The RPO was flying to Italy for a concert with Principal Guest Conductor, Pinchas Zukerman. It was divided into 2 flight groups. Adam Wright (A) was in Group 1 and Helen Kamminga (H) in Group 2. Here are 2 very different descriptions of the same day!
(H) – Asleep.
(A) – Alarm clock goes off (I get up 10 minutes later and have to rush!)
(H) – Still asleep!
(A) – Leave for Heathrow, having persuaded my very kind girlfriend to drive me.
(H) – Leave home.
(A) – Arrive at Heathrow and check in, feeling jealous of Group 2 who are only just leaving home. Now starting to wake up and look forward to the fantastic restaurant we always go to for lunch just round the corner from Verona Arena. And, of course, the concert that evening with Pinchas Zukerman.
(H) – Group 2 checks in at Heathrow Terminal 1 for an 8.50am flight to Milan. There are 35 of us. We sympathetically think of our 44 colleagues in Group 1 who checked in an hour earlier at T5 for a 7.40am flight, also to Milan.
(A) – Go to ‘Eat’ for a healthy breakfast, mindful of the approaching large lunch!
(H) – While breakfasting at ‘Giraffe’, rumours circulate that all is not well in Milan and that Group 1’s flight is delayed. It’s easy to spread info in orchestras – one strategic text is all it takes – so before long everyone in Group 2 knows about Group 1. Unsurprisingly, Group
2’s Lufthansa flight is now showing a delay too. Musicians are used to this stuff. No problem.
(A) – Our flight comes up as delayed, nothing unusual, so I wander off to check the gadgets out in the duty free.
(H) – Group 1’s flight is cancelled. We graze through our scrambled eggs wondering what will happen to our flight. It’s still only showing an hour’s delay, so it looks like we might be OK. But what’s the point of less than half the Orchestra flying over? And what’s going on in Italy anyway?
(A) – Flight cancelled…………..ahhhhhhh, bit more of a problem! Apparently a general strike in Italy had shut the airport. We were quite surprised to hear that Group 2 were leaving – where would they land?!
(H) – Phone calls whizz between Terminals 1 and 5. Despite what turns out to be a general strike in Italy, Lufthansa are still apparently flying Group 2 to Milan while the stranded Group 1 languish at T5. I’m browsing iPods at Dixons when suddenly we’re called to the gate to board.
(A) – We get escorted round the back of the airport to collect our bags and back through to the check-in desks to try and get on the next plane.
(A) – When we arrive at check-in (for the second time) we realise we weren’t the only people trying to rearrange our tickets – very big queues. Even more disturbingly it starts to dawn on us that lunch in Verona is looking very unlikely!
(A) – Whilst Graham (our amazing ‘Mr Fix It’ tour manager) gets in touch with people at BA, most of Group 1 decide to go to ‘Carluccios’ for a not so healthy breakfast no.2!
(H) – Group 2 arrive in Milan, 2 hours behind schedule, and are coached to Verona. Horror stories reach us about the progress (or otherwise) of Group 1, who are being transferred to Gatwick by coach.
(A) – BA tell us there are no more seats on flights from Heathrow, but we can all get on a plane from Gatwick. It leaves at 3.50pm and all being well, would mean we get to Verona in time for a short rehearsal before the concert.
(A) – We arrive at Gatwick by National Express and check in……….again. Once through security, ‘Cafe Rouge’ is chosen for lunch – not quite what we had planned, but the fish stew was quite tasty!
(H) – Group 2 check in at the hotel. A 5pm rehearsal is looking decidedly unlikely. Rumour has it that Group 1 are due to take off from Gatwick at 3.50pm. It’s a long day for us, but we can’t really complain – we’re in Verona with time to kill!
(A) – Our flight comes up as delayed. Oh dear! All getting a bit tight for making the 9pm concert let alone any rehearsal. It transpires that a plane had broken down on the runway and all inbound flights (including what was to be our plane) were being diverted to Bournemouth. At this point the urge to buy the hugely discounted and very large bags of chocolate from duty free became too much. We stocked up and decamped to ‘Cafe Nero’ to play Scrabble. 2 string players seek out the airport gym and go for a 10km run!
(H) – Group 2 head into Verona for lunch. Text messages fly across Europe. Group 1 are delayed again. And again. And yet again. More rumours – the gig is cancelled and Group 1 are going home. The gig is going ahead as planned. The gig will start late (no kidding) and Pinchas will do the first half on his own. No-one knows. We are told to stand by for news. We reluctantly return to the business of ordering lunch at our trattoria in Piazza Erbe. Our waiter tells us that anti-Government strikes are occurring right across the country.
(A) – Our plane was becoming later every time we looked at the screen, the mountain of chocolate was now just wrappers strewn across the table and two of the players in our Scrabble game had fallen asleep! I had also got a text from my girlfriend suggesting that I put my spare time to good use and go duty free shopping for her. She sent me a detailed list and I went off to spend some money.
(A) – Our plane was on its way from Bournemouth to Gatwick……….progress.
(A) – Correction, our plane was NOT on its way, and the flight had now been moved back to 6pm. We had given up all hope of a rehearsal a while back, but there was now not even any hope of getting to the venue in time for the 9pm start of the concert. It was, however, decided that we should still go, and we hoped the audience could amuse themselves until we arrived!
(H) – We hear that Group 1 are about to take off from Gatwick. We are meanwhile called for a 7.30pm rehearsal. That leaves an hour to browse round the market.
(A) – We finally take off at 6.30pm – 12.5 hours after checking in for the first time. Feeling a little ill from eating too much chocolate!
(H) – Group 2 (2 violas, 10 cellos, assorted violins, 1 bassoon, no basses or trumpets….you get the picture) rehearse with Zukerman. It’s a beautiful newly restored church with an acoustic like St. Paul’s Cathedral – not ideal under the circumstances!
(A) – Asleep on the plane.
(A) – Still asleep on the plane.
(H) – Scheduled start time. Verona’s great and good are out in their finery, waiting patiently for a concert that has been months in the planning. Group 2 are hanging around, in concert dress. Group 1 are on the plane.
(A) – We land at 9.15pm (15 minutes after the start of the concert), and a special bus is laid on to take us to the terminal. Having got most of the bags (two were lost – no tails for them!) we headed straight to the magnificent church.
(H) – Group 1 arrive. Exhausted, hungry. We applaud them as they walk in.
(A) – We finally get to the venue. We have 20 minutes to have a bite to eat, get changed and warm up before starting the concert over an hour late (luckily the very patient audience had all waited!)
(H+A) The RPO finally walks on stage. The show must go on!