“I’m on track to achieve my mission”, double bassist Ben Hanlon tells his bassoon buddy Jack Schiller one row up. “Four to five kilometres of running a day.” It’s an impressive goal, both for the distance covered but also for finding time in a busy touring schedule to commit to exercise.
Two weeks on the road – in a foreign country no less – can be draining for musicians and MSO support staff alike. Aside from the flights, bus rides, train trips and myriad of transfers to and from hotels, there’s bumping in and out of venues, checking in and out of hotels, group meetings, group breakfasts and VIP events. Of course, there’s also the six reasons we are here; the concerts.
Right now, we’re sitting on a tarmac in Shenzhen, ready to take to the smoggy sky bound for Shanghai. And while Ben and Jack talk shop, most of us take the opportunity to close our eyes and rest. There’s a two-hour flight ahead of us, then another transfer, another hotel check-in before a rare night off.
Shanghai is a city most of these musicians are familiar with. 2016 saw the MSO spend a week in Shanghai, working closely with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. The benefit of a week-long stay in one city – as opposed to a six-city, intensive tour – is the chance to familiarise yourself with your surroundings.
Tomorrow the Orchestra will return to the Shanghai Symphony Hall, to join forces with pianist Moye Chen on the Liszt Piano Concerto No.1. Cybec Assistant Conductor, Tianyi Lu, will conduct Carl Vine’s V in the city of her birth, in front of family members who have never seen her conduct. And it will be a very special night indeed.
The captain just came over the speaker; we’re heading for the runway. Shanghai here we come.