The Year 1991
I left off
with the preparations for our US tour in the fall of 1991. This would be the
second of three tours to the United States that I would make with the Oslo
Philharmonic, the first being undertaken in the fall of 1987 (and which I have
already reported on.)
This tour was to be a bit different than the 1987 tour in that it was to be what our tour management (CAMI – Columbia Artists Management Incorporated) called an “A” tour, as opposed to a “B” tour, which the 1987 tour most decidedly was. The difference between the “A” and “B” tours lay not in length so much, but in the type of venues and cities visited. The “A” tour itinerary had us visiting more of the major cities in the US and Canada, such as San Francisco. Los Angeles, Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, Washington and New York. In addition, we visited Greenvale, New York and Wheaton College, located not far from Chicago. Both venues were the only survivors on the itinerary of 1987. Another difference was in the type of hotels we were booked into. In 1987, although there were some good hotels in the few major stops on the tour, we were mostly booked into Days Inn-type places, many of them out in the sticks. Lima and Sandusky, Ohio particularly come to mind.
The 1991 tour was to be much different in this respect as all of the hotels on tour were four star and above. In addition, we would be spanning the continent, so almost all of the travel between cities would be by plane.
As with most of our international tours, the orchestra was to perform two programs. One program would feature the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with soloist Frank Peter Zimmerman (which my associate timpanist played), and this was followed by the Shostakovich Seventh Symphony, which we prepared in Oslo inc concerts before departing on tour. Arne Nordeim’s “Canzona”. Beethoven’s 1st Piano Concerto (I don’t recall the pianist) and Sibelius’ First Symphony made up the second of the two programs.
On to the USA
We left Oslo for the USA in early November aboard an SAS flight. This was not a charter has we had more than one flight to go before we reached our first performing venue, which was in San Francisco. Our first leg took us to Newark Airport, where we stretched our legs and prepared to board our connecting flight to San Francisco. This was the first time I was making a trans-continental flight, although I had crossed the Atlantic both ways many times before; however, not with a connecting trans-continental flight right after flying over the Atlantic.
While both flights were very smooth and comfortable, it still felt like it took forever to get to San Francisco.
Once we got there, we settled into a fine hotel with comfortable rooms. As we had traveled quite a ways from Oslo, we had two rest days in San Francisco which all of us used to tour the city. I spent the time concentrating on two areas: Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Bay area. I took a trolley down to the wharf, and I must say I was impressed with the trolley system. The weather was perfect, and the trolley ride was fun. I spent the better part of the day walking up and down the wharf and sampling some of the junk food and other cuisine. I also made note of the submarine that was moored to one of the piers. Even though it was November, the place was full of tourists. I decided to go for a ferry ride on the bay and headed for the nearest ferry, which happened to be the one that went between Fisherman’s Wharf and Sausalito. The route took it right below the famed Golden Gate Bridge, which I had only seen in pictures. As I noted before, the weather was perfect, and I couldn’t have asked for a smoother ferry ride. The bridge was impressive, but it was the bay and surrounding area that was the real star. It is indeed one of the most impressive sights I have seen. Passing Alcatraz Island was also interesting. The weather was so beautiful and temperature was about 73 degrees! Just perfect! The concert itself went off very well, which surprised me as we were all still a bit jet-lagged. Playing in Daviess Symphony Hall was an experience. Excellent acoustics made it easy for the sections of the orchestra to hear themselves. The program was built around the Shostakovitch Seventh Symphony, and we played well enough, although to be honest I remember feeling a bit sleepy during the middle movements, although I can assure you that I did make the entrances on time and with panache! As I wrote in my diary of the time, the concert was a study in concentration – and we won!
After San Francisco, it was on to Los Angeles, where we were to play two concerts at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, which was then the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This was years before the Walt Disney Hall was finished, but the new hall was in the talking stage when we arrived there.
We had a rest day before the concerts, and I joined Atle Opem, our stage manager and several others from the orchestra for a visit to Universal Studios. It took most of the day, and was well worth it. We were even taken there and back by limousine! Star treatment! We saw the set for “Psycho”, “Earthquake”, some of the props and set for “The African Queen” among other sights. It was the first time that I had been to a studio, and it was most interesting. (I haven’t been back there since.)
There were two concerts in L.A. The first was built around the Shostakovitch Seventh, with the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto preceding it. The second featured the Nordheim “Canzona”, Beethoven First Piano Concerto and Sibelius 1st Symphony. Both went well, although I have to admit the acoustics were drier than in San Francisco. While the Shostakovitch went well, my personal feeling was that the second concert was a bit more focused. Still, the audience was pleased and so was the orchestra as our venues and hotels up to this point were far better than our 1987 tour.
The instruments were holding up well. For this tour I had the three larger Hingers and the 24 inch Light, which worked out very very well. A lot of time has passed since this tour – twenty-seven years to be exact, and a lot of the details are a little fuzzy, so for the rest of this post, I’ll touch on the highlights.
Chicago, Wheaton, Ann Arbor and Toronto.
