The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society has charged me with the task of writing the blog for the forthcoming Tour of Spain 2010. The RLPO enjoys a busy international touring schedule. We have toured Switzerland already this year and will be touring China in October. This trip is of special significance for me as I have worked extensively with three Spanish Orchestras in the past. I had a job in Malaga and did periods of work in Seville and Oviedo.
The RLPO will be performing a four concert tour at three major international music festivals. We fly into Biarritz and travel by coach to San Sebastian for the Quincena Musical Festival for two concerts. The first programme will consist of: Elgar – Cockaigne; Gubaidulina – Under The Sign of Scorpio; and Shostakovitch – Symphony no. Five. The second evening will consist of Chopin – Piano Concerto no. One and Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. The next port of call for the RLPO will be the Festival Internacional in Santander. The programme will be a repeat of the first night in San Sebastian. For the remainder of the tour, the orchestra will be staying in La Coruna, from where we will commute to Santiago De Compostela to perform in the Xacobeo 2010 festival. All performances will be conducted by the RLPO’s dynamic and charismatic Chief Conductor, Vasily Petrenko.
Musically, I am really looking forward to the Xacobeo as we will be performing ‘Parsifal’, the epic opera by Richard Wagner. The choice of programme is significant as it is about the search for the Holy Grail. Of course, Santiago is said to be where St. James journeyed with the Holy Grail. The city is the final destination of one of the most important pilgrimage routes, known as El Camino. The RLPO will be performing in the Auditorio De Galicia with a stellar cast of international artists. Interestingly, despite the subject matter, Parsifal has never been performed in Galicia before as the full five hour opera.
This tour has occurred half way through the RLPO annual summer break. So, it was something of a shock to the system to enjoy a three week holiday and go straight into eighteen hours of gruelling rehearsal over three days. Petrenko always works the RLPO hard in rehearsal and I admire his attitude of always trying to achieve something; never allowing us to rest on our laurels. Of course, after a break, the orchestra needs working hard to get back into peak performance mode.
Although the RLPO doesn’t travel out until Monday, the tour has begun in earnest for some. Following the final rehearsal on Friday, the instruments, equipment, wardrobes and flight cases were all loaded aboard the orchestra lorry. The van drivers and platform managers then set off over land to meet up with us on Monday. Seldom mentioned publicly, let me assure you that the orchestra would not get very far without this team. Our long serving platform managers are Ian Doran and Alan Scollins. Incidentally, Ian is affectionately known as Ian Van Driver and as a result, his young daughter has been called ‘Mini Van Driver’.
Touring is an exciting aspect of being in an international symphony orchestra. Of course, it takes musicians away from their families and is certainly not a holiday. Most return home tired and in need of a rest. I myself have to make careful arrangements for Scooby the Spaniel and my extensive ‘Urban Farm’. I am already dreading the state my tomatoes, sweetpeas and runner beans will be in on my return. However, spending over a week in all that beautiful Spanish scenery, the weather, enjoying all that famous food etc and rich, diverse Spanish culture is going to be wonderful. Oh yes, er, and of course some great concerts also. Stay ‘tuned to the blog and I will give a full account of life on the road with the RLPO.
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