The summer is over, the new term is about to begin. Our last events in August were the concerts with Sir Roger Norrington at the Proms, in Edinburgh, Grafenegg and Esterhazy. They proved to be an enjoyable and exciting (perhaps a bit too exciting!) finale to the 2008-2009 season.
In Edinburgh we were looking forward to working in the newly refurbished Usher Hall, whose beautiful acoustic is ideal for the OAE’s sound. We were joined by the mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who had recently had an accident to her foot but gamely insisted on no fuss and certainly was a big hit with everyone in the orchestra. The rehearsal in the morning went without a hitch and we dispersed to sample the delights of the Festival during the afternoon. All went smoothly in the concert until we were just about to go on for the second half, when all the stage lights suddenly went out. (The wind players who were already on stage were plunged into gloom and looked most surprised!) The lights were restored in moments by the hall staff and the concert resumed, with Joyce performing Haydn’s dramatic Scena di Berenice. However, a few minutes later the lights failed again. This happened twice more, with the increasingly frantic Usher Hall staff trying to find out what was wrong. It seemed that the concert would not be able to continue, and the house manager addressed the audience asking for their patience while they tried to solve the problem. The audience were however becoming a little frustrated – one man sitting in the choir seats behind the stage ironically waved a little torch around!
The fault apparently lay with a defective dimmer switch and eventually the orchestra, Sir Roger and Joyce agreed to finish the concert using only the “working lights” above the stage, which cast a rather eerie yellow glow. However the performance was loudly cheered by the audience at the end – half an hour later than anticipated!
Later in the week a smaller group of us visited the Esterhazy Palace in Fertod, Hungary, where Haydn worked for his patron Nicolas Esterhazy. It was a wonderfully hot day and we were given a tour of the restored rooms in the palace. Our concert took place in the mirrored music room on the first floor. Owing to the extreme heat and humidity we performed with the balcony doors open and a number of uninvited flying guests came in to see what all the excitement was; Andrew Clark had to remove a very large bee from Chi-chi’s double bass! We met the current resident, Prince Paul Esterhazy, who told us that it was a special privilege for him to hear David Blackadder perform the Haydn trumpet concerto on a replica keyed trumpet.
Philippa Browsword, Orchestra Manager