From L.A., it was on to Chicago, Wheaton, Ann Arbor and Toronto. This time we’d be playing at the city’s premiere concert venue, Orchestra Hall, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. On the 1987 tour, we played at the State Street Theater. That was a “B tour” as we had to prove ourselves. Now were in the “big time”. A first class hotel (I think it was the Palmer House Hilton) was our home base for this part of the tour. Mendelssohn and Shostakovitch were on the program. Orchestra Hall has dry acoustics, but acoustical clouds have improved it, and in any case, it was a far better venue acoustically than the Oslo Konserthus. There was and is plenty of room on the stage and the orchestra relished the experience. I have to say our performance of the Shostakovitch was perhaps the best of the tour. Everything went off without hitch and we were super-focused. A ten-minute standing ovation was our reward and we went off happy. That concert still sticks in my memory as one of the best that we ever played. What made Chicago special for me in addition to playing at Orchestra Hall and the great reception was that my wife,oldest daughter and in-laws were in attendance, as well as friends from Indiana. We had a post-concert celebration at a diner near the hall that I had frequented on out last tour and that served good food. It was a great night. The Wheaton concert featured the Nordheim, Beethoven and Sibelius, as I believe did the concert in Ann Arbor. We were no strangers to Ann Arbor and the Hill Auditorium is a great hall to play in. I especially love the organ there, with its beautifully decorated pipework. Both concerts went very well, especially the Ann Arbor concert, as the orchestra always responded well to superior acoustics.
From Ann Arbor, we made a detour to Storrs, Connecticut to play a concert at the Jorgensen Auditorium of the University of Connecticut. We stayed in Hartford and took buses to Storrs for the concert. It was not one of my better experiences, as I felt the acoustics were bad (although members of the orchestra who were not playing and sat out in the hall said the orchestra sounded fine. I was fighting a head cold, and the drums seemed to sense my mood and were a bit “cranky” – I had to really fight to clear them, but the concert went off fairly well. From there, it was on to Canada for the first of two tour venues in Canada – Toronto, Ontario more specifically. Our venue there was the Roy Thomson Hall, home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The weather in Toronto was cold and rainy – very much what we were used to in Oslo, so we felt right at home. Out came the coats and hats. There was only one concert scheduled – Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and Shostakovitch Seventh on the program. Thomson Hall is a good venue, and both works sounded very well to an enthusiastic audience. Toronto is a nice place, and despite the weather, I went up in their version of the “Needle” – very similar to the one in Seattle. Even though it was cloudy and rainy, it was still fun to visit, and I took a ride in a space ride at the base of the needle. It was based on a space shuttle type vehicle and you virtually experienced the thrill of a ride through space and hyperspace. It was fun, but that was my last ride on anything like that, and while I enjoyed it at the time, I was glad to put that behind me.
From Toronto, we flew on to Montreal, Quebec, which was a first for the orchestra. Montreal is a fine city, and while we did not get much time there, and the weather was cold (although sunny). I did get to meet a good friend Dave Davenport during a free period, and both of went to pay a call on Louis Charbonneau, then timpanist of the Montreal Symphony. We visited with him in the timpani room in the depths of Pelletier Hall. He was, and is a great gentleman and I admired his work them, and still do. Although the concert went very well, meeting and talking shop with Louis was the highlight of the visit there. We had such a good conversation, that I made sure that I’d return to Montreal at a later date on my own to get to know Louis better and actually see him at work. While we were at the hall, he showed us his collection of Ringer timpani as well as Yamaha timpani and he then took us to dinner. Quite an experience.
On to New York and D.C.
my diary entries of the period, I notice that I had remarked the tour went
quite efficiently and quickly. From Montreal, we traveled to New York, where we
had two concerts schedule. The first was a run-out to Greenville, Long Island
at the C.W. Post College (as it was known then), and then on to Washington D.C
for the final concert of the tour. The first stop on the New York portion was
Greenvale, Long Island. We had played there in 1987 (Greenvale as well as
Wheaton, Illinois were the only two venues from 1987 that were on this tour. No
more Lima, Sandusky or Muskegon. No disrespect intended to these venues.)
The venue was the auditorium of what was then called C.W.Post College (and is today Long Island University) and the acoustics were good. If memory serves me, the concert was built around the Nordheim, Beethoven and Sibelius and was well received. A pleasant surprise awaited me after the concert…my uncle, aunt and two cousins met up with me afterwards and we had a pleasant visit. They chose to avoid the big city and decided to attend this one. It was great to see them.
Hall is always the highlight of an orchestral tour, and the adage. “the only
way to get to play at Carnegie Hall is to practice, practice” held true in my
case. I had played there many times – with the National Orchestral Association,
Manhattan Wind Symphony, and the Oslo Philharmonic in 1987.
The acoustics are excellent and the venue is historic. We reveled in being in the old hall where Mahler and Toscanini and Mitropoulos held sway over the New York Philharmonic as well as Leonard Bernstein and Bruno Walter. The program featured the Mendelssohn and Shostakovich, and we were all hyped up for the concert. This was it! As it turned out, maybe we were too hyped up. While the concert went off well enough, it felt to not just a few of us to be a bit of anti-climax. We felt a little empty after the concert, although a large contingent of my family attended and were enthralled, as was my old high school director, Arpad Szabo who loved the Shostakovich. As with the 1987 concert, we had a post-concert reception at a nearby eatery, which I believe was the same one that we used after our 1987 appearance, the New York Deli. A great time was had by all.
The final concert of the tour was at the Kennedy Center, the home of the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington. Nordheim, Beethoven and Sibelius were the order of the day. This was my first visit with the orchestra to the Kennedy Center. I found the acoustics to be generally good and enjoyed myself, but I was also glad that the tour was over. A lot of traveling, hotel rooms, concert venues and we were fortunate to be ending on a good note as the concert was excellent and well received. However, I knew that the orchestra was tired and anxious to be going home. They’d be flying out the next day. However, like last time, I’d be staying behind..in this case for a three week vacation in Illinois with my wife, daughters and her family. A great conclusion to a great tour!