Working in the Projects team at the OAE means that a day in the ‘office’ can consist of a vast array of possibilities, from the traditional administrative duties and planning meetings to manning rehearsals and concerts backstage or checking-in tour groups at the airport, which is what I found myself doing on Monday this week when the whole of the South of England ground to halt because of the snow…

Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport

My day started with an early phone call from the Orchestra Manager as I opened the curtains to find a snow-laden city awaiting me, and I realised that it was not going to be any ordinary day. We had a tour travelling to the Canary Islands to perform two concerts of Bach Cantatas with Gustav Leonhardt and they were supposed to be travelling leaving Heathrow at midday, travelling to Las Palmas via Madrid. My first challenge was getting to the airport as I had all of the orchestra’s tickets and travel documents. I managed to brave the chaos that was the London transport system on Monday morning and eventually made it to the airport in just under 3 hours by a combination of 3 tubes and an overground train (going at a snail’s pace because the ‘signals were covered in snow’!). I arrived at the airport to find that about half the orchestra and a handful of the choir had managed to make it there, but there were no flights arriving or leaving and many of our players were stuck with no way of getting there. We set up camp in a well know coffee chain, made friends with the airport staff and watched the departure boards hoping that the Orchestra’s flight would not change from ‘delayed’ to ‘cancelled’.canaries-003

As the morning and early afternoon wore on, many of the remaining players managed to make it to the airport and eventually at about 3pm it was announced that there was a flight to Madrid that was checking-in. It was not our flight, but we were determined to get our players on it! The airline kindly agreed to allow us on the flight and we managed to check-in our entire group minus 3 people who lived in south London who were still on their way to the airport. The next problem was convincing the airline to accept the double bass in the hold. We seem to have the same battles every time we travel, convincing the staff that we have paid for it/it can travel/it will fit… We eventually managed to get them to take the instrument and I finally waved the group off through departures several hours after they were supposed to have originally taken off.

My next challenge: locating the remaining three members of the choir who were battling with the M25, and getting them on a flight. After waiting around for about an hour, they turned up but it was too late to get them on the same flight as everyone else, so we just had to wait and see what happened. After not too long, they announced that they were checking in another flight to Madrid and we managed to get them booked on this flight, hoping that they would be able to join the rest of the group in Madrid and travel on to the Canary Islands that evening. I sent the three of them off through departures wishing them a safe trip as they were telling me how warm it was going to be in Las Palmas!

The first group made it safely to Madrid and ended up catching the last flight that night to Las Palmas and didn’t make it to their hotel until 2.30am (they were supposed to get there at 6.45pm!). The three members of the choir were not so lucky… they missed the last flight by 15 minutes and had to spend the night in Madrid – without their luggage!

The highlight of my day was when I noticed the label in the photograph attached to Chi-chi’s double bass flight case…

Megan Russell, Projects Officerluggage-tag

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