One big aspect of touring is knowing what to pack. Not such a problem when you are considering your wardrobe for five concerts around Germany say, but for three weeks taking in the cold temperatures of China, a muggy Hong Kong to scorching India in the same trip, things start to get a little more complicated. Hopefully at some point soon, somebody on Dragon’s Den will invent a pair of boots that doubles as a hairdryer. If I had my way I’d probably be packing a case that weighed in excess of 50 kilos but faced with the usual economy 23 kilos (ok, stretch that to 25 if you smile sweetly and apologetically at the check-in staff) and the positively heart-stopping 20 kilos for internal flights within China, it becomes a whole new ball game. Until then, sadly I have had to make the heartbreaking decision to leave my trainers and gym kit at home.
We often look on with jealousy when visiting orchestras park their official belongings backstage at our home in the Barbican. Occasionally in Japan we will get wardrobe boxes but these are flimsy cardboard boxes. You trip into one and it literally collapses, mostly the hangers (that people nick from hotels, I won’t name them or we’ll get banned) being too heavy, fall down or the clothes slip off so you are left flailing about reaching into a box hoping to retrieve some semblance of black clothes. But oh no, many orchestras tour with proper solid wardrobe boxes that would survive a nuclear blast. Lucky them.
On this tour we are playing eleven concerts. This entails for sure one pair of extra shoes that is highly unlikely to be worn in any other circumstance. (Patent black shoes and white linen trousers anyone?) For the men, a tailcoat, hopefully two pairs of concert trousers and (you’d think) a few white shirts. I did hear of one colleague who wore the same shirt on a similarly long tour, not sure he was so popular towards the end of the trip. The ladies have the advantage of mixing and matching black items but it’s still a hefty part of the suitcase. We have to be rather envious of soloist Yuja Wang who did say in a recent interview that the advantage of having such small concert outfits is that she can fit more shoes into her suitcase. Now this mentality I can relate to.
That said, my case was already overweight when we departed London. Not a problem for the long haul flight but two days later we were due an internal flight where the limit was a measly 20kg. I had met friends in Beijing who had generously bestowed me with gifts, so spent a good hour weighing and re-weighing until I hit the magic 20 kilos. Consequently my hand baggage was cripplingly heavy. I was rather pleased with myself, until I discovered fellow violinist Miya had checked her case, weighing in at a whopping 29 kilos with no problems. Not sure if she’s transporting gold bars or something but anyone who fancies a hernia, have a go at lifting her case.
It was the orchestra’s first trip to Macau today. We were bussed from Guangzhou and dropped at the border two hours later where we all filed in sleepily with suitcases to pass through immigration. Two more coach journeys later we were in Vegas baby! I mean Macau. The Venetian, the Sands… Casino after casino. Most people headed off to find Portuguese food but afterwards were concerned after at how garlic-laden it had been. I didn’t notice anyone passing out from fumes during the concert so it couldn’t have been too bad.
The hall was awash with posters of our concert, and staff were welcoming for our first trip to their new concert venue. Perhaps our reputations had preceded us, as we were provided with some highly calorific snacks to make us feel right at home.
As I diligently research into dumpling restaurants for a late lunch in Taipei tomorrow I do wonder how many of my colleagues have been lured into casinos post-concert. Hopefully without using their instruments as collateral… Perhaps that’s where Miya is with all her gold bars. I guess I’ll know if she’s had a big win if I spy her case topping 30 kilos at check-in today.