Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dispatch from the SF Symphony's 2014 European Tour

Thanks to the good sense I showed in 2011, marrying violist Wayne Roden, I’m currently tagging along on a 17-day, 7-city tour of Europe with the San Francisco Symphony.

Of course, as a novelist—and, more specifically, as a novelist who has written about musicians—I relish the insights my inside-outsider status confers on me.

Want a glimpse of what it’s like to make classical music for a living—to dedicate one’s life and body to the rigors required by each instrument of the orchestra?

Picture a group of jet-lagged men and women ranged around the entryway of a hotel in Birmingham, England—first stop on the tour—waiting for the buses chartered to carry them and their suitcases to London. Mark Inouye, principal trumpet, takes his instrument out of its case, puts a heavy-duty mute in the bell and starts playing—practicing—without a sound.

 This is the physical side of making music: the equivalent of the dancer doing warm-up exercises at the ballet barre. Every muscle in the face is involved in playing the trumpet, Mark told me—and every one of those muscles has to be kept toned to produce the sounds that make Mark’s trumpet solos in Mahler’s Third Symphony so heart-breakingly beautiful.

That night in London, after the performance, when Wayne and I were walking through the lobby of our hotel, we heard the sounds of live jazz—a female singer, a bass and a trumpet—wafting out from the bar. 

The sound of the trumpet belonged unmistakably to Mark Inouye. There he was, on one side of the singer, blowing his horn, while SF Symphony principal bass, Scott Pingel, sat in for a set for the guy who was scheduled to play in the bar that night.

I asked Mark the next day why he chose to play some more after the Mahler concert was over. Wasn’t he tired?

Turns out that those same muscles that need warming up also need cooling down. And what better way to cool down than playing jazz?

Brushing off the remarkable aspect of playing more music, late at night, after a two-hour-long concert, Mark told me, "I love jazz! It's just a fun thing to do." 

It’s all in a day’s work for members of the orchestra, whose artistry and dedication I’m coming to respect more and more every day.

Tune in for further dispatches from the tour!

Barbara Quick, Vivaldi's Virgins Book Signing

Barbara Quick, Vivaldi's Virgins Book Signing
Barbara Quick

My Garden

My Garden
My flower and strawberry garden (bathtub view)