In mid-August, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra embarked on their first international tour in 13 years. They visited England, Scotland and Ireland our the course of nine days. Here are some highlights from their trip:
“So excited to head off for our BSO tour to Edinburgh, London and Dublin!
As I ran errands everyone kept shouting out: ‘Bon Voyage’, ‘We’re so proud of you and the BSO’, words of support and encouragement from everyone at the Post Office, CVS, Target - all our stops! Guess that [Baltimore Sun] front-page article got some notice!
Thursday, while the orchestra gathers, I will judge the EuroVision Young Musicians 2018 Competition!
I love Usher Hall in Edinburgh and can’t wait for the musicians to experience these venues!”
- Music Director Marin Alsop
Day 2 in Edinburgh
“After we arrived in Edinburgh, [BSO Director of Artistic Planning] Ab Sengupta and I grabbed a bite with conductor/composer Matthias Pintscher and then went to hear him conduct Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the marvelous Pierre-Laurent Aimard!
Today started again with great music: a recital by James Ehnes and Steven Osborne playing fantastic Brahms and Prokofiev.
And now I’m in make up for the televised Eurovision Young Musician Competition where I’ll be one of four judges. We have six finalists – should be fun!
Can’t wait to see the orchestra tomorrow for our first rehearsal and concert!”
- Music Director Marin Alsop
Day 3 in Edinburgh
“What a joy to see andhear my wonderful BSO musicians in Usher Hall this morning! I’ve done so many concerts in this gorgeous hall, but this one feel extraordinarily special. I’m so happy to share this experience with the BSO and the board members and patrons traveling with us. I wish everyone in Baltimore could hear their world class orchestra in this world class festival! YOU WOULD BURST WITH PRIDE!
“Tonight is the first performance of the BSO’s tour to the UK and Ireland! The atmosphere in Edinburgh’s Usher Hall is electric as Marin and the orchestra rehearse Gershwin’s Concerto in F with Jean-Yves Thibaudet. As rehearsal began, the Edinburgh International Festival’s Head of Music personally welcomed the orchestra and shared that both of our concerts at Usher Hall are nearly sold out. Our musicians sound just superb as always, and our staff and crew have done a spectacular job managing the complexities of the long journey. The finest orchestras in the world are invited to perform at these festivals, and it is clear from listening to our orchestra rehearse this morning that Baltimore and Maryland have fostered an ensemble of truly international stature. We will report back again after tonight’s debut!”
-President and CEO Peter Kjome
“On our free day between our arrival in Edinburgh and the rehearsal for the first Festival program, the bracing midday rain gave way to some sun for a few hours, so I used the opportunity to visit Holyrood Palace, the not-quite-so-humble home of Mary Queen of Scots at the opposite end of the Royal Mile from the imposing Edinburgh Castle. For me, the attraction was not so much to bask in the palace's royal décor, but rather to make a musical pilgrimage to the attached 12th-century ruins of Holyrood Abbey, which transfixed Felix Mendelssohn during a visit in 1829; in his own words:
‘The chapel below is now roofless. Grass and ivy thrive there and at the broken altar where Mary was crowned Queen of Scotland. Everything is ruined, decayed, and the clear heavens pour in. I think I have found there the beginning of my 'Scottish' Symphony.’
The melody that begins that famous Third Symphony has long felt mysterious to me, a winding, brooding tune that seems so much a departure from Mendelssohn's usual buoyant voice. And, standing before that "broken altar," the low afternoon sun illuminating the ancient buttresses and the volcanic crags of Arthur's Seat rising in the background, I think I had a glimpse into the emotions that set the young composer's quill to parchment.
Feeling the inspiration flow for many reasons as we head into the first concert of the tour!”
-Associate Conductor Nicholas Hersh
Day 4 in Edinburgh
“It’s really exciting to be here in Edinburgh on Bernstein’s actual birthday – August 25th. He would have been 100 years old today. And performing an all-Bernstein program with my wonderful Baltimore Symphony Orchestra feels like a complete circle to me.
