Sunday, January 21, 2007

Berlin Phil

Oh my goodness, Berlin Philharmonic is amazing.

This morning we got to the Philharmonie around 9 am and had a pre-rehearsal lecture with the cellist who was to be playing a concerto with the orchestra that day. I'm sure it would have been interesting, but it was all in German. Needless to say, I didn't really catch most of it. I was able to pick out some musical terms and the composers' names. Just goes to show how universal music is. :-)

After the lecture we walked into the concert hall. In plain English, it was amazing. Check it out:

And that image is from "behind" the stage - there are seats all around the hall. Although we sat down on the first level (or somewhere thereabouts) during rehearsal, we had nosebleed section tickets later that night. I'm talking literally the last row. Unlike most last-row tickets, though, these seats were great! The accoustics in the hall were amazing and everything was crystal clear. Plus birds-eye views are cool. We got to see everything with no obstacles to strain our necks around. OK, though, enough of the logistics, more of the music!

The first piece was Henri Dutilleux's cello concerto. It was a bit cracked out and a little too long for what it was, but an interesting piece. Tchaikowsky was next though - Symphony No. 6. A-mazing! As far as composers go for me, Russians rock. And the alliteration proves it must be true! Seriously a beautiful piece. And having one of the best groups in the WORLD play it was wonderful.

At one point during the third movement, I glanced around and there were at least five people right next to me (including myself) on the edges of our seats. It was so amazing and tight and together and beautiful... Music is awesome. I sound like such a music dork right now (I am, so it's cool), but it was amazing to me that a bunch of 20 year-old jet-lagged college kids were so excited that they couldn't sit back in their seats. Terrific.

Friday January 12, 2007

I missed New York City briefly on Friday. Earlier on Winter Break I had visited friends down in NY and gotten to know the city a little better than before. One important bit I learned was that even avenues run north, odd ones run south Now, there could be a similar system in Berlin. But if there was, I was unaware.

After an afternoon of site-seeing with a couple of fellow woodwinds, the few of us went back to the hostel to change before our evening at the opera. Changing into mostly our concert dress (because those were the only dressy clothes we brought) with a few alterations, we left the hostel and headed out on the S-Bahn in plenty of time to get to the Komische Oper Haus. I thought I knew exactly where I was going, so nobody questioned me. Whoops. That was the wrong idea. We got off at the right stop, but instead of turning up the street, I got confused and turned us down the street. It was drizzling a little, but not too bad. After a few blocks, I realized that we were getting farther away from where we wanted to be. I felt awful. (This was the point when I wished I knew which way the traffic went on streets in Berlin) Not only were my navigating skills shot to nothing, but I was making myself and my friends late to the opera. In Europe. Apologizing profusely, I handed the map over to Julia, she got us back on course and we made a beeline for the opera house. Fortunately, our conductor had left the last three tickets with the woman at the door and we got right into our seats… As the orchestra was tuning.

The rest of the evening turned out to be really great. The opera, Die Fliedermous, was exceptional and very entertaining. They even butlered champagne during one of the songs (which was about drinking champagne and being merry – very appropriate). The nice German couple next us, instead of taking the champagne for themselves, past it down to us girls. It was a great treat to put a smile on our faces and ease my feelings of guilt. Overall, it turned into a wonderful evening with wonderful music. An adventure, of course, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from a day in Europe. And now we have a good story to boot.


Last night was an adventure. A bunch of us decided to go out to the bars after we got home from our big group dinner. We didn’t head out till 11:30 and it took a little while to find a decent place open on a Sunday evening. So by the time we got settled, it was late. Around 2:15 am the bartender of the place we were at decided we finally wanted to go home. Some people decided to check out some other places, while about five of us decided to go home. We walked to the nearest S-Bahn stop and had a nasty surprise. It was gated. Apparently, the train doesn’t run 24/7 in Berlin. After weighing our options, we decided the only way to get back to the hostel (insert dramatic pause) was to walk there. Doesn’t sound too bad, but we were a good three-plus miles from home, and it was cold, and we were in a foreign country. Slightly unnerving, but there are power in numbers. That calmed me down a bit. It took a while, but we finally got home around 4 am. Needless to say, I didn’t get up at the crack of dawn to go sight-seeing.

My friend and I finally set out around 11 am to do some souvenir shopping and see the last few sites we wanted to. The day panned out well and we got everything in despite our late start.

Now on to packing. The last day of Berlin is coming to a close. It was a great city and a great trip! And I love that these trips get you to meet people that under ordinary circumstances you wouldn’t meet, even though we have so much in common. We’re musicians!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Today we had our dress rehearsal in the church we’re performing in tomorrow. It was a really nice, big and open place. Made for some interesting acoustics, but very pretty. Rehearsal went well, despite having to wait a while for someone to unlock the church for us.

Later on, some of us went to the Berlin Symphony Orchestra concert. They played one of my favorite pieces, Brahms Symphony No. 1. Unfortunately, it was not the greatest performance. Maybe we were just spoiled having heard Berlin Phil the day before, but it just wasn’t the best.

The best part of the evening came later at the hostel. There were a lot of people hanging around the hostel, partaking at the (always popular) Generator Bar and playing card games. As one of my fellow flute players pointed out, musicians are often very good at fast card games because we’re used to being fast with our hands. Thus ensued a rousing night of spoons. However, the smart people at the hostel realized all their spoons would inevitably wind up in the hands of crazy American musicians, and so locked them up. We resorted to using fake sugar packets instead. It did the trick. Our group started small, but grew slowly and wound up including a bunch of students, our conductor, and one of our guest soloists. As the group grew, so did the energy and pretty soon we had a large group of really hyper musicians. If you have never had the pleasure of being around such a group, it is pretty amazing. Everyone was laughing and trying not to get their fingers slammed by other incoming hands reaching for “spoons” (or sugar packets). Oh yeah, and being pretty competitive about the game. It was really amazing the transformation from being skeptical about playing the game, to joining in, to getting ÜBER competitive. (This was exactly the case with our guest soloist, who wound up being quite the player). We eventually turned it into a game of Survivor Spoons (= amazing fun). The last round was between Chris (our conductor) and one of the cellist. The cellist was victorious!

Good times at the Generator Hostel.

Sunday January 21, 2007

Concert day!

In the morning we all went to this amazing hotel by Alexanderplatz. The lobby was circular in shape, and in the middle towered a four story tall, cylindrical fish tank. I would have loved to be a scuba diver who got paid to swim around the tank and wave at people all day. Screw med school, that’s my plan for the future. (Just kidding!) There (in the restaurant of the hotel, not the fish tank) we had a delicious three course, served brunch. The food was delicious and the service was great! I used to work in a hotel where I served a lot of functions like that one, so it was really nice to be on the other end of things!

After a couple hours and stop at the hostel to change, we made our trek to the western side of Berlin to the church again. But this time it was concert time! It was very exciting to finally be playing in Germany! It was my first time performing in Europe and I was very amped for the concert. Our audience turned out to be a little small, but not surprisingly seeing as we didn’t do too terribly much advertising. The pieces went really well and we were all really happy to have had such a great concert and experience!

A group dinner at a restaurant a couple miles down the street completed the wonderful day. It was especially nice to have the whole group together for the majority of the day. Previous to today we had all split up into little groups to go sight-seeing and shopping. Today it was really nice to feel the whole group around you and camaraderie associated with it. It was a really great day. :-)

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