fell eerily silent. Sitting with Sylvain I was privy to the train announcement somewhere in the region of, “The train is broken, now sod off”. Hundreds of grumbling commuters (and loads of very disappointed Chinese enroute to the flagship Louis Vuitton store, otherwise known as the Mothership) trooped to another platform which was due to take us to Lyon and from there another train could be caught in order to get us to Paris. All happy visions of a leisurely lunch blew away faster than a Japanese Shinkansen train.
We all crowded onto the platform, luggage, conductor, soloist and included. I’m sure John Eliot Gardiner and Maria-João Pires were very civilised in their approach to boarding the train, but where we were standing, the crush and panic reminded me of the sharp elbow technique employed at the post-Christmas Harrods’ sale.
After ninety minutes we arrived in Lyon with half an hour to kill before the connection. Station staff were handing out “assistance” boxes and as is usual for musicians faced with free stuff, we eagerly crowded round, our fat little paws outstretched. On examining the contents we discovered water, a strange tin of tuna, a pot chocolate of mousse that need not be refrigerated (I say no more), Walker’s shortbread (yay!), dry toasts and spread, some pretzel sticks and last but by no means least… a colouring book complete with colouring pencils! I’m surprised there wasn’t a tub of “play dough” in there too. Rather than practise colouring within the lines, I decided to queue up at “Paul” for something slightly more substantial to eat on the next leg of the journey. Having enough energy was essential for one vital aspect of the concert..
The last few projects we have shared with John Eliot, he has expressed a strong desire for the violins and violas to perform one of the pieces standing up. It certainly adds another element to the performance whether you are in favour of orchestras playing this way or not. I expect it looks more dramatic but it’s definitely more tiring and I’d like to invite the men who were complaining to try playing the symphony teetering on the edge of the stage in 5 inch heels. I spent an interesting few minutes packing for the tour and contemplating what would be most comfortable to play in without revealing to the world that I’m actually four foot five..
We do get the first half of the concert to happily rest on our backsides and hear the wonderful Maria-João Pires perform the Schumann concerto. John Eliot told us she had last performed it with him twenty years ago. Perhaps that’s how she maintains such a fresh approach to the piece and with such outstanding lyrical beauty. The audiences have gone wild, especially with more Schumann as an encore, the rather melancholy and introspective piece, “The prophet bird”.
So far, after two standing performances no one has keeled over in the Scottish symphony, (maybe I’ll hand out some whiskey tomorrow) or kicked another player unintentionally with their heels. (Intentionally maybe…) We are greatly encouraged by John Eliot to move about and “dance” with the music. Not easy to do after we are so conditioned to sitting within the section to play but we are gamely trying. I certainly find it a challenge dancing about on the spot in stilettos without stomping on my desk partner’s toes or leaping kamikaze-like into the laps of the front row.
And so tomorrow we take the train back to Lyon to perform an afternoon concert and return to Paris to put our heads down for the night. Monday morning sees us travelling home to London to perform this concert to a sold out crowd at the Barbican on Tuesday. After all this standing up I wonder if I could get an “assistance box” complete with a foot massage voucher or at least some spongy shoe inserts…