Sunday, January 4, 2009

Self-Defeating Procrastination...

So I'm procrastinating. Again. Big surprise, I know. I should be working on a final report for the Tour that I took the NAC Orchestra on in October and November, and so instead, I've decided to write a blog. About the Tour. That I took the NAC Orchestra on in October and November. It seems fitting, since I'm about to take them to Toronto this weekend.

Tour is a pretty big component of my job at the National Arts Centre, and this was the first real full-blown tour on which I'd taken this orchestra, or any orchestra, for that matter. Suffice it to say that I was a little nervous about how things would go. And as tours go, cutting my teeth on the Western Canada Tour 2008 was definitely a challenge. You can have a look at the NAC's comprehensive website for a formal presentation of the tour at - there are great pics and some fantastic blogs, among the pages there.

Among the challenges faced on this tour were hotels that always promised to have rooms ready for check in, but rarely actually managed to deliver. Weather was also a factor. In the photo to the right, we're boarding our flight from Whitehorse to Victoria. There was quite a lot of fog, and we were concerned about being able to take off. Though you can't see it in this photo, behind the tail of the plane, there is actually a fairly dense, large forest. It's maybe three hundred meters across the tarmac...but the ground crew told us this was pretty normal for Whitehorse, and we should be able to take off.

Speaking of flights - we also chartered a plane for much of the tour. It turned out to be a fairly cost-effective way to travel given the remote locations to which we needed to go. Our limo (pictured to the right here), was provided by AirNorth. The crew was great, and provided 5 safe, fairly enjoyable legs of our travel.

The only part of the charter that was a challenge was the first flight. I needed to figure out how to effectively communicate the needs of the orchestra to the charter company - i.e. the plane needed to be ready to board by the time that the group arrived at the airport. Otherwise, they end up hanging around a small Charter Terminal lounge, wondering what in the hell is going on.

The tour ended up comprising 21 days of travel and performance, including an absolutely stunning number of Education activities in which members of the Orchestra visited schools in the communities in which we performed, conducting Masterclasses, clinics, and even one on one lessons. This was a pretty unique and memorable experience for students who in some communities only have access to itinerant instructors.

We all worked pretty hard on the tour. The volume of what needed to happen was amazing - both on the road, as well as back home in Ottawa to keep things on the right track. The staff all grabbed whatever opportunity they could find to sneak in a phone call, set up the day's activities, and communicate with the office back home.

On a lighter side, the three weeks on the road was also a chance for me to really get to know this orchestra. I've been in the position for a year, but those 344 days of regular hometown concerts have nothing on the 21 days of travel, hotels, new concert halls and various modes of transportation when it comes to learning all the personalities in the band.
For example - I started the tour with a fair mane of hair, but in Vancouver, I elected to get a haircut (as you can see in these comparison photos). It was an interesting experience - it took 90 minutes, and cost me $55. It was a sore blow for someone who is used to getting a haircut for $12, in under 12 minutes. Needless to say, when I showed up at the next performance, I took no small amount of ribbing (actually, a lot of it came from Pinchas...and the Production Crew of course). And yes, I know I'm sleeping in a bar in the photo above. Classy. In Victoria, I very nearly lost the little hair that Vancouver's failed Sweeney Todd left to me, when, after a late party, I decided that the offer to shave my head (made by one of the Orchestra Members) was pretty generous. Thankfully, he ultimately decided that I wasn't in the best frame of mind to make that decision.

You can also see that the tour provided the staff with a chance to bond. Or, at least I provided the other staff members with a chance to bond while mocking me...Nelson McDougall, our Personnel Manager certainly didn't miss the opportunity.

Ultimately, this was an immensely enjoyable experience for me. As you can see in this photo (the last photo taken of me before we returned to Ottawa), it was exhausting, but I can't begin to tell you how rewarding it was as well. I'm still recovering from this tour, but I can't wait until the next. My parents always told me that you get back what you put into something. I guess this is one of those times that they were right. But don't tell them I said that...

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