My apologies for the long time it has taken me to continue my journal about the the long journey through the British Winter from Brighton to Bach to Berio. As you can see I’ve been revamping my website – feel free to take a look around – audio clips coming very soon!
I left you as I set out on my journey through the frozen wastelands of Brighton and was ecstatic to see the mirage of a number one bus arriving through the darkness. The bus could only go along flat roads, so when it reached the foot of the hill where Brighton Station is at the top, I had to lift my suitcase off and attempt to drag it through the snow. I was, of course, dressed in many layers as I knew there was no waiting room on the station and had been caught for two hour the previous day. I also knew this was going to be a LONG wait. The combination of my long johns, vests, three pairs of socks, my Bearpaw sheepskin boots, and the rest of my clothes, all topped off with a full length duvet coat, scarf and skiing gloves was slightly more than necessary when dragging the heavy case up a steep incline through thick snow.
I had purchased the said duvet coat (known as ‘maggot’ to my friends as it makes me look like a big caterpillar) on a very long, winter bus tour with the Glenn Miller Memorial Orchestra. Ah….the heady days of feather boas and long satin gloves! It had saved my bacon on many a cold, windy station after a concert. Here I am wearing it this January on a boat trip in Stockholm Harbour. As you can see, it also has a furry lined hood – useful on this occasion for soaking up the sweat now dripping from my brow. By the time I reached Brighton station, I felt like I had run a marathon – in a padded, plastic bag.
Because it was now about ten o’clock, most commuters had given up and gone back home. I hadn’t left until the Southern Railway website had changed it’s status from ‘NO trains’ to ‘Possibility of services later in the day’.
I went to have a chat with the men on the Southern Rail help desk and explained to the incredulous gentlemen why I felt I had to try to make it up to London. It all sounded a bit pathetic – I had to get to a rehearsal for a concert that may or may not happen if the Eurostar could even go to Paris in a couple of days time – which, if I didn’t catch would mean I couldn’t get to Holland for the next tour. I felt like a middle-class, artistic fool but smiled sweetly and explained that, although I knew no trains would probably go, I had to wait all day to make sure – and to be able to say honestly to the ‘powers that be’ that I had tried everything I possibly could.
My best smile must have worked (and a bit of sympathy about what a tough time they were having and “oooh you must be so cold standing here on the platform helping all the daft passengers”). He took pity on me and told me about the secret, heated train on platform 7 which they were using as a makeshift waiting room. I could go and sit in comfort with all the people stranded in Brighton the previous night. It transpired that most of them had come to the Brighton Centre for a concert – which was cancelled. I was told me that I could even have a free coffee to warm me up!
I managed to speak to my Italian apprentice (a very good counter tenor) and asked him if he could cover me for the rehearsal. The Monteverdi Choir take on young singers just out of college onto their apprentice scheme to give them a chance to work with a top choir and experience life as a professional musician. He had been asked to cover me for my aria but not the duet I was to do. The poor lad had to sight read my part in front of the conductor and orchestra. He told me later that when he made a few mistakes, the conductor lost patience with him and started to tell him that he should have prepared better and how unprofessional he was (the worst insult to a musician). His Italian blood got the better of him and he spoke up for himself and explained that he was doing me a huge favour to give up his time and come to my rehearsal and that he was only meant to prepare the aria – I’d like to claim some credit for his brave stance but the truth is, he is a feisty Italian and this is the second time (to my knowledge) he has defended himself in the choir – quietly but determinedly. It’s always difficult to speak up for yourself eloquently when you feel misjudged, without becoming upset – I certainly admire his spirit and dignity – much braver than me, which leaves me wondering just what I can teach him?
So there I was, still on the train three hours later, when an announcement came that if we moved to platform 6 there was a train which they were hoping would go to London. We gathered our luggage and moved platforms. Just that short wait in the cold for ten minutes made me realize how bitterly cold it was for the railway engineers. They tried for an hour to de-ice things and then, very slowly it tried to pull away. The lights were going on and off and it seemed as if the power was failing. The guard told us that the problem was ice on the contacts that feed the electricity to the engine. If we could just get out of the station then we would hopefully be on our way. (The old diesel trains were running fine).
The elation at leaving quickly turned to disappointment as the guard explained we would have to pull back into the station and try and de-ice once more but if we couldn’t get past the platform on the next attempt, then that would be it for the day.
Joy of joys, those poor men out in the bitter cold worked their magic and we managed to splutter out of the station and quickly pick up speed to a great cheer from the relieved passengers – the Sussex countryside covered in it’s thick blanket of snow looked magical!
I finally made it to the rehearsal in Waterloo at 4.15pm (I was supposed to be there at midday) and was greeted by John Eliot who announced “Ah, glad to see you made it down from your hill!”
The sea is at the end of my street, but I understood what he meant – I was just relieved to get to London where I would now stay up for the next couple of days (with my trusty Italian apprentice) for tutti rehearsals and hopefully catch the Eurostar to Paris on the Saturday morning for the first leg of the tour.
Hopefully the show (not the snow) will go on!
to be continued tomorrow (I promise we’ll get onto the concerts at last!)……..
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