European Tour 2017 – Musician Blogs

 

VIENNA

April 7 – 12 2017

After flying for 21 hours we were extremely relieved once we landed in Vienna. We began exploring the city shortly after our arrival which included visiting St Stephens cathedral. We were absolutely in awe of the stunning building; the ceilings towered high above us and were decorated with the most beautiful chandeliers and skylights. It was such an incredible experience seeing the immense detail of the cathedral.

During our sightseeing, we also visited the Mozart House. The house contained an exhibit of the composers past, reflecting both public and private influences on his music. The house itself was Mozart’s main residence for several years and also contained historical items including violins and original manuscript.

The next day we went to see a concert performed by the Vienna Philharmonic at the Mozarteum. Incredibly, five euros was all it cost for our tickets to see the Vienna Phil in concert performing Mozart 38, as well as works by Schubert and Bartok in the Golden Hall. The standing room tickets (although tiring) offered a great spot to experience one of the greatest orchestras in the world.

Another highlight of our stay in Vienna was having the privileged opportunity to have a masterclass with Tobias Lea, principal violist of the Vienna Phil. He had such incredible insight and taught us so much about the music of Shostakovich. He was definitely an inspirational figure for us as young Australian musicians to see that with hard work and perseverance it is possible to have a professional career in one of the world’s leading orchestras.

That night we also went to see a ballet performance, “Eugene Onegin” by Tchaikovsky. This was an amazing experience – a stellar performance by both the dancers and the Vienna Phil, including a stunning viola solo by Tobias Lea.

One of our concerts was held at the Esterhazy Palace in Haydn Hall. The hall’s unrestored decor has remained a symbol of musical elegance and refined musical culture since Haydn worked as the palace’s composer, providing a stunning backdrop for our performance.

Our experience in Vienna was a great way to kickstart an amazing tour.

Phoebe Gilbert – Phoebe is a violist with the SYO. She has started her performance degree this year at the Sydney Conservatorium and hopes one day to travel to Europe to further her studies as a professional chamber and orchestral musician.

Ruari Campbell – Ruari is a 17 year old percussionist & drummer from Sydney studying at Fort street High School. Joining SYO for the tour, Ruari hopes to continue his musical education in the future in both a performing and teaching capacity.

 

BUDAPEST

April 12-14 2017

From our first day in Budapest it was a non-stop roller coaster of music, food, culture and fun.  SYO began our time in Budapest with a workshop with Robert Farkas assistant conductor of the Budapest Festival Orchestra and a few of the Orchestra’s principal musicians. Working with this group of world class musicians was an invaluable experience to all members of the SYO. Especially when the repertoire covered was Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”, a demanding piece in and of itself.

Following the workshop, to get back to our hotel, we had to navigate our way through a protest which was taking place in the middle of the city. The protest was in opposition to recent government education, NGO policies. It was an adventure, to say the least.

Our second day in Budapest began with a trip to the fabulous Buda Castle overlooking the city. Beautiful isn’t the word! This city boasts some of the most beautiful architecture I’ve ever seen and all the locals are extremely enthusiastic in sharing their city’s art and history.

From Buda Castle SYO then went on to the beautiful Royal Palace Gödöllő.  We had a tour of the palace before preparing for our third concert of the tour. Our program consisted of “Kakadu”by Peter Sculthorpe, Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto featuring the extremely talented Owen Morris (Principle Trumpet for Adelaide Symphony Orchestra) and Shostakovitch Symphony No. 11. This concert was performed to a sold-out audience, including the parents of yours truly.  To quote my mother “Kakadu was absolutely gorgeous!”. The reception from our audience was overwhelming.  So much so that an encore of the final movement of the Haydn concerto was required to satiate their musical appetites.

#syotour2017

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SYO’s third and final day in Budapest kicked off with the orchestra being able to attend a rehearsal of the Budapest Festival Orchestra at the Liszt Academy.  A site which a handful of the SYO members were lucky enough to have a guided tour of.  Having the opportunity to attend a rehearsal of a professional orchestra is a big thing for young musicians.  It provides insight of how an orchestra rehearsal is run in a professional setting as well as highlighting the fact that at any level, intense rehearsal is required for any musical performance.

After the Festival Orchestra’s rehearsal, we got to spend a very relaxing couple of hours at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths.  This allowed for some much-needed down time in the warm water after a very full on first half of our tour.  The baths are a very popular tourist attraction and so were quite busy. Needless to say, there are some people who should avoid wearing speedos!  Regardless, a great time was had by all.

