Sunday, October 16, 2011

Tour Preparation

The Cleveland Orchestra embarks on a 3-week tour of Europe starting tomorrow.  For a short summary of its long-term goals in Europe, read this article in today's Plain Dealer.

However, I'd like to use this post to shed some light on what tour preparation is like for me in the week before I get on the plane.

The week before is always busy and stressful.  I must accomplish the following:
  • Teach extra lessons during the week, if possible, to make up for the time away.
  • Process reed blanks to take along.
  • Think about which tools I need with me.
  • Take music for all 1st bassoon parts for tour repertoire I'm not playing to understudy.
  • Refill prescriptions.
  • Fill out medical forms for doctors to use.
  • Do laundry!
  • Pay bills.
  • Call my credit card companies so they don't shut down my accounts when I charge things in foreign cities.
  • Pack for three weeks of changeable weather in different parts of Europe.
The staff behind the scenes of our orchestra works very hard before and during these tours.  Stage hands are busy carting out wardrobe trunks and instrument trunks and loading them after the last home concert.  Personnel, Marketing and Tour staff are very busy preparing and work around the clock during the tour.

We take two doctors from the Cleveland Clinic with us for medical help. These trips can be a wonderful working vacation for them (they often bring spouses) or an action-filled three weeks dealing with an emergency or two or flu outbreaks.

Logistics are different for foreign tours.  After the last concert at home we must have our trunks loaded with instruments, concert attire, music, etc.  We will not see these until Thursday (Saturday was our last concert).  Some of us hand-carry our instruments in order to stay sharp (pardon the expression!) in our hotel rooms prior to Thursday when we have our first rehearsal and concert.

This time lag is necessary for the travel time with the cargo and it gives us aday to pack and a day to start to get over jet lag before we begin the hard work of playing concerts in different locations.

Some of my tour assignments in the past have been light, so I've felt comfortable with packing my bassoon and not seeing it for a few days.  This time, I play Mendelssohn's 3rd Symphony on the first concert in Madrid, so I'm keeping my bassoon with me on the way.

Concert programming for the week prior to a tour can be unusual.  We use these concerts to try out tour repertoire before leaving.  This time there was a 24-hour period in which we played 3 concerts of different repertoire (with only the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in common)!  Since the tour repertoire is often large enough for three or four concert-length programs, the home concerts can become a hodge-podge predominated by pieces that we haven't performed recently or ones that are especially challenging.

In this busy time, I try really hard to carve out some time to spend with my family before leaving.  It's very tough on them when I'm gone.  I look forward to these tours with a mixture of excitement, anticipation and resignation.

There will be some free time on this trip, so I've got some tentative plans for some fun.
  • a hike in the Pyrenees
  • hunt for composers' residences in Paris
  • a free day exploring Cologne
  • seeing Das Rheingold and/or Barber of Seville in Vienna
  • visiting the Funerary Arts Museum in Vienna -- something I've never quite had the guts to do before
If some of these plans work out, great.  If some fall through, it will also be nice to just bum around, go out with friends or rest in my room.

I hope to blog pretty regularly while on this trip, so look for some posts in the coming weeks.

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