On the skis, at the top of a new run, Part V

On tour with Ensemble Epomeo, Day 7

Yesterday morning, all that remained (after the stack of emails) was the final 100 miles or so to the Manchester Airport, a quick flight to Philly and concert at Penn. Hah! As we pulled away from the house, I heard an ominous noise. “Stop the car,” I told David. I jumped out of the car and my eyes confirmed what my ears had feared- the left rear tire was completely flat. It suddenly looked all-but-certain that we would miss our flight. Fate smiled- just a block or so away, we saw a tire shop, and after some faffing (mechanics worldwide don’t really seem to know the word “urgent”), they managed to fix the flat. Our wiggle room gone, we raced off hoping to make up lost time. About half way there, our Mapquest directions led us towards oblivion- thank goodness for Google Maps on the iPhone, which got us back on the right road.

Finally, we got back to Manchester airport. I left David to sort the car and raced to the check-in counter, as I knew that checking in with the cello can take extra time, and extra time we didn’t really have. The agent was nice, but quickly got “that look.” She called over two more agents, who also got “that same look.” David came and checked in, as did Caroline, and strolled up to the gate, while my agent stood holding a phone, face still frozen in that look. I felt myself slowly sinking into a mire of irritation and despair.  And so it remained, while Southwest Airlines spent over an hour trying to print my boarding pass and that for my cello. An entire football team (UNH) came and went. Seasons changed. Children were born and old men died. Finally, in despair, the agent gave me “a security pass” so I could go to the gate, hopefully to pick up my boarding pass there. This “security pass” had an interesting effect on the TSA- it was a bit like printing up a sheet of paper that said “I bomb planes” and handing it to them. TSA agents circled like vultures, held back only by curiosity about what the supervisor’s supervisor would do when he arrived. The head of Southwest was summoned (who didn’t seem to be the least bit surprised that I’d been waiting to check in for well over an hour). Grudgingly, they let me pass. When I got to the gate, Caroline was waiting with a turkey sandwich- my first food of the day (and destined to be my only food until after the concert)

At the gate, the new agent was waiting for me- she’d been briefed on my approach. “We’ll just print that up for you now!” she chirped. Then she got” that look.” Then she got back on the phone. “The look” now frozen on her face- a mixture of perplexity and contempt, as if daring me to roll my eyes, she cupped the mouthpiece and told me “this happens all the time with extra seats, especially with our “larger customers.””

In the end, I never did get a boarding pass- the other gate agent just shrugged, waved me on, and said “we’ll print it tonight.”

When we arrived in Philadelphia, there were other things to worry about- notably the bow situation, which would take priority over lunch or dinner. I took the Hill back to the shop where it had been done- they were pretty apologetic and offered to loan me another bow for the concert. I also showed them my newly-hexed J W Lee bow. The shop owner said something snooty about me tightening the bow too much and playing on the stick- who do these guys think they are? Fortunately, the “bow guy” was super cool. He was mortified that the Hill had given out after being played only 20 minutes, and offered to do an instant re-hair on mine, rather than loaning me a foreign stick. 1 hour later, I had my bow back, playing like a dream, even if it was tightened too tight and I was playing on the stick.

That was 5 PM on Friday- time to get to the concert hall. We fought our way across Philly in rush hour traffic. I hadn’t played a note since our concert in Halifax on Wednesday. I also had to rosin in the bow- a newly re-haired bow is bound to have slippery spots. We touched a few spots in Schnittke, Smith and Beethoven, with me re-rosining every few moments. The bow felt great, the cello sounded totally transformed, and it was a nice hall. In what seemed like five minutes, the audience was there, and we were playing. Not a huge crowd, but a nice one, and I think we played pretty well- it was great to have Kile Smith there to hear Thrice Blest, which we’ve enjoyed immensely- we’re looking forward to premiering the expanded version of the work in May at the Two Rivers Festival. I was particularly happy with Schnittke and Beethoven, and we played the alla Marcia from Gál as an encore. After all day’s dramas, starting with the flat tire, it was just a huge relief to have gotten to, and through, the gig.

Tonight is the final concert of our run in Princeton- tomorrow we teach all day at a chamber music retreat and I fly back that evening to London. The pace starts to pick up from here- two piano rehearsals with Mahler soloists on Monday when I arrive, string sectional on Schumann and Gal symphonies with OOTS in Stratford on Tuesday, more coachings in London on Wed, then Friday, we’re recording Das Lied von der Erde and Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen in Shipston. I feel like I’ve been on the skis going full-tilt for a long time, but I just realized I’m only at the top of the hill, and the big moguls are still ahead.

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PS- you can follow Ensemble Epomeo on our Facebook Page here.

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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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1 comment on “On the skis, at the top of a new run, Part V”

  1. Pingback: Thrice Blest at Penn « Kile Smith

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