Music soothes the Seoul

By | March 11, 2014 at 7:24 am | 3 comments | China Taiwan South Korea India March 2014, LSO On Tour | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

No expense spared at Hong Kong airport check-in

The mist decided to lift and unveil the spectacular skyline of Hong Kong just as we left for the airport. Having visited a decade ago, the ever changing city is no doubt quite different, but it was difficult to tell when walking through the cloud cover. Before the concert Chris Redditch and I went for a quick drink in the Intercontinental to take advantage of the incredible view across the bay.“Excuse me.”

I turned to see two women.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but can I have my picture taken with you?”

This doesn’t happen very often. What was strange though, was that the concert had just started (we were only in the second half) and so it was unlikely that this was to do with being in the LSO.

“Er, sure, I don’t see why not.”

The barman was looking a little nervous. As she sidled up beside me I asked her why she wanted a picture of me. Was it because I looked like someone famous, was it because she had a weird collection of selfies with random men in bars, was I about to be cunningly used in a false alibi or was she the Hong Kong rep for the British Flute Society?

“Oh, you just really look like my brother in law. Bob.”
“I see. That’s the worst chat up line I’ve ever heard.”
“No really, you just look like him that’s all.’  She had no sense of humour. She handed Chris the camera.
“Can you take the picture please.”

Didn’t she know who he was? She obviously hadn’t read the Redditch Advertiser.

The concert was a great success with cheers for Yujia and Daniel, a huge roar for Star Wars, but the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for my fellow blogger Maxine who was the recipient of Daniel’s flowers. She had said that she had a lot of relatives at the concert, but judging by the screams, I reckon it was at least 50% Kwok in the audience. After the show there was a large crowd waiting for autographs and for the second time that night I was approached by a member of the public with a camera. I stood next to him as his friend took the shot with the obligatory V sign. We smiled and I asked him if he had enjoyed the concert. “Yes. You were amazing!” he said. I was pretty pleased as I had only played in the last movement of Mahler 1, but I like to think I make an impact. He thrust a pen in my hand and  proceeded to open the programme. He found the list of orchestral players and on the opposing page was a large picture of Daniel Harding in full flight. He pointed at Dan,

“You sign this? You were amazing!”
“You want me to sign a picture of Daniel?” I asked, just in case I’d got the wrong end of the stick. It seems wrong to graffiti a maestro.
“Yes please…this is you?”

He pointed at the picture of Dan.

“Er…no….that’s Daniel Harding. I was playing flute. 4th flute. Doubling piccolo.”
“Oh. Sorry.”

He shut the programme, took the pen from my hand and turned away, suddenly uninterested in my piccolo playing. I got onto the coach and looked out through the rain trickling down the windows at the crowds still waiting for Daniel. I felt a little deflated. The guy was still there with his pen and his programme. He was deleting pictures from his camera.

Dinner that night was a fantastic meal provided by Sir David Tang at his Cipriani restaurant. He is always such a generous host when we come to this part of the world and his speech was a highlight of the evening. His collection of metaphors and similes is, I’m sad to say, unprintable but the puttanesca tasted particularly authentic that night.

The view from my seat at sunset on the journey from Seoul Airport

The band was in a quiet state of mind as we sat at Hong Kong airport, nervously reading news of the disappearance of the plane en route to Beijing. No matter how much I fly, I still don’t like it and it still makes me nervous, but we have a job to do and so I relax back into my seat and watch a film as we pass through endless turbulence. I take up every offer of wine until we land safely. As you come in to land in Seoul, you can clearly see the enormous raised highway that sweeps across the flat plains that are at time covered with water and at others, vast flats of mud. As we drive across it at sunset, there is no water and the land gently undulates for miles and miles until it’s broken by a sudden surge of mountains in the distance. As I stare out of the window listening to Jessye Norman singing on my iPod, I feel calm for the first time that day and as we are now past the half way point of this tour, I drift off to sleep and allow my thoughts to travel home and to my family. They seem such a long way away. Thousands of miles and six days.

The Hong Kong audience was enthusiastic, but nothing could have prepared us for the reception we got in Seoul last night. In the vast space of the hall, the audience sit all around us and they were extremely attentive. The end of Petroushksa is quiet and harmonically ambiguous, unlike Mahler 1 where there is no doubt at all. As the final pizzicati sound, audiences everywhere are unlikely to explode into applause, except in Seoul. They went nuts, shouting, clapping and waving furiously. The people sat behind us were making so much noise, Dan told us all to turn round and wave. We did and they made even more noise which prompted the audience who were now behind us to make even more noise. It was like a competition! We played the march from the Love of Three Oranges as an encore, but they continued to roar so much that we played Tchaikovsky’s Polonaise from Eugene Onegin as well. But still they wouldn’t stop and eventually Dan practically ran offstage and came back on with the massive score to the theme from Star Wars. The decibel level increased again drowned out only by the B Flat chord that starts that piece. I could see 2500 smiling faces in the audience and when the last notes fired out into the hall, the place erupted like South Korea had just won the World Cup. I’ve never seen the whole LSO smiling and laughing so much on stage. Just for a moment, it was like playing in  a rock band. I can’t wait to get home now, but it was nice to be reminded how much joy music can bring all around the world.

The noisy standing ovation in Seoul


  1. anon (1 year ago)

    That is a brilliant story. It reminds me of a famous living composer who was having a symphonic piece performed alongside a Mahler symphony. He was approached for an autograph at the end, and just as he was about to sign, the audience member said to her friend, “Look, it is Mahler!”. The composer, not wanting to break the spell, promptly signed “with best wishes, Gustav”.

  2. Jeannie (1 year ago)

    I was at your last night’s concert and Mahler 1 was amazing. What really impressed me was your sound control. How did you guys do it? Seoul Arts Center is notorious for its sound system as it has horrible echos and we call it “sauna hall sound” I was seated at 1st box as it is best seat to avoid such echo after numerous tries in different parts of the hall. Regardless, I was almost mistaken last night as if I were seated in KKL, the best acoustic Hall I have ever attended. One of my friend guessed probably its because Barbican Hall’s sound is equally notorious so LSO might know best way to adjust to such environment. However, I attended your concert last year with Hitink but didn’t feel the same way at the same Hall at the exact same seat. May I ask how many times have you rehearsed in the hall? Its incredible as none of the World class Orchestra who came to Korea has ever achieved it so far and not even Seoul philharmonic, the most frequent performer of the hall.

    Anyways, the classic music lover’s age is quite young in Korea so many orchestra got shocked by its rock-star like cheers. Many world class orchestra got hooked and ended up coming every year. Haha. You should have seen the queue of people lined up to get autograph of Sabine Myer and Markus Stenz few weeks ago in Seoul arts center. At least few hundreds of people lined up. Almost half of the audience rushed out not even listing to encore just to get in the queue first.. Amazing. Amyways thanks for the humorous posing. I laughed out loud at World Cup part :) It is interesting to read orchestra’s behind the scene.

    • Gareth Davies (1 year ago)

      Thanks for your message. I’m really glad you enjoyed the concert. I must admit I found the echo the most difficult to deal with in the piano concerto. But as you say, we are used to playing in different acoustics and using our ears quickly to adjust (with a little help from the conductor!)
      The audience is amazing in Seoul, we had a great time and can’t wait to come back!


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