Getting there is half the fun part 3

Left early today for Lancashire Chamber Orchestra concert via Hereford where our dog will be spending the night. The car is actually quite comical- Suzanne, Steve and I and Murphy (the dog) with all of Steve’s travelling gear (he’s been in Europe for a couple of weeks, now) and his guitar. Steve is smashed in one corner of the backseat next to a suitcase, Murphy is on Sue’s lap. Very glamorous.

 We drop Murph at S’s parents house- they and Steve got on like a house on fire as I knew they would- and then we’re on to Altrincham. It’s quite a drive. I’d hoped to get there nice and early, but it’s nearly 2 PM (for a 2:30 dress rehearsal) when we arrive. Gerald (the composer) is there, along with a small army of classical guitarists. Roger, the treasurer and principal bassist of the orchestra, and also the engineer who built the Channel Tunnel (you never know who you’re going to meet in the orchestra) has brought his recording gear in hopes we can get Gerald a decent tape of his concert.

We start with the concerto, tweaking the balance of the orchestra and trying make the amplificaiton of the guitar (a necessary evil if there ever was one) as discreet as possible. There are just a few little corners of the piece that are disproportionally hard to the rest of it that we have to go over several times. My feeling with complicated metric stuff is that it’s more important that the orchestra feel relaxed than that they’ve done it a million times, as sometimes they just get more uptight. We have just enough time to touch up Souvenier of Florence, which is glorious but so hard for the orchestra and to read through the Grieg Elegiac Pieces. We have a quick dinner before the concert where I get to meet a former guitarist of the rock group Iron Maiden, a group I loved as a 13 year old. He’s now a friend and fan of Steve who designs the brains of missles. Yes, you hear me right….

At the break a few orchestra members grab a quick listen to the recording Roger has made- it’s nice to see them smiling with the headphones on. Concert goes well, the Grieg (which we hardly rehearsed) is especially moving. Tchaikowksy would have been better a bit faster, but it’s so much thicker as a string orchestra piece it’s hard to keep it going. Gerald’s piece is a huge hit with the audience, as I knew it would be (especially with an army of fans in the audience).

After the concert, a quick trip to the pub. LCO is a fun group of people, and having all the guitar fans there adds something to the atmosphere. Steve is heading back to Birmingham with one of them, so there’s more room in the car heading back to Hereford after the party. We get there about 2:30 AM, absolutely shattered, but glad to see Murphy.

 Sunday flies by- lovely walk with Murph and their dogs in the morning, then lunch with Gill and Harry. Sometimes, when you’re most busy, you have to create the illusion that you have time to do things. Get home to Cardiff around 7 PM and I’m flying out of Heathrow at 10 AM Monday, which means leaving Cardiff around 2 AM via the bus.

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at www.kennethwoods.net

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