We seem to have done a few of these ‘smash and grab’ dates, as this type of trip is affectionately known, to New York recently. Those of the orchestra who really can’t stand the jet lag seem to avoid the trip so those who do go take it for what it is and we realise we are very lucky to be taken to exciting places, something most working people never do. And for me personally, my view is that I’ve done trips away to all kinds of undesirable places, so a(nother) chance to spend some time in this amazing “city that never sleeps” (with an Orchestra that hardly sleeps) is absolutely fine by me.
Anyway, as someone with young children it sometimes feels as though I’m in an extended state of jet lag. So if the worst bit is a couple of films and some kip then fine by me. On the outward flight I even got to sit next to a cello which didn’t fall asleep on me or even want to get out to go to the loo.
The trip started well with a refreshing lack of agro at the check-in for not being told that I wasn’t allowed to take my timps on the plane, which happens on around 80% of the flights we do despite the office clearing things in advance.
When we got to New York the hardest choice is when and how long to go out for on the free night. The group I was with went for the take-on-local-time-immediately approach, which meant going out at (UK time) 0030, eating at 2am and going to bed at 4.30am. Rather unadventurously we found the same bar we went to on a previous trip but of course the pitchers of beer flowed as well as ever.
Before this I had gone for a wander in Central Park. I ended up near the Museum of Natural History which I had never been to before so I thought I’d pay a quick visit. I dunno, the American obsession with bigger and better seems to have been around far longer than most people think – even their 150 million year old dinosaurs are bigger than anything we have in South Ken…
Unfortunately (for this blog), there were no firsts (ie cricket in Central Park) or mega jazz or sports events to report. I normally try to do one of the above but this time there didn’t seem to be anything on that grabbed me. A repeat of the cricket was scuppered by Paula Radcliffe and co doing the NYC half marathon starting at 7am. Sadly, I didn’t hear of any OAE participants or even spectators….
Oh, I suppose I’d better mention the concert? A repeat of Snape from a few days before, an all Mozart programme featuring the contrasting styles of the space and lift of Robin Ticciati combined with the extraordinary and relentlessly virtuosic Robert Levin with his improvised, turbo-charged cadenzas. They are both firm favourites of the OAE – the combination was always going to be interesting and certainly paid off for me.
Conveniently, in terms of sight-seeing, the orchestra was playing Mozart Symphony No. 40, no trumpets and timps or 2nd flute (for the record, Neil Mclaren (flute) had less to play than we did!) so I managed to get to the most incredible techy store you have ever seen. 5 floors of hi-tech wizardry, it’s worth going just to see the automated system of shopping baskets that deliver your purchases from warehouse to sales assistant for you to inspect. They then get whisked off and given to you after you have paid. I bought a video camera and a portable dvd player to keep my children amused on our long drive on holiday.
We all noticed how prices seem to have gone up, again. Nine of the ten extra dollars we had been given for breakfast get just a single pint of beer these days…
After the concert it was straight to the airport and we were heading over one of the bridges out of Manhattan when suddenly there was one of those awesome NY skyline views. What was wonderful was the unanimous gasp from all in the bus almost resulting in a round of applause. No matter how many times we have all been there, this place has the power to move you almost every time. And that is one thing that you can say about New York which you probably can’t say about literally any other city on this planet.
So will I be coming back? Even, on the return flight, as I looked pityingly at my pathetic blueberry muffin (thanks Virgin Atlantic for my “breakfast” – the pint of beer was certainly more nutritious…) after a rough nights sleep I think you know the answer!
Adrian Bending, Timpani
Editors Note: Pics to follow shortly!