Friday, September 10, 2010

Small World Syndrome Hits Shanghai

Last night, we went to hear the London Symphony Orchestra play in the Shanghai Oriental Arts Center. Joe had noticed the concert on a website before we moved, and we would never have this kind of opportunity in the States, so we were looking forward to the concert: Bernstein Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, Liszt Piano Concerto #1, and Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances. Amazing and chop-wrenching repertoire, and our seats were perfectly placed to see the keyboard and hear every note from the stage below, especially the power and precision of the brass section (lead trumpet is 22 years old). We really got our money's worth, as the pianist gave two encores (Chopin Etude in E flat and Satie Gymnopedie #1) and then the orchestra gave three (Dance of the Buffoons, a Chinese piece very popular with the audience, and... wait for it... Star Wars)! It was thrilling from the first note, and I was amazed to be hearing such a great orchestra and proud to be from the country that produced Bernstein.

Our friends the Giffords were there, because one of the violists from the orchestra is also the piano teacher to the Gifford children. We weren't sitting with them, but we talked to them before the concert and they asked us to come with them after the concert to meet the violist, so we agreed. By the interval (called the intermission by us common folk), we were looking for food and drink of any kind, but nothing was available, to my surprise. However, we discovered that meeting the violist involved getting on one of the orchestra buses and riding over to the hotel with the players post concert. In addition to the violist (Caroline), we met a violinist (Colin) and a cellist (Jenny), all of whom spoke to us as if it were perfectly natural to have strange Americans on the bus. We got to hear the story of the orchestra's flight over, when an oil light came on over Holland. Without the ability to check the dipstick right there, the flight was returned to London Heathrow, where the orchestra sat for the rest of the day. The funny part is that the concert tour is sponsored by Rolls Royce, and the engine that blew was, you guessed it, a Rolls engine. What sort of karma is that?

Upon arrival at the hotel (after I slobbered over both the principal clarinet and the principal bassoon), we went up to Caroline's room with Colin and found a great spread waiting for us, including lovely English cheddar, which is a great delight in this land of unbelievably sub-standard cheese. While we munched on cheese, grapes, chocolate, drinking either Chinese wine or Earl Grey tea (from the real country - Caroline believes in bringing her comfort food), we were joined by Nigel (violin), Jenny (cello) and Dick (viola). While chatting about this and that, Colin asked where we lived and when we told him about Flagstaff, he said he had been there to visit a violinmaker. Well, there's only one in Flag, so I mentioned Jeff's name, and all of a sudden, Colin didn't seem like a stranger at all. When we also mentioned our friend David (former LSO horn player), the room erupted with people who knew him, and somehow we were then among friends. The evening went until well after midnight, and Joe and I were pinching each other to be sure this was really happening. If you had told us a year ago that we would be partying with the LSO and talking about the next time we might get together, we'd never believe you, but this is China, where unbelievable things happen all the time.

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