Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wasch Centrem

After a triumphant concert in Hamburg last night, the orchestra piled on to a train for the ride to Essen. One week left on this tour and laundry is now becoming a critical issue.

Now I sit in the elegant “Wasch Centrem” with some colleagues, having found this place with the assistance of a friendly cabbie who spoke no English but who finally understood what we were looking for after a stunning array of hand signals. How fortunate that we have run in to an Australian national who can tell us how to use these machines all marked in German. I never thought I would be so pleased to see a simple Laundromat but when it costs 7 dollars to wash a single undershirt at the hotel: you’d be thrilled too.

The hotel here in Essen is the absolute opposite of the one we stayed at in Hamburg. This one is circa Sean Connery era of Bond movies whereas the one in Hamburg was straight out of MOMA – as in Museum of Modern Art. We loved it there and soaked up as much of the cool stainless steel fixtures and giant flat screen TV’s as we could before departure this morning. Here in Essen, perhaps a few too many cigarettes have been smoked in my room but that’s okay – the Grand Hyatt beckons from our next stop: mighty Berlin.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Postcard-like view

A picturesque view of Lucerne, Switzerland

Greetings from Luzerne!

Good morning from picturesque Luzerne!

Spending a few days in one city is always a treat for the musicians - it gives us a chance to unpack, settle in, and really explore the town. This place is right out of a postcard: a sparkling lake, the Swiss Alps, and charming buildings decorated with flowers overflowing from window boxes. Luzerne definitely makes my top-5 list of beautiful cities.

As for my pre-tour to-do list, I'm pretty much staying on track. "Quiet time" each day, correspondence, a little shopping, practice, and exercise. At the beginning of our journey, I challenged my colleagues, Ricardo Morales, Paul Demers, and Daniel Matsukawa to do 40 push-ups and 100 sit-ups a day with the penalty of missing a day having to treat the others to a drink the following evening. After much complaining and a few days of sore muscles, we are in to Day 7 and none of us have missed a day and are all feeling stronger. Keeping each other accountable makes it much more difficult to skip a day and the exercise helps to stave off the inevitable weight gain associated with a minimum of two chocolate croissants a day -- not to mention cheese, sausages, and beer.

Concerts have all been well-received with full houses and long ovations. What a privilege to represent our fair city in concert halls around the globe! Tonight we give our final performance of three here and then are rewarded with a day off. Perhaps for a change, some more cheese, sausages and beer are in order...

Greetings from Lucerne!

Last evening's concert at the famed Lucerne Festival in Switzerland was full of excitement. The concert hall is situated very beautifully on the edge of the lake, surrounded by mountains. Some of our group chose to stay atop one of the mountains in a resort area, but having done that several times on previous trips, I elected to stay right in town at a very elegant hotel a few minutes walk from the concert hall.

All along the scenic walk along the edge of the lake towards the hall, audience members were arriving in droves and were dressed in elegant formal attire. There were several groups of street musicians and actors that made the short walk very entertaining.

The hall appeared to be sold out, even with ticket prices at $250 per person! The Beethoven Symphonies #1 and #7 sandwiched a dramatic performance of Pintscher Herodiade Fragments which featured the singer Marislo Montalvo. Pintscher himself was in attendance as he is composer in residence for the festival. There was rousing ovation at the end of the concert so we performed as an encore, The Prometheus Overture by Beethoven.

It was fun to visit with the group of "tourists" (many of our loyal followers and board members) They commented on the excitement and thrill of hearing their great orchestra play and be received so warmly in Europe. Being a Philly Orchestra tour groupie is something to consider for your next vacation!

All the best,Gloria dePasquale, 'cellist

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Downtime in Frankfurt

Bass Clarinet Paul Demers, Concertmaster David Kim, and Principal Bassoon Daniel Matsukawa (left to right) check email outside a café in Frankfurt (August 24, 2006).

Tour Begins

Here we are in Frankfurt - one of Europe's major financial centers. This is an unusual city in that the architecture is such a dramatic mix of old and new; historic old churches standing shoulder to shoulder with stainless steel skyscapers. As we walk to and from the hall and through the surrounding pedestrian malls, we run in to colleagues and the same three subjects seem to come up again and again:

1) "How'd you sleep?" (usually not very well due to jetlag)
2) "Have you found a good internet connection somewhere?" (cafe across the street from the hotel)
3) "Found any good places to eat?" (yes - but nothing spectacular)

It's all about sleep, Internet, and food.

We held our first rehearsal this morning at the famous Alte Oper hall. The first rehearsal of the tour is usually a bit rusty as folks still have not changed their body clocks and have been away from their instruments for 2 or 3 days. The hall is lovely with excellent acoustics. Now I sit outside at the Mercedes-Benz Dealership Cafe across from the hotel, with colleagues Daniel Matsukawa (bassoon) and Paul Demers (bass clarinet), sipping coffee and burying our heads in our laptops. Soaking up news from home, blogging, and enjoying the cosmopolitan feel of this wonderful spot.

After tonight's concert, we move on to lovely Luzerne tomorrow.

More later...

Monday, August 21, 2006

And We're Off!

Family, Friends, and Orchestra staff gather to say goodbye to The Philadelphia Orchestra's musicians, as they depart the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia for their plane.

Preparing for the first flight

Today is the day we depart for Europe, flying from Philadelphia to Frankfurt. Preparations for this first long flight have changed quite a bit since the news about the British based terrorist arrests came out a few weeks ago. Musicians are already used to dealing with varying levels of accomodation for our unique and valuable instruments, but these new security measures and the orange alert level are a new thing altogether. Flying as part of a large and well-travelled group certainly makes things much easier than if one is all alone, though.

I have my own personal worries about how my five month old baby Rosalie will handle the trip, especially the takeoffs and landings. I've heard that feeding her while the plane changes altitudes is the best way to lessen the discomfort on her little ears. The TSA does allow "small amounts" of milk or formula. Other than the long flights and disruption of her schedule, my husband Tom and I are really looking forward to experiencing this European tour with her.

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