Saturday, October 22, 2011


Incredible... Awe-inspiring...Beautiful...Best Trip Ever!!    These are some of the words I've used to try and describe our recent tour to the 'Land Down Under'.    Australia has been on my travel 'bucket list' for a long time, and it did not disappoint.    My wonderful wife was able to accompany me on our first-ever voyage to the Southern Hemisphere, and she has done a fantastic job of sharing the tourist-y parts of the trip over at the Vienna Wilsons.    I have included several of my favorite sightseeing photos anyway.

I was originally not supposed to go on this tour at all, but due to some last minute changes in personnel I was able to tag along as a backup principal trombonist.   The orchestra always takes two principal players on long-distance tours, both to avoid overtiring by spreading out the work and to have a cover player in case of illness or other extenuating circumstances.   Since my contract classifies me as a 2nd trombonist, but moving up to 1st when needed, I get taken along quite often as a principal player.

What an amazing venue!   Can't believe I performed here.

Trying out a didgeridoo... harder than it looks, even for a brass player.
There wasn't that much repertoire to go around, but what I played was quite enjoyable:  Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony, Schumann's Symphony No. 2, and Mahler's beautiful song cycle Des Knaben Wunderhorn with fantastic soloist Matthias Goerne.   Also, we did quite a bit of Johann Strauss 'Neujahr's Konzert' stuff: Donauwalzer, Kaiserwalzer, and Unter Donner & Blitz (usually for encores).

I am kicking myself for not buying this hat...
Can you find the trombonist's head in this photo of the Pinnacles Desert??
The worst part of traveling to Australia is traveling to Australia.   Did you know that Australia is FOREVER away from Europe?    We flew out of Vienna on a Sunday evening around 5PM and arrived in our hotel room in Perth at 1AM on Tuesday!  Even with the time difference of 6 hours, that's a long trip...

But at least the flights were nice.   I had business class seats the whole way down, which helped immensely, especially on the flight from Frankfurt to Singapore.   On that plane we had seats which folded down to make pretty convincing beds.   I slept for the majority of the flight, and it really helped with jet lag once we landed.

We fell in love with Australia right from the start.   It's one of the few places in my life that have lived up to all my expectations, and I think it's because it's a truly authentic and unique place.   You know the feeling you get on your first trip to Manhattan?  The sort of "wow-I-can't-believe-I'm-here-and-it-looks-and-sounds-exactly-like-I-thought-it-would" feeling?   That's the feeling I had in Australia.   It's one-of-a-kind and it's exactly what I thought it would be like.

The friendly and energetic people, the amazing and unique wildlife, the gorgeous and vast landscape... it all really exists!    Things like kangaroos, wild obsessions with sports, eucalyptus trees, boomerangs, and Aboriginal art are not just stuff you see in the movies.   You see them everywhere you go! 

A humpback whale breeches off the coast of Perth
Our whale-watching tour was definitely a highlight

The beautiful city of Brisbane

The concerts were all very well-received, especially in Sydney.    Performing in one the world's most famous buildings is something I'll always treasure.   Nevermind that the acoustics aren't fantastic... it's the Syndey Opera House!!   Who cares!  It was just a joy to be there.

Now, I'm not an architecture person, but I definitely recognize greatness when I see it.   The Sydney Opera House is an amazing building.   Kristi and I spent probably an hour or more just walking around it, viewing it from every possible angle and vantage point.   It does have the tremendous advantage of sitting directly on the waterfront of the beautiful Syndey Harbour, which only serves to enhance the experience.

There's not that much to say about the music, because I just didn't play that much.  Conductor Christoph Eschenbach was in fine form the whole tour, which says alot because it was a long and arduous trip.     The musical highlight for me was Schumann's Symphony No. 2.   I am continually astounded by the Schumann's use of rhythm and his gift for melody.   It's one of my favorite symphonies, even though the trombones don't play that much.    The second movement is an absolute joy to hear in the capable hands of our string section.  I recommend you look it up sometime if you don't already know it.

Another transcendental musical experience came in the form of Mahler's lied Urlicht, which was part of the song-cycle performed by Matthias Goerne.    You may know it as the 4th movement of Mahler's 2nd symphony, though in that context it's performed by an alto rather than a baritone.    One of my all-time favorites, really.    Again, if you don't know it, do yourself a favor and YouTube it!   I'm thinking about trying out a piano and trombone version of it on my recitals this winter.   We'll see how it works.

Standing next to me is the main reason this trip was so awesome...Kristi!

Also on my list of unforgettable moments is the very last concert we performed in Sydney.  I don't know if this is just a Sydney thing or what, but when we finished the concert, the audience proceeded to shower the whole orchestra with red and white streamers!!  They were coming from everywhere!   Kristi was in attendance that evening, and she said that a roll of thin ticker-tape-style paper ribbon was left in each seat during the intermission.   I think she took particular delight in hurling it at me from her seat in the choir loft.   It was a very fun way to close out our Australian experience, and we took great pleasure in reeling off one final blistering Strauss polka while buried under mounds of paper!

 If you'd like to browse all our Australia photos, CLICK HERE.

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