To finish up the day and our time in Budapest we were treated to dinner and a show.  The concert being the same program we had attended the rehearsal for earlier that same day.  The program included Mozart Symphony No. 36 in C major, Honegger Chamber Concerto for Flute, English Horn and Strings featuring Erika Sebok and Clément Noël respectively and Schumann Symphony No. 1 in B flat major.  Seeing this concert was very insightful given the glimpse we had had into the work that goes into a performance like this with such outstanding musicians.  There’s a certain energy which comes forth in a live concert performance and we were lucky enough to experience it.

Budapest is a wonderful place that I’m sure many of us look forward to visiting again in the future.  The musical culture and passion for artistic expression is hard to beat and we will definitely be taking some of that flare with us back home to Sydney to inject into our own performances not just with SYO but throughout the rest of our musical careers.

James Barrow – James is SYO’s principal tuba player. He hopes to one day perform with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Till then he plans to complete a masters degree at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

SALZBURG

April 15-17 2017

After travelling 6 hours on a bus from Budapest, we arrived in Salzburg! The birth place of the one and only Mozart.

We went straight to our performance venue: the “Great Hall” at the Mozarteumorchestra House, under the shadow of the Hohensalzburg Fortress, to get ready for our first performance of Program 2 under Alex Briger’s baton with the wonderful guest soloist Nick Deutsch.

After hauling the massive harp case and percussion gear up the cobblestone driveway we entered the hall with the amazing artwork backdrop and got set for the night’s performance.

Beginning this amazing concert was George Palmer’s “In Paradisum” which from the first note created an ethereal atmosphere which continued throughout the piece. The piece’s success was evident because as soon as the piece ended, the composer was stood up to ruptous applause. Following this, SYO was joined by the phenomenal oboist Nick Deutsch who wowed both the orchestra and the audience due to his incredible tone and astonishing playing. Thoroughly well deserved, he returned for numerous rounds of applause.

Finally, SYO got to the largest piece of the night, Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’. All of the movements accurately conveyed different images and stories inspiring both the musicians and the audience. Definitely a highlight of this trip so far.

Austria taking it to new heights #syotour2017

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The following morning we got to experience the renowned Salzburg Easter Festival by watching a performance by the Staatskapelle Dresden Octet at the Stifling Mozarteum. Their program of Schubert and Schuman was phenomenal as every player’s sound was clear and beautiful but their ensemble skills were the best of all, delivering an impressive and cohesive performance.

 Braving the bitter cold and rain outside, we had the rest of the afternoon to go see the sights of Salzburg. Splitting up into smaller groups, we went round and did all of the touristy things to do in Salzburg. Frolicking around in the gardens we recreated the Sound of Music, running through the garden tunnel, dancing around the fountain rims and singing at the top of our voices, all recorded of course by our trusty media person Oliver Brighton. We continued looking around, stopping at every souvenir shop we saw, and meandered our way up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress where you could see over all of the city. Consuming lots of pretzels and hot drinks pushed us through the afternoon, even the rain and wind couldn’t stop our fun.

At the end of the day we made our way back to our hotel. We made lots of wrong turns along the way which just added to the experience of exploring the city, but thanks to trusty Google Maps we found out way back safe and sound. It was our last night in JUFA Salzburg, so (some of us) rested up, getting ready to head to Prague the next day.

Travelling around Europe with SYO so far has been an incredible experience. It’s not every day that you go on an international orchestral tour. I’ve spoken to people that I haven’t spoken to before and become closer friends with others. My assistant harp roadie, Courtney, and I have been getting stronger and stronger each day moving the huge harp case. Of course enlisting the help of others when we need to lift it up. After all, as Yarmila, our trusty CEO says “The 2 smallest members of the orchestra are moving the biggest instrument”.

We’ve had amazing opportunities to play in venues that you’ve heard about but never thought you’d see and taken part in workshops that have improved us immensely. The wonderful opportunites and musical leadership by our conductors has helped us grow musically and as an orchestra. SYO has provided us with an opportunity that I know, I’ll never forget.

Kate Moloney – Kate is Principal Harp of SYO and SYO Philarmonic. She is currently in her first year in a Bachelor of Music Performance Degree at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

 

 

PRAGUE

April 18-20 2017

We’ve made it to the Czech Republic – the motherland of our dearly loved composers Dvorak, Smetana, and Janacek. It is said that the lush soundscapes of Czech music are heavily informed by the beautiful panoramic landscape of the country. I’m not sure whether it was just placebo kicking in but it almost made sense being able to contextualize a few favorite pieces of music in the country of their birth. It was intriguing to consider how the constant occupation and liberation of the country by military forces has shaped the current state of country, making it culturally quite disparate but in a simultaneously harmonious way that defined its unique sense of nationalism.

