I spent Friday morning at the British Library searching for some manuscripts of bass solos by Domenico Dragonetti, part of a project for Discordia Music. I was amazed at being able to walk in off the street, get a reader card and locate what I needed in a few hours.
The rest of the day was spent at the British Museum, then in search of a pint (or two). London seems like it has become much more crowded than I remember. Everywhere I go the sidewalks are crammed with hoards of people. The tube is a crush even at midday.
A colleague and I had a little debate over which side of the sidewalk to use here in the UK – his point being that people would probably stay to the left when walking as they do when driving. But that hasn’t been my observation. Trying to stay left has gotten me run into more times than I can count in the last two and a half days. Then again, staying right has ended in the same result. I’ve been in very crowded cities before – Tokyo comes to mind – where even in an absolute mob you barely get brushed. Here in London, pedestrians seem to make their way down the sidewalk in unruly knots, bumping and jostling each other like a host of Orcs fleeing Mordor. I arrived after walking to the concert hall (one orchestra bus ride in London is too many) with a few bruises.
Royal Festival Hall has undergone some kind of renovation. The artists’ entrance isn’t the same and some of the backstage areas seemed unfamiliar. Inside the auditorium I didn’t notice any changes, but my recollection of the place is none too vivid.
Unfortunately, I can’t say I enjoyed playing there, so maybe I put it out of mind for a reason. The sound seemed dry and unflattering, both for one bass alone on stage and the orchestra as a whole. The last chord of the 3rd movement of Tchaikovsky 6 got sucked up and disappeared into thin air with no reverberation whatsoever. Hearing instruments across the stage was difficult at times as well.
Due to my position on stage for the Saturday concert I needed to have two earplugs in (one in each ear) the entire time, so it is difficult to tell what happened.
London is a wonderful city, but I’m happy to be leaving behind the teeming hoards and the outrageous prices for more familiar surroundings. I hear it’s supposed to be 90 degrees in Chicago when we get there.