Monday, March 28 – Victoria to Québec City
At YYJ—orchestra members assembled at the gate with a strange mixture of early morning grogginess and excitement. Our travel day would take us on flights from Victoria through Calgary to Montréal, then by bus from Montréal to Québec City. The overhead bin situation has been getting more complex and stressful in recent years; with the introduction of bag-check fees, most travelers now opt to stuff suitcases overhead. Enter an entire orchestra, many of whom absolutely must have their instruments in the cabin and not checked below, due to fragility.
As a violinist, I know the stress of flying with my instrument all too well -my violin once rode in the cockpit because the plane ran out of overhead space and closet space. The flight attendants on our tour’s first plane kept muttering “there are too many instruments on board.” Fortunately I shared my row with Kay, a violist; our instruments fit efficiently side by side, helping complete the overhead puzzle.
During our travel time, many VS Musicians pored over music for upcoming concerts—rehearsals for the opera production of Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream would start up only a couple of days after our return, so practice was imperative. Of course it’s impossible to take out one’s instrument on a plane; thus, many hours of our practice time were mental. Not quite as effective, but better than nothing. We left Victoria in the midst of spring; we arrived in Québec City roughly 12 hours later, but one season earlier! I happen to love snow and felt gleeful during my evening stroll while fluffy flakes fell on the city.
Tuesday, March 29 – Québec City
This tour was jam-packed with concerts, rehearsals and travel. But I wanted to find time to explore a bit; Tuesday morning I managed to wake up early to go birding (a hobby of mine for the last few years) along the banks of the St Lawrence River. The walking/bike paths which appeared plainly on my Google map were currently buried in knee-deep snow. It was tough going, but I saw a lovely Snow Bunting, which is a bit of a rarity in Victoria. I also managed some practice time in the hotel room before our afternoon acoustic rehearsal. By dinner, I was slightly nervous; I was excited that my east-coast parents had driven about 5 hours to come see me play, but I had trouble feeling fully relaxed as I sat with them at dinner, wondering how the concert would go.
As a group that seldom tours, we don’t frequently see new halls or play for other audiences (who may be accustomed to the sound of their own local orchestra). The pressure of wanting to make a good impression was thick; our pre-tour performance in Duncan didn’t feel 100%, and everyone wanted to fix that. The hall inside Palais Montcalm has richly reddish-hued wood panels that carried our sound upwards with marvelous resonance. Was the hall too resonant? Could we trust the timing of the sound? We’d find out at the concert. From my seat, the sound was inspiring; the hall itself seemed to welcome music-making. With my parents beaming at me from the audience and my colleagues playing with collective confidence all around me, I took joy in each piece, especially Copland’s Appalachian Spring, one of my favourites. Musicians of the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec treated us to a great reception afterwards – some people met with old friends, and we all felt the genuine camaraderie from fellow players.
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