Inside the Houston Symphony

Taking you behind the music–one concert at a time!

Posts Tagged ‘Tour

Downtime between concert times–what do we do now?

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Principal Harpist Paula Page warms up ahead of Saturday evening's performance at the Kravis Center.

From a wind-chill in the teens in New York yesterday morning to the sunny shores of Ft. Lauderdale yesterday afternoon, the Houston Symphony has finally made its way back to more reasonable weather! Our time in New York—and especially our concert at Carnegie Hall—was phenomenal, but there’s only so much cold weather we Houstonians can take!

Orchestras on tour are very interesting organisms. Every musician and staff member has his or her own way of dealing with life on the road. I’m sure you and your family have taken family vacations, and have witnessed firsthand how differently every family member handles the stress of cars, flights, hotels, etc. Now multiply that by the more than one hundred of us currently on the road, and add to that the stress of playing three concerts in three separate venues over four days, more than 3,500 miles in the air, two different hotels, and countless bus rides, and you’ll have some idea of the craziness a life on the road entails.

While we’re all focusing on the task at hand—namely, playing our final two concerts this weekend here in Florida—we all have our own, unique ways of spending our downtime.  Some of us practice or study for upcoming concerts or recitals (while still keeping this week’s music in our heads and fingers – no easy task); from my personal experience, holing myself up in my hotel room with none of the usual distractions that home affords is one of the best ways I know to ensure that I get good work done!  Some take advantage of the time away to simply relax and recharge before heading back home to the full-time grindstone.  Some of us visited old friends while in New York, and some are doing the same here in Florida.  As Kiju pointed out in a previous entry, some of us take advantage of the great restaurants each city has.

The amazing thing is that no matter how we all choose to spend our downtime during the day, we refocus and come together each night to give the finest performance we can for each audience in each city we visit.  Orchestras bear their cities’ names, and we couldn’t be prouder to represent the city of Houston up and down the East Coast this week!


Written by bwmconductor

January 30, 2010 at 5:47 pm

How I got to Carnegie Hall

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Violinist Kiju Joh shares a little bit about what she loves most in NYC–the food!

Hey everyone!  I am writing from New York City, where we kick-off The Planets–An HD Odyssey tour.  After an amazing and successful weekend showcasing The Planets program to our local Houston audiences, there is no rest for us yet.  Must, keep, momentum, going!  I am really looking forward to performing in Carnegie Hall on Thursday night (guess all of my practice, practice, practicing paid off?), especially since this will be my very first time doing so.  Going on tour is always an exciting experience – the musical preparation; the scattered trunks, traveling cases, and organized chaos backstage; the anticipation of traveling out-of-town; the allure of the cities to which we travel.

We officially start the tour schedule Thursday afternoon with a sound-check at the hall.  I decided to travel a few days early to NYC since I love coming here to visit family and friends, explore museums and shops, visit the not-so-secret best-kept-secret establishments, ride the subway…

Most of all, I love coming here to EAT.

Of course, pizza is a requisite part of one’s NYC gastronomical experience (I highly recommend the balsamic onion and goat cheese pizza at Otto Pizzeria on 5th Ave. Goat cheese, need I say more?  Also, the Margherita pizza at Ray’s on Prince St. is quite tasty).  Upon arrival to the city on Monday evening, though, I couldn’t help but notice all the ramen restaurants that have taken over lower Manhattan.  Was this my calling?  I felt strangely compelled to make ramen tasting my new epicurean mission (after bacon-y dessert making.  I’ll explain later).  Tuesday, lunch and dinner, was devoted to eating ramen.  All different kinds of ramen at all different kinds of places.  The good, the bad, and the “shi shi”.  It sounds overwhelming, but I did have help splitting bowls and received lots of motivational encouragement (thanks EMP).  Still, at the end of the day, I came to the realization, I had basically just eaten carbs all day.

In my defense, that is what we musicians do.  We eat.  We store up energy.  To me, it is a necessary component of our extremely physical livelihood.  Without sustenance, it would be impossible to move our arms up and down, wiggle our fingers, flail about, stomp our feet, do what is physically necessary to produce the sounds of music and enhance our art.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  (Watch another example of how one artistically utilizes carbs).

How did I get to Carnegie Hall?  I ate my way here.

Next post, my very first Carnegie Hall experience!  Next stop, Florida!

Written by kiju

January 28, 2010 at 1:02 pm

Taking it on the road

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We’d like to introduce you all to Meredith Williams–the first of our Symphony staffer bloggers! Meredith is still considered a newbie (as many of us are by comparison–you wouldn’t believe how many people have been here 10, 20, even 25+ years!), and is the assistant to our general manager. She’s been the go-to gal for everything related to this week’s tour to New York City and Florida, and wanted to share a little bit with you all about the planning that went into it.

Surely everyone in Houston felt the excitement that radiated from Jones Hall this weekend!  It was difficult to not get pumped about the Planets concert series.  I’ve only worked here at the Houston Symphony for 10 months, and I cannot recall a single day when the Operations and Production staff has not discussed or worked on The Planets – An HD Odyssey.  It amazes me that for some members of our staff, this weekend was the culmination of years of dedication and work.  Despite our successful weekend, our department has not quite celebrated – we aren’t done yet.  In case you had not heard, we’re taking it on the road.

As I mentioned, I’ve only been a staff member a short period of time.  In this brief period, I have had two major projects.  The first was to schedule ground transportation for the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela back in April. (Why is that a major project, you ask?  Well, that is a story for another blog…) The second project, and what I have considered my baby for the past seven months, is this tour.

In June I found out that I was to be the “Unofficial Tour Travel Agent and Schedule Coordinator.” Since then, I have booked 150+ flight reservations, over 200 hotel rooms, and 30 buses to accommodate all of the musicians, staff and guests that will be traveling between Houston, New York and Florida.  On the surface, booking travel arrangements is not a huge project, until you realize just how many people and details are involved.  I’ve had many hurdles and obstacles since I landed in the post of unofficial tour travel agent.  There were days (like the day we realized the Pro Bowl is in South Florida the same weekend we are in South Florida) that I wanted to pull out my hair and scream “REALLY?!?” at the top of my lungs.  However, I’m not whining.  In fact, as I sit here in my little cubicle under the stage of Jones Hall, I am quite happy to know that I played a part in helping the Houston Symphony (literally) get to New York and Florida.

The weekend was amazing, but the excitement is not over.  The orchestra officially left this morning to fly to New York and perform on that great stage known as Carnegie Hall.  Then, they’re flying to the sunny shores of Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach to play for NASA’s Cape Canaveral neighbors.  I wish I could see it in person, but I know that this tour will be a huge success and will make Houston proud.

You didn’t think we were going to leave you hanging, did you? Violinist Kiju Joh, Assistant Conductor/American Conducting Fellow Brett Mitchell and others are going to be blogging from the tour—so keep an eye out to read the latest updates!

Written by Meredith Williams

January 27, 2010 at 11:41 am