It was an early start to the day, with half of the Orchestra arriving at Heathrow at 06:30 and that after not finishing a stunning performance in the Royal Festival Hall the night before until 10:30pm! But the OAE have grown used to this. International touring might sound glamorous but the reality of early morning check-ins and hotel rooms not being ready for you when you arrive are all par for the course!
Nevertheless an uneventful flight to Berlin later we arrived in warm Spring sunshine and found our way to our hotel in time for lunch. Berlin was busy this Good Friday with groups of tourists milling around CheckPoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate, but that didn’t deter the OAE from seeking out the very best eateries in town. We sat drinking in the beautiful warm sun and the ice cold German lager, thankful for a few hours of peace and quiet in the middle of a busy day and at the end of a long hard seven-date tour. Some players went to their favourite museum, some shopped (‘in Berlin’s famous chocolate shop, the only shop open on Good Friday! Couldn’t even find anywhere to buy some toothpaste’ says Ceri), many slept and others simply wandered about seeing the sights and practising their German.
And then the time for the rehearsal came. Many might think that after 2 weeks of rehearsing and performing to thousands around Europe there’d be little left to practice, but such is the quality and exacting standards that the OAE works to there is always something to go over just one more time to ensure that that evening’s performance is the very best it possibly can be. And indeed it was, the Berlin Konzerthaus is a beautiful venue and it was full to the rafters. The Orchestra looked small on the Hall’s vast stage behind our 8 wonderful soloists. Our German audience listened reverently and appropriately given the piece we were performing and the day it was performed on and then when the final notes of the piece had died away and the singers were standing there drained of their performing and creative abilities came the applause and the cheers. People were on their feet, the whole audience was on its feet, there were ‘bravos’ and ecstatic clapping which went on for at least 10 minutes, there were four, perhaps five bows – everyone lining up as one to receive the applause. This was a St. Matthew Passion to rival any that had been performed before, chamber-like its proportions and its approach, carefully and lovingly crafted, beautifully performed and brought to life by everyone involved, no one individual any more or less important than the next, each with their own role to play and their contribution as vital as the next. This is what the OAE is about, this is why we get up at 4am and travel halfway across Europe, this is why we risk taking a German piece to a German audience on the one day in the year it was meant to be performed, a beautiful performance which stunned everyone who heard it.
The après-concert activity ranged from more eating and more drinking to just falling into bed. As far as I’m aware no one opted to stay up through the night ready for the 5am coach to the airport the next morning! We travelled again, we got to know yet more about the shops and cafés in Berlin Tegel airport, we left sunny Berlin behind and arrived in rainy London by 9am, and then like sand slipping through your fingers, everyone dispersed back to their homes and families, back to their Easter Eggs and a few days well earned rest.
Michael Garvey, General Manager