Update from the road
18 Jun 2011
Inside the Classics

Sorry for the prolonged absence, it’s been an absolutely unbelievable couple of weeks as I begin my two month stint as conductor of Sting’s Symphonicity tour. We started out in Bucharest, Sofia and Belgrade, then onto Graz, Ljubljana, Moscow and St. Petersburg. We touched down in Gdansk yesterday and have a show he tonight.

It’s been a pretty steep learning curve as I figure out how everything works on a tour with one of the most iconic rockstars in the world, and I feel like I’m finally figuring out the rhythm of things. Concert days run a pretty predictable pattern: get up in one city, take the private plane (yes, it’s really, really nice…) to the next city, check into the hotel, drive to the venue, do a soundcheck with an orchestra I’ve never met for 2.5 hours, order dinner at catering, get ready for the show, perform, go directly from the stage to the waiting vans after the 3rd encore, return to the hotel, take off concert clothes, head to the hotel bar for a drink with the band and the boss, repack, sleep, and do it all over again the next day.

The big musical challenge has been those soundchecks with a new orchestra nearly ever night. I have a prep conductor who’s ahead by about a week who rehearses the orchestras (up to 12 hours, which seems like a tremendous luxury!). So, while the orchestras have rehearsed by themselves by the time I arrive, in soundcheck I have to immediately assess the level of the ensemble and figure out where they’re going to need me most. European orchestras don’t play pops shows like Stateside orchestras do, and across the board I’ve heard a certain discomfort with decidedly non-classical offbeat/syncopated rhythms as well certain types of articulations. But by soundcheck time it’s all about triage and prioritizing those things I have to address and fix. I’ve always been pretty quick on my feet, conductorially speaking, but I’m definitely honing those skills on this tour!

Our largest audience so far has been in St. Petersburg where the crowd exceeded 100,000…which is pretty mind-boggling – people as far as you could see. On one hand it’s amazing to imagine such a collection of humanity amassed to experience this one concert. On the other hand, onstage it’s just another concert, and everyone’s doing their part to make it as successful as possible. It’s a fascinating dichotomy. A friend asked me if I was anxious about performing in front of so many people, and I answered that it doesn’t make any difference to me who’s out there; I’m just focused on establishing a groove with band and bringing the orchestra into their sonic fold.

It’s been a fantastic experience getting to know Sting and the band, and even more so working with them night after night and watching how everyone interacts onstage. It’s also astonishing to see how much work goes into a production like this and the amount of manpower required! A topic for a future post. I’ll try to post photos soon, and I’ve taking soundscape videos of many of the cities we’ve hit. More later; I need to take advantage of a rare morning off and catch up on email and do some laundry!

<April 2020>

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