Road Trip chronicled the European tour of the Minnesota Orchestra (Feb 9-27, 2004) through the eyes of one of the orchestra's violists - Sam Bergman. The blog generated lots of interest, and was written about in The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Sam was also invited on the BBC to talk about the tour and also wrote a piece about the orchestra's performance in London for the London Evening Standard. You can see all of the blogs entries by going here.
An orchestra on tour is a fascinating beast, part driven professional ensemble, part massive tourist group, and part frat house. This blog is designed to impart some part of that experience to readers who ordinarily aren't invited to the backstage party.
First, though, a word about what this blog won't be. I have no intention of being the orchestral world's answer to Jim Bouton, and I won't be blowing the lid off of any deep, dark industry secrets. This is meant to be an insider's view of the largest single event an orchestra can undertake - a major international tour - and I'll do my best to be as descriptive as I can. But if I'm furious with my stand partner because he jumped in early on a tricky passage in the Beethoven symphony we're playing, you won't read about it here. Nor will you be getting any blow-by-blow accounts of backstage arguments or private gossip. I like my job, and I like the people I work with, and I'd like to keep it that way.
That having been said, there's a lot going on on your average tour, and I intend to chronicle the publishable aspects of it as completely as time allows. An orchestra works harder on tour than at any other time, and plays harder as well. A tour is our chance to show the world what we can do, and to solidify or improve our international profile, but it can also be a chance to take a spectacular fall in front of a global audience. The pressure to play our best in certain key cities can be overwhelming, but exhilirating as well.
This is a very important tour for the Minnesota Orchestra. It's our first time away from home with our new music director, Osmo Vänskä, who has been lauded in the press as a leader with the potential to elevate the orchestra to the highest echelons of the orchestral ranks. The fact that we are touring in Osmo's first year as music director has also been well-noted, and depending on what critic you ask, it is either a sign of the maestro's great respect for his musicians, or a foolish gamble with the potential for major disappointment. A successful tour could have a major impact on the way we are viewed by the national and international press, whereas a run of negative or even lukewarm critical reaction could further consign us to the orchestral bin labelled "Second Tier." Musicians are extremely sensitive to such distinctions, and as such, a good tour can be the ultimate morale builder.
The tour begins on February 8, when we'll fly to New York for our only stateside stop at Carnegie Hall. Over the ensuing 18 days, we'll play 13 concerts in five countries. We'll hit every major European musical capital, and finish up with concerts in Glasgow, Scotland (where Osmo was recently principal conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony) and Lahti, Finland (the city where Osmo made his name as director of Sinfonia Lahti for the past 18 years.) We will carry 8 full-length musical works, 5 encores, and 4 soloists with us. There will be 7 different concert programs, 11 different hotels, and more plane flights and bus rides than I care to count. With luck, as many as two dozen newspapers could publish reviews, and two of our local critics will be coming along for part of the trip, as well. (The Lahti concert will also be broadcast live back home in Minnesota.)
It should go without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that anything published in this blog is solely the responsibility of its author. My opinions are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of the Minnesota Orchestral Association, the Minnesota Orchestra Members' Committee, or any of my colleagues in the orchestra. As I said, I don't expect to be airing any dirty laundry in these pages, but I do tend to have opinions, and it would be a shame if something I wrote were viewed as anything more than the ravings of one crazed violist.
So, with the disclaimers and explanations out of the way, I hope you'll come along for the ride. It should be an exciting month on the road...
Feb. 6, 2004