“What was the funniest thing that ever happened to you on an Orpheus Tour?’’
The Violin Channel recently caught up with a number of long-standing Orpheus Chamber Orchestra members to get the T …
Violinist Renée Jolles
“In 2003, Orpheus had a tour to nine cities in the US and Canada with pianist Richard Goode as our soloist. This was a brutal tour, however-long travel days on the day of each concert, on the road by about 7 AM day after day. For some crazy reason, I had decided to take my six-month old son with me, lining up a babysitter during concert time in every city! (This was something I rarely did; usually my children stayed home with my husband.) Between the late nights and early mornings, nearly everyone was exhausted, but to me, the schedule felt normal-just like life with a baby!
When we arrived in Urbana, IL, I decided to take a walk with the baby despite the threat of strong winds. The sun was bright, so I tossed my glasses into the cup holder on the stroller to put on sunglasses. At that moment a super strong gust of wind came along, lifted my glasses out of the stroller, and I watched helplessly as they sailed far away, out of reach forever! A couple of hours later, there I was onstage in the beautiful Krannert Center, self-consciously performing in sunglasses and evening dress alongside Richard Goode. At the reception, many audience members enquired solicitously if I was wearing sunglasses because of an eye infection!
The memory of this tour is particularly apt at the moment, because, unfortunately, the SARS pandemic was at its high point in Asia during that time. Frighteningly, our plane home from Vancouver came directly from China, raising concerns about contagion. At the airport I was advised not to travel with an infant, but staying in Vancouver indefinitely was not an option with two young children still at home and a full concert schedule ahead! The passengers from Asia, all wearing masks and eerily silent, remained on the plane as we embarked in Vancouver. Especially with an infant in my arms, it was scary to contemplate how close we were to catching a deadly disease. We had to have our temperatures scanned upon return to the US and walk on a disinfectant mat, but, thankfully, all of us remained healthy. For most of us who grew up with vaccinations being commonplace, this was our first experience with a disease which spread so quickly around the world. Although I am thankful that we are being so careful during our current pandemic, I am very much looking forward to being able to play concerts again soon!”
Cellist James Wilson
“We all know travel can sometimes be a carnival hall-of-mirrors! Orpheus cellists always have an extra seat to take their instruments onboard a plane. On one tour a couple years ago, the seats for the Orpheus cellos were mistakenly canceled, except in my case where I was canceled, and the cello got to go onboard. Sometimes I feel like my cello owns me, but…..really?”
Hornist Stewart Rose
”Orpheus performed at SUNY Potsdam in 2006 with a program including one of our “New Brandenburg ” premieres. As we were about to take the stage to begin the concert, the fire alarms in the building went off and everyone had to evacuate the premises. With the audience, musicians and staff safely out of the building, it was discovered the cause was not a fire at all. Turns out the soloist was in his dressing room taking a steamy shower, which activated the alarm. After about 30 or so minutes we all re assembled and played the concert”
Violinist Liang-Ping How
“Playing orange blossom special in a Chinese restaurant in India after a loooong bus ride by me, a Taiwanese and Guillermo a Puerto Rican with an American orchestra from USA. Talk about racial harmony”
Violist Christof Huebner
“At the intermission of one of our concerts several of us had taken off our black jackets. When it came time to go back on stage, I grabbed what I thought was my jacket and we continued with the performance. After the concert had concluded one of my colleagues approached me backstage and asked whether I might have put on his jacket by accident. Turns out I had! The only problem was that I am several sizes smaller than this particular colleague who told me that he had struggled with feeling he had been “straightjacketed” during the performance since the jacket had been quite a bit too small. We both had a good laugh about it!”
Cellist Eric Bartlett
“Sally and I have been married now for almost 34 years. We met at Marlboro in the summer of 1978, but this tour in March of 1983 was the first time we were thrown together again after performing together at Marlboro. We were secretly falling in love, while being very discreet. No one knew, or so we thought. And we weren’t the only two people who were seeing a lot of each other on the tour.
That year, 1983, I bought one of the very first portable hand-held computers. The computer came with a programming language, and.just like the cellphone of today’s youth, that gadget was rarely out of my sight or out of my hand.
It was my very first Orpheus tour, but the orchestra had been on big tours before. There was already a tradition that the tour ended with a party at which awards were given. The awards were, of course, a bit tongue-in-cheek and meant to be funny. Ronnie Bauch was the MC for the awards, and he came up with inventive awards like, “The Portofino Waitress Watcher Award,” and “The Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dream Socks” award. We did some skiing in Austria on that particular tour, and there was even an award for “The Biggest Crash since 1929.” But he always saved the best for last, the “Best Couple” award.
As Ronnie approached the end of the faux ceremony, a few of the illicit couples started to squirm, knowing that the final award was imminent. “And the award for Best Couple….” Ronnie intoned, while looking meaningfully around the room. Various members of the orchestra, deliberately not sitting together, started fidgeting nervously .. “goes to Eric….”
Really? He’s really going to say it? He’s going to say it like he really knows? I mean, we didn’t actually TELL him, but he is really close to Sally, so maybe he just can tell?
”…..and ………….his computer.”
Violist and Emeritus Member Sarah (Sally) Clarke
“Vitamin P – Orpheus 1979 Tour
In the early days, Orpheus traveled all over Europe by bus, and we didn’t mind the long drives between Italian or Spanish or German towns. One famous story took place in Italy…
It was the coffee that did in our bass player, Donald Palma. The morning of our flight to Tel Aviv we all piled on the bus and headed to the Milan airport, but we got into a terrible traffic jam on the highway, everything coming to a dead stop. There was no way for the driver to get off the road and find a gas station with a bathroom. Don began to panic, the pressure becoming unbearable. We all searched the bus and our carry-on belongings for a container into which he could pee.
Cheryl Minor, a violinist, dug out of her bag a huge bottle of multivitamins, enough for this seven-week tour. In a most generous and heroic gesture she emptied the hundreds of pills into her bag and handed the empty bottle to Don whose seat mate held up a coat for privacy and he was able to relieve enough of the pressure to make it to the airport.
Our bus was so late for the flight that we drove straight onto the runway, right up to the plane, bypassing security all together. (This is something that would never be allowed now but it was 1979 and in Italy things were much looser.) We clambered out of the bus, carrying our instruments and bags and up the stairs into the plane.
Don had his big double bass and a backpack and the bottle of P. What to do it? Uncomfortable with the thought of bringing it onto the airplane, he delicately placed it down on the tarmac. As we all found our seats and put our instruments in the overhead bins Cheryl glanced out the window.
“Oh No, you’ve got to see this!” She cried, alerting all of us. Four airport police cars, red lights flashing had zoomed from the terminal and surrounded the vitamin bottle. Cautiously they stepped out of their cars and gingerly examined the bottle.
“Oh Lord,” we whispered to each other, “they think it’s a bomb. What a surprise they’re going to have when they open it up!”
The police took the bottle, wrapped in some kind of black material, and sped back to the terminal. We all looked sheepishly at each other and then shaking with barely controlled laughter and giggles, we returned to our seats and flew off to Israel.
Thus ends the story of Vitamin P”