Halfway into our 2019 US tour the theme seems to be snow. The sunny view from my hotel in Boulder, Colorado this morning is of gorgeous snow-covered hills. The view on our first tour day was a bit less welcome — the snowstorm in Toronto stayed with us for almost all of our drive to State College, Pennsylvania, and added a couple of hours to the already long trip. This was Tafelmusik’s fifth visit to State College and the audience was very enthusiastic in their response to Alison Mackay’s program, Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House.

Knitting on the tour busLong bus rides are a part of our touring life that I have come to really enjoy — when you lock up 25 highly creative individuals in a small space for a few hours interesting things can happen!! This is a time when many important conversations happen, we have a chance to catch up on news about family and friends all over the world, and many ideas are sparked. Sometimes we have guests on the bus too — this picture shows Patricia Ahern’s daughter Liliana with Maryem Tollar — both made excellent progress on their knitting projects during the bus ride to Pennsylvania! Elisa Citterio’s two-year-old daughter Olivia is the most amazing traveller you can imagine, and her happy voice keeps us all smiling.

Presenting these multi-media productions on tour is a very particular skill that Tafelmusik as an organization has been honing for the better part of seven years, when we first developed The Galileo Project program. Our production crew work in two shifts for the entire concert day in order to set up our screen, projections, lighting cues, and organize many more details that I have the luxury of not even being aware of (thanks Beth, Glenn, Raha, Patrick, Kaitlin, and Jason!). By the time the orchestra arrives at the hall around 5pm, the list of things to do is still lengthy — check the general acoustics of the hall, and do some musical rehearsal, soundcheck Alon Nashman and Maryem’s microphones, and make adjustments depending on the size of the hall and stage. Playing from memory allows us to have different configurations for different pieces, and since each stage is slightly different there are always certain setups we need to try. Alon brings some very funny physical comedy to this production, so we also require a somersault rehearsal at each venue — a first in the fifteen years I have been touring with Tafelmusik!

The two concerts so far (State College and Boulder) were very well received, and Maryem has the audience up and dancing at the end just as she did a couple of weeks ago in Koerner Hall. The whole orchestra is completely captivated by the guest musicians that are part of this concert — Dimitri Petsalakis (oud), Naghmeh Farahmand (percussion), and Maryem Tollar (qanun and vocalist). When the moment comes each night for them to take their solos, we sit on the edge of our seats at the back of the stage and enjoy our concert-within-a-concert.

By the time you read this, we have played in Denver, Colorado, and then we head to California to enjoy some warmer weather and a return to three unique venues in Santa Barbara, Palo Alto, and Los Angeles. I know I’m not the only one feeling regular twinges of disbelief and sadness that this will be the last international tour with our dear double bass player Alison Mackay, who is retiring at the end of this season. Alison’s warmth, her sense of adventure, and her 100% commitment to the music we play will stay with us all, and she will be terribly missed.

See where the orchestra is going next here.

Schwab Auditorium, Penn State. Photo by Brandon Chui Macky Auditorium Concert Hall, Boulder, CO. Photo by Brandon Chui


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