Benn Cunningham writes about the practicalities of touring with the RPO…
I’m currently sat backstage at the Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre, waiting to go onstage for a repeat of the Russian Gala concert at the Central Theatre in Chatham. Thought I’d grab this rare moment of quiet time to write and tell you about the last couple of weeks of RPO life.
You’ve probably gathered by now that being a member of the RPO leads to a great deal of variety, both musically and geographically, and the last two weeks have been no exception.
The weekend before last took the orchestra to the Crocus City Hall in Moscow to find our inner rock gods and godesses. The show was Symphonic Rock and any of you who’ve seen the show at the Royal Albert Hall will know what fun we have. Songs such as Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla’, Meatloaf’s ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ and Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ delighted the Russian audience. Moscow’s always such an interesting city to visit and it’s always fun to soak up a different culture, particularly one with such a fascinating history. The bass players in particular always look to sample, ahem, fully(!) the local cuisine when on tour, and the chance to have a tasting session of fine Russian vodkas was thoroughly enjoyed (even if the fuzzy heads the next morning were not!).
The following week saw us welcoming a conductor with whom the orchestra has never worked before. Kirill Karabits, principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, guided us through a wonderful programme at the Royal Festival Hall, including Respighi’s Fountains of Rome and Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony. It’s always fantastic to work with a fresh face and Maestro Karabits created such a thrilling sound world. A piece like the Respighi really allows our wind sections a chance to shine and revel in the depictions of the gorgeous shafts of light, glinting in the waters of the Eternal City. Such an enjoyable show!
After this came a three night run at the Britten Theatre at the Royal College of Music with soul legend Paul Carrack, a recording session in Hampstead and this weekend’s concerts of Mussorgsky, Rachmaninov and Rimsky-Korsakov in Chatham and Stevenage. Phew!
All this travelling requires some good truckers, a good truck and sturdy bass boxes. We’re lucky to have all three. Our stage manager, Chris Ouzman, and his team spend endless hours in our brand new, big blue truck, delivering our instruments safely to the venues. Look out for them (the truck has the unmissable RPO crest on the side) and give them a wave if you see them on the motorway!
I feel I should also give our bass boxes the love they deserve at this point, as they truly are our homes away from home. Not only do they protect our basses between venues, but they act as mobile wardrobes and dressing rooms which we use to store our concert gear and hide our modesty when changing before shows. We simply could not do without them. So, let’s hear it for the truckers and the bass boxes; those unsung heroes without whom none of this would be possible!