I was up at 5.00am today. I had set the alarm in plenty of time to have breakfast, shower, check my packing etc. The taxi arrived at 5.30 and I was at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool in plenty of time for the 6.00am orchestra bus to Manchester airport. Regular readers will know that I am not keen on flying so the least said about this aspect of the journey the better, as far as I am concerned!
From here, the flight plans meant half the orchestra were to fly to Schiphol Airport and the other half to Heathrow, for some reason. Once at our respective destinations, each half of the orchestra would fly to Bucharest on it’s own place on the ‘hub.’ There can be a lot of hanging around whilst awaiting connecting flights. Orchestra players try hard to keep their spirits up to relieve this tedious pass time.
In my previous post I have made mention of Don Turnbull’s retirement. I’ll take the opportunity here to mention that there have been several new appointments to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Appointing a musician to the orchestra is a lengthy business and the RLPO is painstaking about the process. When a vacancy arises, adverts are placed both nationally and internationally to attract the very best talent. All applicants are then shortlisted, after which there will be several days of auditioning candidates. The successful candidates are then whittled down for a further round of auditions.
After this, the remaining candidates will be offered blocks of work with the orchestra, known as trials. Players may be asked back many times to work trials with the RLPO. Eventually one of the candidates, sometimes a few years later, will be deemed suitable for appointment , as a member of the RLPO, by their peers. I will try to introduce each new player in turn on this tour. I will start with our new Principal Second Bassoon, Rebekah Abramski. This is Rebekah’s first tour with the RLPO.
Well, we finally arrived in Bucharest, two time zones later! A further journey ensued, but this time by coach, from the airport to the luxury five star Radisson BLU hotel right in the centre of Bucharest. The weather is beautifully sunny and at about 4.30 in the afternoon is about 30 degrees centigrade.
Once at the hotel, we were delighted to bump into the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, who are sharing our hotel and overlapping with us at the Georges Enescu Festival. The Radisson BLU hotel is fabulous. It is new and has the best in luxury that Bucharest has to offer. The Foyer and bar area is very stylish, having water features everywhere and the outdoor pool is magnificent.
Being a free evening, this was the ideal chance for the orchestra to let it’s hair down. Most seemed to go to their rooms to freshen up after what had already been a long day’s travel. The options from then on would be many and varied. There is a new city to explore, rest in the luxury rooms, socialise in the bars and restaurants, lounge by the pool etc.
Prior to the trip, I had already been in touch, both in conversation and for purposes of research, with other musicians that had experienced Bucharest recently. There had been many diverse and varied suggestions for entertainment here on our evening off but most had mentioned an extraordinary place called the Caru’ cu bere. Many agreed that this would be a good choice to spend an evening. Off we all set, seemingly about half of the RLPO, to view this establishments board of fayre. We learnt on the way the the RLPO lorry still had 250 miles to get to Bucharest! On the ten minute walk we passed our concert venue for the next two days, the Sala Palatului.
Well, none of us quite expected what we found. The Caru’ cu bere was a huge, 19th century, traditional beer house. One of the oldest of it’s kind, this place is a true legend of Bucharest. magnificent ceilings, ornate wall painting and murals, local beer brewed on the premises, a whole range of traditional Romanian food, traditional entertainment, folk dancing, professional ballroom dancing displays. This was truly a special evening and something completely different. I hope the readers don’t mind me showing a mainly pictorial account of this magnificent gem. A real taste of old Bucharest; harking back to the halcyon days when this area of town was regarded as ‘Little Paris.’
Our particular party, there were quite a few RLPO groups, were shown to an ante-room up some old stairs onto the next storey. There were beautiful wood panelled walls , giving the place an air of class and tradition. Once we were seated, we were treated to excellent service, a fantastic choice and range of menu and the entertainment was a pleasure.
We began the meal with a selection of salads. Chillies, gerkhins and my favourite, beetroot with grated horseradish on top. Warm, home baked bread was as easy on the nostrils as the palate. For the main course, most of us chose the recommended traditional dish of mixed mince meat rolled in cabbage or vine leaves, polenta (a traditional Rumanian dish made from boiled cornmeal) and sour cream. Delicious. Others had sausages and beef; all superb.
Next came more traditional dancing. We were glad of the break as the main course was quite substantialThese dancers were superb. Othe members of the orchestra were enjoying the dancing, food and the local home brewed real beer.
At this point dessert arrived. I went for stuffed, prune dumplings with a wild berry sauce. The substantial doughnut was also a popular choice.
More professional dancing. This time, a spectacular demonstration of modern ballroom dancing. Fantastic!
My fear of flying is no secret, but I have another cross to bear. I am very nervous about dancing too. Never mind having two left feet, I always feel like I am wearing concrete shoes and my legs always appear rooted to the spot. I don’t even think I danced on my wedding day! It was at this point, during the ballroom dancing exhibition, that I made the mistake of crossing the dance area to go to the gents. Veronica, the expert, championship standard professional ball room dancer immediately picked on me to help her with her display.
About half way through I tried to make off whilst the going was good but was roundly scolded by my partner so continued to the end and began to enjoy myself immensely!
I don’t know if I will ever live it down and feel more than a little embarassed. It turns out that the bleeders videoed me! Of course, it wasn’t that bad and a good laugh. I seemed to have started something though, because all of a sudden everyone was up and doing it! If I can upload the video to Youtube I will post it on here! Promise!!!
We’d made quite an impression, en masse, I think. The staff were keen to have their pictures taken with us and asked if we’d email the photos back to them.
Well, a leisurely walk back to the hotel ensued. All replete! A nice poolside chat with remaining stalwarts was a nice way to quieten down and end the evening. Another special night on tour. It was good to see the ‘top brass’ out on the terrace enjoying themselves too. It’s not often a photo opportunity presents like this one: the Chief Executive of the RLPS, Michael Eakin; Chief Conductor, Vasily Petrenko; Chairman of the RLPS, Lorraine Rogers; and RLPO Head of Planning, Sandra Parr.
Now to see if we can top this tomorrow…