Tour has started! It’s been six days since our first concert in London, and time is absolutely flying. Since that first concert we’ve played two more concerts in Stratford, and as I write we’re en route to Ottawa for an afternoon off followed by a concert Wednesday evening. Since we’re so busy playing concerts, exploring cities, and loading in and out of hotels and buses, I’ll do my best over the next two weeks to document this incredible journey.
The London concert took place in the middle of an awful heat wave; on the day of the concert the weather hit 36 degrees, and the short walk from our dormitory to the concert hall led to bouts of sweating and fatigue. Luckily the auditorium was air conditioned, and the heat outside wasn’t enough to stop a great audience from showing up. After spending so much time in London, it felt great to present our music to the locals with whom we’d been talking for so long.
Three days later we were loading up our first bus to say farewell to the University of Western Ontario. We rolled in to Stratford around noon, and set off for some lunch and exploration. There plenty of nifty little stores and restaurants, and I enjoyed trying on my first kilt in the Scottish souvenir store and basking in the smell of a fine cheese shop. In the afternoon we watched a Salvadorian percussion ensemble perform a park side concert on a river barge, then we headed off to our first sound check. The first Stratford concert took place in a large church which brought in a large crowd to hear another concert played in intense heat. As enjoyable as performing was the hours spent between sound check and performance, when the orchestra found a box of athletic equipment in the church gym and had impromptu soccer matches and frisbee tournaments.
After a night in a bed fit for a king at the Delta hotel in Kitchener, we were back in Stratford for a very special memorial concert celebrating the life of the beloved Canadian contralto Maureen Forrester, who passed away last year. The program took place in the beautiful Avon Theatre, and many people showed up to celebrate this iconic figure of Canadian music. Instead of playing one of our normal programs, we had a special program featuring a Gilbert and Sullivan suite, a few opera numbers, and then we ended our playing with the heart wrenching Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. Though not many of us in the orchestra were alive during the peak of Forrester’s career, being able to perform a concert that meant so much for so many people was incredibly moving and inspiring to us all. As soon as we left the stage though, we were told to get changed and hop on the bus to head to Kingston for the night. As quickly as we arrived in Stratford, we were gone.
If you’re wondering how an entire 95 piece orchestra and faculty travels, it’s no small feat. All the large instruments which wouldn’t fit on a bus, like the harps and basses, go on a separate truck along with the sheet music, music stands, and other concert supplies. The orchestra is split up on to two large coach busses, with our small instruments in the overhead compartments and our tuxedo bags and suitcases underneath. The maestro and his family, along with some program officials, travel in a super duper speedy minivan so that while our bus just goes hotel to hotel, they can attend dinner functions and media gatherings.
That’s all for now, as I’m going to take this opportunity on the bus to enjoy some much needed rest. More adventures lie ahead in Ottawa!
Kilometres traveled: 543