1. RLPO SPAIN TOUR 2012 – ALICANTE

RLPO in Alicante – photo by Mark McNulty

Well, the RLPO Spanish Tour 2012 blog is a little bit late. Due to internet and computer trouble during the trip, I have been unable to post a ‘running commentary’ as per usual and am writing this in retrospect from the comfort of my own office in Liverpool. The orchestra returned home last night and I am now able to post with a reasonable amount of speed and efficiency. So, apologies to all who have been accessing my site for news and here goes.

Above the RLPO only sky

The Rain in Spain…

… as already stated in the earlier post, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra have been enjoying four free days whilst our lorry has been travelling 1,700 miles to Alicante for the first leg of our Spain 2012 tour. Last Friday, the eighteenth October was our turn to fly over there and be reunited with our instruments and concert clothing.

Trumpet Section Leader Rhys Owens and Trombone Section Leader Simon Cowen in the background

On this trip we would be revisiting two old favourite cities, San Sebastian and Zaragoza, and two new adventures to be undertaken in Alicante and Pamplona (the fact that my section leader’s stag do was in Alicante doesn’t count!). The programme for the tour being Brahms’ 2nd piano concerto and our multi international award winning version of Shostakovich Symphony no.10 conducted by Vasily Petrenko.

Shostakovich 10 wins the gramophone awards!

The  legendary Joaquin Achucarro would be the piano soloist for this trip. Incidentally, Achucarro launched his international career when he won our piano competition in 1959, beating the great John Ogdon!

The RLPO arrive in Alicante

The coaches left Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool and departed for John Lennon Airport at 8.00am for our 10.00am charter flight to sunny Spain. We had been hearing reports of a welcoming 27 degrees temperature awaiting us. This ensured everyone was in high spirits and looking forward arriving in Alicante. It is no secret that I don’t like flying and generally have to try to fall asleep before take off and before landing again. If I wasn’t paid to do concerts abroad then I wonder if I would ever set foot on a plane. I don’t mind the middle bit too much though and always enjoy the repartee between a whole orchestra looking forward to a good trip.

The view of the Marina & Puerto from the Hotel Melia Alicante

On arrival at 1.00pm, the coach headed for the hotel; about twenty minutes or so from the airport. The weather was indeed lovely as was the Hotel. The views from my room were stunning, overlooking to marina and port on one side and the beach and Santa Barbra Castle on the other. Sometimes I just love this job!

Postiguet beach and Santa Barbara Castle – view from hotel balcony.

Alicante the capital city on the Costa Blanca and thankfully we have arrived slightly out of season, so the town would not be too crowded. The hotel was about a 20 minute walk from the concert venue, brand spanking new Auditorio de la Diputacion de Alicante. In between the two was a very pleasant walk through the historic old town with its many monuments, bars and restaurants. We had about an hour to get settled in at the hotel and  either walk in to the rehearsal or have lunch at the hotel and catch the coach. I chose the latter.

RLPO on the new stade in the Auditorio de la Diputacion de Alicante

The rehearsal was to commence at 4.00pm and concert hall turned out to be so new that it still smelt of glue and paint etc. The spectacular stage and room had a brand new acoustic too. This can sometimes take a little while to get used to. (rehearsals are also important to give the pianist a chance on an unfamiliar instrument)

RLPO Timpanist Neil Hitt

I do have to remark that the budget seems to have run out completely before the powers that be got round to purchasing the chairs on the stage. They were cheap plastic things that were uncomfortable; squeaking and groaning throughout every quiet passage. This caused rather a lot amusement during the rehearsal but we would have to keep any movement down to a minimum during the show. Still, you can’t have everything!

Co-leader Rakhi Singh limbering up before the rehearsal

RLPO Chairman Chris Morley

Vasily ended the rehearsal about 90 minutes later which would give us all a chance to explore the old town. The rest of the heavy brass had set off earlier as they weren’t in the Brahms, so Paul Marsden (2nd Trumpet) and I set off to see what we could find in the two and a half hours before the performance.

