Mar 2, 2012

Australia/New Zealand Tour - Mar 2, 2012

Christopher Verrette (violin)

I have always thought it fitting that The Galileo Project travel to Australia. For one, having been prepared at The Banff Centre (like its recent cousin, House of Dreams), it was essentially born into this world surrounded by Australian voices, as so many of the staff, servers, bartenders, as well as quite a few participants in the arts programmes at Banff come from "Down Under." But also, I can think of no better location – within the Earth's atmosphere – to travel to as a symbol for the theme of discovery that is central to this production: we really couldn't go much farther away on our home planet, and the trajectory of the trip seems to dramatize both its shape and size. As one player just expressed it, this is for many of us, well-travelled as we are, our first experience of the Southern Hemisphere.

As we embarked on this 30+ hour journey, we could be thankful that we were at least able to do it by air, rather than by the only available method known to Galileo, Kepler, and Newton. (Under other circumstances, a sailing trip around the world, perhaps with some interesting stopovers, would be an attractive idea, but not with the looming deadline of a gig.) Readers familiar with The Galileo Project will no doubt remember that his telescope began as an attempt to improve the "spyglass," that tool so important to navigators at his time. They may also remember that the only guy travelling across the sky was Apollo, driving his chariot carrying the sun. We now put quite a few chariots of our own in the sky every day, sitting on seats that (sort of) recline, getting fed and watered, even watching movies.

We could also be thankful for being fed even before getting on the plane. As readers may or may not know, most of us left for the airport directly from the Sunday afternoon Tafelmusik concert at Trinity St.-Paul's. The orchestra would like to publicly thank Carol Campbell [Volunteer and Front of House Manager] and any other staff or volunteers for providing the nutritious and entertaining snack bags for the bus trip to the airport! They were most appreciated and made a huge difference to our stamina and morale, and were just really good, too!

Our flight stopped over for refuelling in Vancouver, where we were joined by our narrator, Shaun Smyth. We then departed at the tail-end of Sunday, Feb. 26 and arrived in Sydney on the morning of Tuesday, Feb. 28. Monday the 27th just sort of disappeared from my calendar somehow.

In Sydney, we were greeted by Arnold Klugkist from Musica Viva Australia, our presenter here, who will be traveling with us. Somehow he managed to send us to the gate for our flight to Perth, go back toward customs to meet our production people who were still collecting our equipment and checked instruments, but still get to the gate ahead of all of us. This indicates that he is either very good at his job and/or a magician, both good qualities to have when on tour with Tafelmusik. It was a good omen for how we will be looked after on this trip.

The guys in Perth
Perth at last! From left to right: Patrick G. Jordan, Dominic Teresi, John Abberger, Elly Winer

Everyone arrived safely in Perth, and everything except one poor drum, which we were informed would be on the next flight. I pictured it wearing one of those tags like a kid who is traveling by himself. Perth proved to be an ideal place to recover from such a long trip. The weather is very warm, but breezy and not too humid; it is a pleasure to be outside, and for many of us, this is the best medicine, to be outside and moving, at least until it gets dark. We have a day off to adapt and rest up. I walk around a lot, as I usually do in any new location on tour, but I have a few specific objectives for this day that have to do with being on the West coast of Australia: I want to get to the actual coast (Perth is just a little inland of the Indian Ocean on the Swan River), I want to eat local seafood there, stick at least my toes in the ocean, and be there for sunset. And stay awake until at least the hour our concert will end the following night.

The port of the area is the charming town of Freemantle, and there is regular ferry and train service. I am delighted that three of the wonderful women I work with show up for the same ferry, and that I have their company for the achievement of all these objectives. The last one is the most difficult; we are all very sleepy by the scheduled START time our concert.

The concert hall is much larger than we are used to, both onstage and off, but acoustically favourable. A lot of our only rehearsal is dedicated to dealing with the physical space, and to the inevitable adjustments of lighting and the projection equipment. The players somehow find their energy for the performance, and we are reminded just how excited by and attentive to this show audiences can be. The corporate sponsor for the tour, Apache Energy Ltd, holds a reception for us afterward and the people we meet are very enthusiastic about the concert and curious about our instruments and how we interact onstage and off. One gentleman I spoke with will be in Melbourne later in the week and sounded genuinely tempted to come hear us again. I am also pleased to meet two local violinists on my walk back to our hotel: the concertmaster of the symphony and another who also plays baroque violin. I always like to share our work with other professionals, and hope that they find the innovative aspects of The Galileo Project inspiring. As I spent the morning walking for hours in the glorious King's Park, before the rehearsal and concert, my feet are tired and I take them to bed, deferring packing for the flight to Melbourne until tomorrow morning.

Pre-concert lecture in Perth
Alison Mackay giving a pre-concert lecture.




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