There are so many magical things coming together at just the right moment. I really couldn’t ask for a better way to celebrate. I have such wonderful memories of him, and this will be a great memory for the BSO.”
- Music Director Marin Alsop
“I arranged with Nadin (the photographer who is a local in the suburbs of Edinburgh) a few months ago about taking photos of the proposal. Zuby had no idea that I was going to propose and had no idea there was a photographer until after the proposal was done! I chose Calton Hill as the location because it looks over the city and I loved the view! I told Zuby I was taking her to dinner and walked her up the Hill and proposed! Don’t worry - I took her out to dinner afterwards as promised. This tour has been especially memorable for me!
“The BSO’s second concert at the Edinburgh International Festival was another spectacular success. The sold-out concert, featuring the music of Marin Alsop’s mentor Leonard Bernstein, took place on the centenary of Bernstein’s birth. For my wife and me, the concert began with a sprint, when two tickets unexpectedly became available just a few minutes before the performance. For an orchestra manager, it is a good “problem” to have a sold-out concert with no available seats! The enthusiasm of the audience was astounding. It was great that our incredible guest artist from the BSO’s Edinburgh debut, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, could return the following evening to hear Marin, our superb musicians, and violinist Nicola Benedetti perform. Following two exceptional performances in Edinburgh, the BSO clearly demonstrated that Baltimore and Maryland are home to a truly world-class orchestra. We invite the thousands who will hear the BSO on this tour to visit Maryland and hear us in our homes at the Meyerhoff and Strathmore.
Today the orchestra is traveling by traveling by train from Edinburgh to London, where tomorrow the BSO will perform for more than 5,000 people for the Orchestra’s debut at the BBC Proms. We will be at Royal Albert Hall tomorrow morning for the dress rehearsal in this celebrated concert hall.”
“It was a spectacular view when we were entering the [Royal Albert Hall] stage under the bright colorful lights, looking into the excited audience and hearing the thunderous cheers gave me goosebumps. The crowd’s cheering reached a fever pitch when Marin finally appeared on stage. She is a rock star!
I thought for a brief moment that this was like the Colosseum of the 21st century and we were like some kind of gladiators, only with a superbly sophisticated entertainment of classical music. The orchestra was in top shape, performing on the high caliber of a world-class American orchestra. Amazing technical ability and colorful nuances gave the audience a full emotional experience.
And speaking of the sophistication of the audiences, they were unbelievable. Never have I experienced in my 25 years being in the business such hushed quiet with fully packed 5,000 seat concert hall. Truly, it was unforgettable in sight and sound. What a thrilling experience all together! And of course, [pianist] Jean-Yves Thibaudet played so phenomenally beautiful, contrasted with a gorgeous and tranquil Schubert encore. Not a pin drop from the audiences...memorable indeed!”
- Principal Second Violinist Qing Li
Day 7 in London
“Covent Garden Opera House: this is where my mom used to work for about ten years. It is, for the summer, closed for renovation, unfortunately. Inside Convent Garden Opera House, there is a seat that was dedicated to her with her name on the plaque. Members of my family bought it, and dedicated a seat to my mother, Kathleen Robson Munds. When she used to work here, she was Children’s Chorus Director for about ten years. It was a job that was created for her. She did it for a long time, and that job still exists today.
She was the first to hold that job. She started off as a volunteer, and then they said, “You’re doing such a good job; we’re going to start paying you!” I think my family did basically, “Name a Seat,” and donated money to the opera house. Down here we have the stage door where she used to come in and out. I used to come here as a kid, and when I was a little kid, she still knew the doorman by name. Apparently, when I was a little baby, [conductor] Georg Solti held me right here. He was Music Director in 1965. Here we are; The Royal Opera House – pretty cool stuff.”
- Principal Horn Phil Munds
International press reviews of the BSO’s tour in Europe: