LA Phil Blog


To Trunk or Not To Trunk?

This blog entry isn’t about any particularly cool city on this tour. They are all cool. It is instead about getting my viola from point A to point B. As members of the Philharmonic we have two options with regards to our instruments. We can hand carry our instruments or we can “trunk” them. If we hand-carry them it means that we have them with us at every turn. Can you imagine the overhead bin space on a trans-Atlantic flight if over 100 musicians hand carried their instruments? Besides, that's not really an option for cellists, bassists or percussion players anyway.

Orchestra's Viola case
Violist Mick Wetzel's instrument - he 'trunked it' on the first leg of this tour after agonizing over the decision.

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The Tour So Far — A Painter’s View

Plaza a Luis de Camoes in Lisboon
A view from the Plaza a Luis de Camoes in Lisboon - watercolor painting by Caitlin Heimerl.

On this tour, I'm traveling with my niece, Caitlin Heimerl. She is a recent graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, and she is loving the opportunity to paint in all of the beautiful cities we are visiting on this tour.

After visiting the castle in Lisbon, we found the Plaza Luis de Camões and stopped to paint as the sun was setting.

In Madrid, after a morning at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, which houses Picasso's "Guernica," and a walk through the cobblestone streets of the city, we found a lovely fountain on Paseo del Prado. In spite of the cold, Caitlin pulled out her watercolors to paint there in the early evening.

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Travel Day – Lisbon to Madrid

Lisbon was fascinating.  A beautiful city, rich in history and culinary delights.  I could easily spend several weeks exploring its winding, cobbled streets and diverse cultural offerings.

Luggage at the airport
A long luggage queue, courtesy of the LA Phil, awaits its spot on a plane from Lisbon to Madrid. Despite problems with the luggage tag printer, all bags arrived safe and sound in Madrid.

However, it is not to be as this morning we are en route to Madrid.  I'm traveling with my fourteen-year-old son, Keith, who is finding the food challenging but enjoying the sights.  We'll squeeze in a trip to the Prado Museum on Sunday afternoon, then Mahler 9 for me and homework for him.  After that, we head out for some authentic Spanish Flamenco, sangria and last, but not least, a good night's sleep!

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The Tour So Far…

Thursday- free day: met with friends from the opera orchestra, toured the opera house Teatro de Sao Carlos. The building was originally destroyed in the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake and modeled after La Scala. We ate lunch by the river at their favorite location. Great fish, pastries and espresso.

Went for a walk and stumbled across the Re-Rite exhibit featuring Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia. Needless to say, he looked rather familiar! Dinner in the Bairro Alto neighborhood at Largo- wild boar and local wine, excellent!

Friday- jet lag jet lag jet lag.  rehearsal at Gulbenkian. Fascinated with the automated espresso machine at the hall. I recommend the 'long' cup. My daily espresso average- 4, I am a local.

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Backstage Pass

"Orchestrating" a tour blog isn't the easiest thing in the world. But if we had an overriding theme that defines the kind of content we like to provide, it would be content that offers a unique perspective -- whether that's a European city through the eyes of one of our orchestra members, the way the LA Phil staff sees a pile of luggage or how the entire operation moves from Point A to Point B.

How's this for a unique perspective -- an excited smile and wave from our own Music Director, Gustavo Dudamel, as he walks onstage to kick off the first of thirteen concerts that will eventually make up the 2011 European Tour.

Or how about a glimpse of our Principal Concertmaster, Martin Chalifour, seconds before he walks onstage to tune the orchestra.

The clips are short and shaky, but we pretty much guarantee that you won't see them anywhere else. Like we said, it's all about unique perspectives.


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The First Concert!

This is our third day here - I think - hard to tell because of the travel time to get here. Lisbon is a gracious city; hilly like San Francisco, with a suspension bridge that closely resembles the Golden Gate. It is paved in cobblestones, and peppered with little shops and very old churches and crowned with an 11th century castle from which the views are sweeping and astonishing.

Yesterday, I walked probably 7 or 8 miles, getting my fill of brisk air and sunshine to help speed my adjustment to the 8-hour time change. The sights here are filled with history; of 14th century explorers and cartographers, ancient towers used to protect the city from invasion from the Tagus River shores, and statues of generals, kings and saints.

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Reed All About It!

I am typing at the break of our first rehearsal and think the orchestra sounds quite good this morning in spite of our jet lag!  Having awakened at 3:00am each of the two nights we have now been in Lisbon, it always gives one a bit of anxiety wondering how that first rehearsal will feel.

Also, as an oboe player, I am never able to predict how my reeds (yes, we think of reeds constantly!) will react to the trip.  I have to try to gauge how to adjust them in my hotel room, hoping it will translate to the concert hall.  This is constantly a work in progress, especially on a tour such as this where we are traveling to many cities and will be in different hotels and playing on wildly different stages across Europe. These factors combined with the stress of flying, since the different altitudes have an effect on them, makes for interesting reed making.

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Wide Awake In Lisbon

I don’t get it. Slept great last night, had a good breakfast, practiced for three hours (apparently a little too much Adams), walked around town with our Principal Bassoonist, Whitney Crockett, got some dinner . . . did all the things one should do so that this doesn’t happen . . .

Maybe I shouldn’t have had that bacalhao or pulpo, or that second helping of domada . . . or any of the seven duseuti the chef of that tiny tiled restaurant pile on a plate for six gregarious, ridiculously loud Americans. Oh man, were those good. And man, were we loud . . . My tour nickname, apparently, is Fisheye. Don’t ask.

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