On tour (comma lads)

Monday 19th September, 2011

I went on tour with the Manchester University Symphony Orchestra back in July. Seb asked me to write a piece about it for the Music Department’s website, and I thought I’d stick it on here since I didn’t write anything at the time.

Nothing stirs up excitement amongst a group of musicians quite like the prospect of a tour. From orchestras to brass bands to pop acts – amateur or pro – no one can resist this sublime combination of road trip, concert series, holiday and party. And so it was no surprise that the mood around the Martin Harris Centre was nearing fever pitch as soon as our exams were over, such was the anticipation for the Manchester University Symphony Orchestra’s European tour in July.

The chosen settings for our concerts (following a warm-up rendition of Mahler 5 in Manchester for the Not Part Of Festival) were Heidelberg and Prague. Heidelberg’s picturesque Rhine-side cobbled streets, student-friendly since before it was cool to be student-friendly, were a wonderful contrast to the touristic grandeur of the Czech capital. The latter’s magnificent Municipal House not only looked incredible but also enhanced the already beautiful sound of the orchestra.

One of the biggest highlights of the trip was, unusually, part of our marketing strategy – flashmobs. We would gather in the cities’ main squares, set up instruments, blast through Jupiter while some of us frenziedly distributed flyers, then pack up and move on. Not only was this great fun, but it also made a significant difference to our audience numbers, with many of the faces we saw in the evening recognisable from those we’d seen in the afternoon.

Elated, emotional, exhausted, we returned home to unload the instruments, go our separate ways, and get on with our well-earned summer holidays.

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