Musicians on tour

Joseph Foley, practicing in Chongqing airport.

It was great to catch up with the musicians of Pacific Symphony on the China tour, many of whom I hadn’t spoken to since the European tour in 2006 (which I covered for a newspaper), some of whom I was meeting for the first time. Here are a few of my interactions.

Waldemar de Almeida, cello: “Wally” has been in the orchestra for more than 30 years and has lots of stories and a thick accent (he was born in Brazil). Anyway, one of the most amazing things I found out about Wally is that he was a member of the venerable Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in Geneva in 1964-65 and played under the baton of  legendary conductor Ernest Ansermet there. He even made some recordings with them, which I vowed to listen to when I got home.

Eric Byers, guest principal cellist: I recognized Eric for a couple of days before I could place him. Then I realized he was the cellist in the Calder Quartet, a group I had heard perform many times. I fell in stride with Eric at a train station or airport one day and we chatted about the tour. He was impressed with the logistics and magnitude of the thing. The Calder Quartet, he explained, was a for profit organization, so all its traveling is done as cheaply as possible, including the hotels. The group might have a gig at Wigmore Hall in London, but all it has to pay for everything is the not-so-huge performance fee, so the group makes do with budget travel and lodgings. Eric was enjoying and admiring the comparatively all-arranged, luxury travel of an orchestra on tour.

Josephine Moerschel, viola: This was Josephine’s first extended trip away from her two daughters, ages 2 and 4. Turns out she is married to the violist in the Calder Quartet, and dad had his hands full in her absence, sending her S.O.S.s even as we spoke. By the end of the trip, Josephine was saying she’d be bringing home her husband a bottle of duty-free scotch to help with his recovery.

Robert Vos, cello: Bob is not only a longtime cellist in the orchestra but a professor at USC, and not in music. Bob teaches and works on stuff like “industrial ecology, including projects on regional materials flow analysis, eco-industrial park planning, lifecycle assessment, and sustainability indicators.” He had a lot of interesting stuff to say about China. Actually, he has interesting things to say about many things. I got the impression that he’s the orchestra’s resident expert. Nice guy, too.

Bob Vos warms up backstage, somewhere in China

David Wailes, trumpet: When I sat down for breakfast with David one morning, he had a confession for me. He said that he’s felt bad about something ever since the 2006 European tour. Seems that I had asked to sit with him for a meal during that tour (I didn’t remember) and that he had said the seat was taken, rather bluntly, I take it. Anyway, he said that from then on, whenever he saw my name in a publication, he had a little pang of guilt. I accepted his completely unnecessary apology.

Allen Savedoff, contrabassoon: Allen gave me a copy of one of his CDs, an album of jazz music played on contrabassoon, with guests. No kidding. It’s called “Contradiction.” He said it’s a great party record. Available on Amazon.

Steve Edelman, principal double bass: Steve noticed one day that I was wearing a Pittsburg Pirates baseball cap and wanted to know why. (It’s a long story — but it keeps the sun out of my eyes.) Anyway, he had a ball cap on as well, a rather obscure one, and I asked, “Is that a Vancouver Canucks hat?” He was astounded that anyone recognized the logo, and for the rest of the trip he was trying to figure out how I knew. Well, Steve, on the strap on the back it says “Canucks.” Now you know.

Steve Edelman, backstage in Beijing. Photo Sim Chi Yin

Joseph Foley, guest principal trumpet: Joseph had one of the hardest jobs on tour, filling in for Barry Perkins and playing the difficult and exposed trumpet solos in “Pictures at an Exhibition.” He did great. And one way he did it was to keep his chops in shape even on travel days. (See photo.)

Jeanne Skrocki, concertmaster: Jeanne found out she was going to be concertmaster on tour a few days before it began. (The scheduled concertmaster pulled out due to injury.) Anyway, I ran into Jeanne a few times during the tour and I asked her if she was nervous. No, she said, she was having the time of her life. She knocked it out of the park, too. At the concert halls, she got her own dressing rooms.

Jeanne’s dressing room, China

Sign backstage, China

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