Our first day was spent mostly travelling; we checked into our hotel rooms at 3:00pm and had time to briefly freshen up before the evening’s rehearsal and performance at Church of St. Simon & St. Jude. The venue had an extremely boomy acoustic and the lack of stage space demanded a pretty tight fit for the orchestra. This caused many acoustic complications but once balance issues were sorted, it was ultimately a very rewarding concert due to how full the orchestra sounded in such a space. We didn’t have time for much else after our concert that day. I took a short walk around the old town before indulging comparatively early night’s sleep at around 10:30 pm.

On second day, we were given a guided tour of Old Prague castle; we were all in awe of how many generations of architecture was involved in the construction of the castle, but also struggling to concentrate on anything other than the bitter cold and rain. After this we were given money for lunch allowed free exploration time (during which many of us resorted to hot mulled wine and heated café’s). By now, many of us were starting to encounter issues with multiple currencies; trying to pay for food involved struggling to sift through AUD, Euros, Forint and now Czech Koruna.

We were then taken to the Rudolfinum to attend an open rehearsal of the Czech Philharmonic. The building was originally established as a house of arts funded by the eponymous patron Crown Prince Rudolf, but then converted in 1920 to a House of Representatives in the newly found Czechoslovakia. It was once again turned to a concert hall after German occupation and has been the home of the Czech Phil since. Walking into the building with such knowledge really does make the experience feel so much more profound.

We were incredibly privileged to be able to watch the world famous pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque perform Poulenc’s double piano concerto. The performance reminded us the importance of the theatrical and physicality factor in a musical performance. The soloists were extremely lively and engaging, in an exchange with one another, barely remaining in their seats amidst the intense musical conversation. Afterward, our group attended a workshop on Mussorgsky’s Pictures at and Exhibition with the Principal Horn (and assistant conductor) of the orchestra, who offered us subtly different opinions of the character of the piece, further tailoring our understanding of the piece.

P I N K D A Y S #prague #syotour2017

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Most of us were disappointed in our very brief stay in Prague and wished we had time to properly immerse ourselves such a culturally and politically complex city. However, I’m sure many of us will return at some point in the future.

 

Salina Myat – Salina in a percussionist in SYOP currently studying BMus performance at the Sydney Conservatorium after transferring from the composition degree. She is unsure as to whether or not she wants to pursue percussion specifically in the future but is certain that she wants to be involved in the music industry. She hopes to eventually return to Europe to further her studies.

Big violin section ❤ #syotour2017

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BERLIN

April 20 – 23 2017

After a pleasantly surprising bus trip from Prague to Berlin featuring some light snowfall we finally reached our last tour destination – Berlin!! Despite feeling sad about the tour coming to an end we were all extremely excited for what the last few days had in store for us!

On our first evening we had a few hours to roam the city centre and visit some iconic landmarks such as the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag and the Holocaust Memorial, before we escaped the bitter cold for a traditional German meal of Curry wursts.  

Day 2 brought us an open rehearsal and workshop with the Berlin Radio Symphony at the Haus des Rundfunks, which happens to be the oldest self-contained broadcasting house in the world! The orchestra were rehearsing an original score for a black and white film “Blancanieves,” which was very interesting as this was the largest orchestra we’d seen on the trip and the score featured an instrument many of us had neither seen nor heard before – a bowed saw, which made an eerie ghost-like sound when played. The music was also a stark contrast to much of the more “traditional” classical music we had seen in other cities such as Mozart and Schubert.

In our workshop with Steffen Tast, one of the violinists and conductors of the Berlin Radio, we played Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Even though we had played this piece so many times in workshops and concerts, every person brought a fresh and diverse interpretation to the piece; teaching us a great sense of flexibility. Steffen really focused on his own personal imagination of the story line of the exhibition which inspiring and also very humorous as it vividly brought light to a lot of different characters which were portrayed in the music.

In the evening we attended a question and answer session with members of the Karajan Akademie at the Berlin Philharmonik where we got some insight into life as a member of the academy, the application/audition process and on playing with the Berlin Philharmonic! Afterwards we were lucky enough to watch a modern chamber adaptation of Bizet’s Carmen, featuring stunning instrumentalists and vocalists alike. For me, one particularly memorable moment was when the principal trumpet left the stage to play an offstage part before returning on stage and playing another phrase within 2 seconds of sitting in his seat; a demonstration of the sheer professionalism and concentration required in performance.

