In order to try to distract myself from the fact I’m playing sardines on a rush hour commuter train into work, I thought I’d consider what I’ve learned in recent days with the RPO:
1. The last few days does NOT, in fact, constitute a quiet patch, including as it has 6 recording sessions and 6 different concert programmes (including 3 out of towns), not to mention teaching and other freelance work done by members of the RPO. Having suggested things had been a bit quiet to one of our guest players last week, he merely looked at me somewhat quizzically, commenting “but you guys work much harder than I ever do!”.
2. ABBA’s music can make even the oldest audience member feel 21 again as he dances away to Waterloo on the front row of the Royal Albert Hall.
3. I’m constantly amazed at the brilliance of some of the playing in the Orchestra, which can be nothing short of inspirational. (OK, this isn’t news, but I’m reminded of it every show). Not to mention the players’ versatility – see programme above, followed the next day by an equally convincing performance of Elgar’s ‘Enigma’ Variations in a tiny theatre, followed the day after that by Mahler’s massive 8th Symphony filling the Royal Albert Hall again.
4. Mahler clearly did not rate the 2nd timpanist around at the time he composed his 8th Symphony, given the almost complete lack of notes he wrote for him/her. For me, however, it’s a rare treat to have some company on stage, not to mention the help landing the big moments!
5. Playing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture WITHOUT fireworks should not feel strange. Yet it does….
6. When leaving Crawley speed is everything if you want to avoid getting stuck for ages in the car park. Indeed, I was so fixated by the sight of a violinist sprinting to his car after the show I was almost knocked down by another violinist (or was it Lewis Hamilton?) who had already got to his vehicle and was heading for the exit at supersonic speed, taking no prisoners en route.
7. 7 hours in a recording studio can feel like a long time if you’re not comfortable. Not a problem for one very resourceful colleague who can find all manner of useful items tucked away in the corners of studios (see photo).
So back to the present and as the train driver’s telling us we’re still stuck outside London Bridge – none of us had noticed, of course – I’m eternally grateful that I don’t have the repetitve daily rush hour grind, and for the rich and varied existence offered by life in the RPO.
– Matt Perry, Principal Timpani