You often require a great deal of patience on tour. There can be endless standing around in queues at the airport and hotels especially. Maybe one day I will calculate how many years an orchestral musician will spend queuing at airport security. I always think I have the queue choice down to a fine art – pick single business travellers, no families with buggies and the like, certainly no one with an instrument in tow, but inevitably I always get it wrong, huffing and puffing, carrying my shoes and standing on tip toe pretending I’m not 4 ft tall.
We only left London yesterday and we have already landed in Budapest, played in Budapest, flown to Warsaw and performed here tonight. Yesterday at Gatwick we were herded onto a bus taking us far out onto the end of the airport away from the big posh planes. There’s always a scrum when it comes to boarding a charter plane, if you thought Ryanair was bad, don’t get in front of musicians trying to board a charter. There are seats for everyone but since it’s a veritable free for all, many people take on the mentality of “I’d run my last remaining grandparent over for a spot by the window”. We were all chanting and raring to go as the bus doors opened and amazingly my friend Sylvain made it up the stairs to board first. He won’t mind me telling you that this is quite a feat for a man of his size and stature. (That said, he is still recovering some 36 hours later.)
We were welcomed onto the charter plane named “Small Planet” which was crewed by some very friendly and judging by most of them turning up to our concert in Budapest, music-loving young men. It’s always fun if a charter crew is with you for a few journeys as there’s a fair bit of banter, the food is usually slightly off-kilter and the seats are even more squashed than a regular flight so you really need to sit with people you know well. The front couple of rows are reserved for any VIPs such as conductors or soloists who are travelling with us. Today I observed conductor for this tour Daniel Harding knocking the wall of the plane and looking rather perturbed as we heard a rather papery hollow sound. That said, the flight attendant during the safety briefing did announce, “should you need a life vest, which you won’t, they are located under the seat”. Well he seems pretty confident then!
We landed in Warsaw at lunchtime and on arrival at the Sofitel, the ninety of us bore down hungrily on the reception desk. Usually we would find a table with all the hotel keys laid out neatly for us, sometimes with maps for good measure, but it was disappointingly empty. Sue Mallet banged down her clipboard and took charge of the situation. We milled around as keys were produced with painful slowness and names were called. Many people decided to use the two hours wisely and abandoned their cases to head out in search of food, but my priority was a nap so I held on til the bitter end. This involved waiting until no more rooms for the foreseeable future were ready. No one lost their rag, even Jonathan Lipton, our 4th horn player, who is well known for his rather urgent desire to arrive first everywhere, is pictured here taking the news pretty well.
We were rewarded for our stoic, quietly British “let’s not create a fuss” attitude at the rehearsal – there was an announcement that due to the chaos at check in, the hotel would be providing us with a free buffet post concert. Including free soft drinks and… WINE! Now I’m not sure they knew what they were getting themselves in offering free booze to musicians but let say I hope they were planning to clear their cellars tonight.
Well we’re flying to Vilnius early on the morrow so it’s bedtime from me, but I plan to leave the Sofitel staff a little surprise when they come to clean my room as a thank you for the dinner…