Monument opposite the famous bull ring

Alicante Cathedral

Just a couple of minutes from the venue was Alicante’s famous bull ring. I don’t like to make any kind of political statements on here particularly, but I am not a fan of this cruel ‘sport.’ I went once in Seville during my time working there with the Royal Seville Orchestra. The bull had no chance whatsoever and died a slow painful death. It must have been terrified as it was repeatedly stabbed before it was eventually put out of it’s misery before a baying mob hungry for more yet more torture.

RLPO French horns enjoying a meal in Alicante

Pick your own octopus!

We wandered further into the old town, past the cathedral and thought we’d better sample some of the wonderful looking food and a little of the beverages on offer. All in the name of research, of course.

Purely research – RLPO 2nd Trumpet Paul Marsden

Nom nom…

Sadly, the heavens had opened and the rain started teeming down. This may have been the worst rain I have ever found on a tour. This terrible rain storm would follow us around Spain for four whole days and only allow us to encounter the sun again on our departure at Madrid airport. Oh well, we just got on with exploring the town anyway.

What’s Scooby doing in The Belvedere pub whilst I’m in Spain!

It was just around this time that I was sent a photo from Liverpool. It was from Julian Monro, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra Manager. Julian was not on the tour this time as he was working from home, but it seems that my dog Scooby had been enjoying the ambience of the grade 2 listed Belvedere pub by Liverpool Philharmonic Hall in my absence!

One great thing about dining in Spain is that you can eat something small and wander a bit further and have something else. The Tapas in Alicante was fantastic. Interestingly, for us British is that all the Rioja we came across was well chilled in the fridge but still mouth wateringly delicious.

Well, back to work. We traipsed back to the hall in the rain, found our flight cases again. Got into our concert clothing. By the way, the RLPO now has a policy that we always wear a black suit and black shirt whilst touring. This is so much more comfortable than tail coats, especially in a hot country. The concert itself was very warmly received. The very appreciative audience demanded encores both from the pianist and from the orchestra after the Shostakovich. Joaquin Achucarro, a very nice old gentleman by the way played a Scriabin Nocturne whilst Vasily chose  a beautiful slow excerpt from Dei Meistersingers by Wagner. The perfect way to calm the audiences nerves after the harum scarum ending of the Shostakovich. A rather nice touch was the audience spontaneously burst into happy birthday for the soloist after his encore finished, to which he began playing along with them! Joaquin Achucarro is very popular in his native country.

RLPO Principal 4th Horn Tim Nicholson has found his spiritual home!

Brass in gold – photo in Alicante by official RLPO photographer Mark McNulty

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra always travels with it’s official photographer. His name is Mark McNulty and he is fantastic. Have a look at Mark’s web site and blog to see his fabulous range of inventive work, including many pictures of the orchestra over recent years.

Mark McNulty Blog

Mark McNulty website

Right then, that was the job of work completed. Now to see what this town has to offer on our own free time.

The brass section enjoying one of hundreds of great bars. A really atmospheric town centre at night time.

Yet more food – squid this time…mmm…

As we wandered in and out of the narrow winding streets and squares in the pouring rain, we kept bumping into all sorts of groups from the orchestra all with the same thing in mind. To have a great time and really experience some life out here.

2nd violins out on the town

Self service beer! It was measured with a type of water meter!

Just look at this rain!

Day Two in San Sebastian Here

Links to the RLPO Spanish Tour 2010 can be found here

Laura Davis’ review of the RLPO in Alicante – Liverpool Daily Post

See you tomorrow…

Liverpool Philharmonic Blog

About brendanball

Professional Trumpeter: Soloist, Orchestra Player, Chamber Music, Contemporary Music & Education.
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3 Responses to 1. RLPO SPAIN TOUR 2012 – ALICANTE

  1. Pingback: 5. RLPO SPAIN TOUR 2012 – PAMPLONA | Brendan Ball's Blog

  2. Pingback: 6. RLPO SPAIN TOUR 2012 – ZARAGOZA | Brendan Ball's Blog

  3. Pingback: 7. RLPO SPAIN TOUR 2012 – THE RETURN HOME | Brendan Ball's Blog

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