Our final day in Berlin (and Europe) brought the prospect of an activity that many of us on the tour had been looking forward to immensely – a workshop and rehearsal in the main hall of the Berlin Philharmonie! Renowned as one of the most iconic and acoustically perfect performance venues in the world, we were incredibly lucky to have stood and played on the very stage that almost every classical music legend since the 1960s has set foot upon. In our workshop with Matt McDonald, the principal double bass of the Berlin Philharmonic, we received amazing insight into playing and performing Shostakovich’s 11th Symphony ahead of our final performance that night. He was a particularly big inspiration to us string players but also had some incredibly valuable life advice for the whole orchestra – he encouraged us to always play with as much energy and passion as we can muster “as though it is the last time you will ever play your instrument.” Matt’s enthusiasm and vitality is something I am sure will be extremely inspirational for all of us in the years to come.

Finally it was time for our last performance of the tour, featuring a collaboration with the Berlin Youth Ensemble. I think we all felt that our last performance of Shostakovich 11 was the best one yet which left us with a very fulfilling sense to the end of the tour. We also performed two movements of Pictures at an Exhibition with the Berlin Youth Ensemble; it was definitely the largest orchestra any of us have played with, we really lifted the roof with double the strings winds, brass and percussion making it an epic end to our journey through Europe.

A huge thank you must go out to all the SYO and Hayllar Tours staff who looked after us on this tour – without them the whole experience simply would not have been possible. On behalf of the orchestra, thank you all so much for your patience, tireless work and love!

Emily Beauchamp – Emily is concertmaster of SYO and is currently in her third year of her Bachelor of Music Performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Emily aspires to be a professional orchestral and chamber musician.

COPENHAGEN

April 24 – 30 2017

Having just experienced the thrills of touring with an entire orchestra, it was time for 7 of our string players to head off to Copenhagen for a collaboration with DUEN – the Danish Youth Ensemble!

Hey how you DUEN? 😉😘😏 @alinavizine @emiliecallesen

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After a short half an hour flight (just enough time for a power nap) we arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark; and armed with metro cards we made our way to our first rehearsal. Our venue for the week was the Danish Radio Broadcasting Centre where we met with SYO alumni Peet Morrison. Having just toured for 2 weeks with minimal practice time, I’m sure we all felt like we were thrown straight into the deep end – but our first rehearsal, while challenging, was an incredibly inspiring experience. We quickly learnt that it was okay to make mistakes and everyone- players and conductor alike were solely focused on the passion and music. We left the venue, exhausted but extremely stimulated and excited for the next few days to come.

The remainder of the rehearsal period was both intense and extremely rewarding with the conductor Morten introducing us to some very interesting rehearsal techniques, which involved no vibrato, mixing up the seating of the entire ensemble and dividing the orchestra so that half were playing with the bow and half pizzicato. Throughout the week we worked on Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, Grieg’s “Last Spring,” Sibelius’ Andante Festivo and a funky new composition by Peet Morrison called “In Motion”. The program was very diverse which allowed us to explore all sorts of string specific techniques and really improve our playing and ensemble skills.

On Day 3 we were lucky enough to watch the Danish Radio Symphony rehearse Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances in their beautiful concert hall – the orchestra had such a great sound and everyone looked so engaged and happy! The trip was also a really great educational experience for us as we were submerged in a different culture and had to learn to navigate and live in a foreign country.

With some time to explore Copenhagen city and try some traditional Danish foods, we soon learned that living in Copenhagen was not a cheap affair, with food, travel and shopping all incurring a 25% GST-esque tax!

The morning of Day 4 involved a quartet performance at the official ANZAC ceremony where we played one of Peet’s compositions and the Australian and New Zealand anthems, followed by a morning tea of freshly baked ANZAC cookies after which we headed to our first concert with DUEN. The two concerts we performed, each in a different church were both thrilling, and we were almost all moved to tears by the encore which was a Scottish Lament by Niel Gow which Morten (our conductor) played while we accompanied him.

I think it is safe to say that all seven of us had the most amazing cultural and musical experience in Copenhagen and a big thank you must go out to everyone involved in making this trip possible for us!

Emily Beauchamp – Emily is concertmaster of SYO and is currently in her third year of her Bachelor of Music Performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Emily aspires to be a professional orchestral and chamber musician.