It Never Rains But It Pours…

Goodbye Alicante – RLPO set off to San Sebastian

An a la carte breakfast was available in the Alicante hotel at 7.00am, but it was a bit of a squeeze to wolf that down and get showered and ready to board the coach to the airport by 8.00am. Today’s destination was San Sebastian. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra had enjoyed a very successful four day stay there in 2010. Most of the members back then are still in the orchestra now so almost everyone on this trip was quite familiar with everything San Sebastian had to offer.

Still raining… a lot!

The weather here was gorgeous on our last visit. It was still lashing it down today and we only had today to relive our time here. The plane landed in San Sebastian Airport and the coaches got the RLPO to the hotel by midday. The Hotel Almara Plaza is a modern building designed by architect Pena Ganchegui, no less. We were unable to rehearse until 5.00pm because the orchestra lorry was still travelling over land. This was great news because we had this programme just about were we wanted it anyway.

RLPO platform managers and lorry drivers, Ian Doran and Alan Scollins

The orchestra always travels abroad with four lorry drivers. Two are regular freelance drivers, Neil and Ed, but our two full timers are Ian and Alan, pictured above. They are also our ‘platform managers’ and apart from the driving and unloading of the lorry, they have the stage to set up, putting out all the chairs, stands and music. Ian is affectionately known as Ian Van Driver, and his daughter as Mini Van Driver!

The rain in Spain, again…

Some players went to their rooms to catch up on a bit of sleep and some others, like me, thought they would worry about that later. Quite a few small groups of us set off on the 25 minute walk towards the town and concert hall.

A nice walk, actually, alonside the river which splits this city in two, with it’s marvellous bridges and very grand British style architecture on each bank.

One of the many beautiful churches in the impressive squares of the Old Town

One of many winding streets – such a interesting place to wander round

San Sebastian has a wonderful Old Town and is famous for it’s hundreds of restaurants and bars. The food is fantastic and so varied. It is a very scenic town and one of my favourite places in Spain to visit.

A great little traditional restaurant!

My enthusiastic group settled itself in a typically characteristic restaurant. It seemed particularly popular with locals and offered a huge menu of traditional local food and drink. Perfect!  Just look at these interesting table tops, fashioned from confectionary and covered in glass, including these very amusing BUM SWEETS!

Our restaurant table top


The food was even better than we could have hoped and we had all afternoon to practice our pigeon Spanish. Here are a few photos of our traditional fayre…

A traditional white wine being poured in traditional way

1st violin gourmand John Hebbron having a traditional pour himself

Mrs Marsden (Jenny) of the percussion section enjoying a little refreshment

Therefore, feeling like I had over indulged on the food front, never a brilliant idea before playing for a wind player, I decided to take a little fresh air and have a bit of a walk around the sea walls before the rehearsal. The relatively new concert hall in San Sebastian is the spectacular Kursaal Auditorium. Rounding the sea walls into the mouth of the river, this imposing modern building makes a real statement.

Kursaal Auditorium – San Sebastian

The walk and stiff breeze along the river did me the power of good and as I approached the hall I noticed some people just standing around in what looked like Victorian costumes. The last time we came there was a mariachi band in the same place.

People standing outside the Kursaal in ‘Victorian’ costume

Sometimes, architects and acousticians can get these modern halls horribly wrong, but the Kursaal is a great concert Hall. All these modern Spanish venues all have fantastic backstage facilities too. We don’t have to squeeze past each other and fight for space, as in our own hall in Liverpool. To be fair, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall does have one of the best acoustics I have ever played in though. Actually, the last time the RLPO played here Mick Hucknall from Simply Red was sat in the audience…

Rehearsal in the Kursaal

Just a one hour rehearsal today for mainly acoustic reasons. Afterwards it was time to try a little more local food. San Sebastian is famous for it’s bocadillos. These seem to be little sandwiches with a variety of fillings. The brass section found a nice quiet place just over the road from the hall which whiled away the time before the performance.

2nd violin Justin Evans, Double bass Nigel Dufty and Double Bass Ashley Frampton having pre concert meal – San Sebastian

Back to the hall to get changed and warm up a little for the performance. I find touring quite tough for keeping playing at an optimum level. Because of this I always try to arrive quite early before rehearsals and concerts to ‘have a blow’ and keep my ‘chops’ in shape. Also, don’t like preconcert stress of having to rush on stage.

RLPO cello section leader Jonathan Aasgard getting ready for the concert – Jonathan has some solo work being released on CD soon. By all accounts it sounds amazing too!

RLPO about to enter the concert stage in the Kursaal – San Sebastian

The concert was another resounding success. The audience in the full auditorium demanded encores from pianist Joaquin Achucarro after Brahms piano concerto no. 2 and  also from the orchestra after Shostakovich’s tenth symphony. So after getting changed and packing everything away we decided to walk back in the rain and try a little food and drink along the way. Lets have a look at the Kursaal Auditorium and the view of the river at night time. Nice…

Kursaal at night

The river at night – San Sebastian

We managed to find a restaurant/bar that Tim Brown had taken the horns to on our last trip here.


I hadn’t been to this one so I was in for a treat! Once again, the food on offer was marvellous. The pate de foie gras seemed to be especially appreciated. We tucked into another hearty meal and had some fine Rioja and brandy, also.

Post concert meal – San Sebastian

Associate Pricipal Horn Dave Pigott, 4th Horn Tim Nicholson and Double Bass Danny Hammerton unwinding after the concert – San Sebastian

Back at the hotel, the party was in full swing. Almost everyone was in the hotel bar area socialising and the atmosphere was great.

The RLPO living it up in the Hotel Amara Plaza

Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko joined us for some fun too. Here he is with Sandra Parr, RLPO Director of Planning, celebrating after a particularly fine performance.

Vasily & Sandra – San Sebastian

Gin & Tonic appeared to be the name of the game. Just look at the size of these ‘vases’. It makes that normal beer next to it look tiny…

G&T in the Hotel Amara Plaza – San Sebastian

It’s a good job we have a lie in tomorrow. The coach leaves at midday. Phew!

Pamplona tomorrow…

Links to the RLPO Spain Tour 2010 can be found here

Liverpool Philharmonic Blog

About brendanball

Professional Trumpeter: Soloist, Orchestra Player, Chamber Music, Contemporary Music & Education.
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4 Responses to 2. RLPO SPAIN TOUR 2012 – SAN SEBASTIAN

  1. Pingback: 3. RLPO SPAIN TOUR 2012 – ALICANTE | Brendan Ball's Blog

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

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

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

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