Travel Woes and Concert Highs

20 April 2017 / News

1st Violinist Helene Pohl reports on the NZSQ's European tour

Best-laid plans… just before our punctual and well-packed departure for Wellington airport to embark upon our long-booked flight to Auckland-Houston-Frankfurt-Amsterdam, our phones buzz with the ominous news of a cancelled first flight.  Fog at Wellington Airport. We decide to head to the airport anyway to see what can be done, but by the time we get to the front of the queue, all other options to Auckland via Paraparaumu or Palmerston North are fully booked and more drastic measures are needed. 

We phone our hard-working travel agent and, huddled around the speaker phone, go through the various levels of unpalatability of all the flights still possible.  After much discussion, we decide to rent a car and drive to Auckland to catch the midnight flight to Singapore.  However, 30 minutes into the journey, we hear of the flooding predicted further north and realise that if we are held up on the road and miss the flight, we lose the entire booking.  This risk is too great – so now what?  Go back home and try again the next day?  We actually turn around and start driving home, before the thought surfaces, what if the fog DOESN’T clear by tomorrow?  So in the end we turn around again, spend the night in Taupo, show Monique Huka Falls, and take a plane from Auckland 24 hours later than originally planned.  By the time we sink into our seats on that plane, we feel we have already been traveling for two days!

In LA everything again just avoids turning to custard, as the people on the Lufthansa desk try to tell us the cello (which always has a seat of its own next to Rolf) can’t be taken onto the plane.  Rolf spends the entire 3 ½ hour layover dealing with this and, with a nail-biting resolution coming in the final minutes, is eventually escorted through the security line so that we don’t all miss the flight.  The plane turns out to leave late after all, which is fine but now our connection in Frankfurt is down to razor-thin.  We literally run what seems like the entire length of the massive airport, make the flight by the skin of our teeth, but of course our bags don’t.  This has the advantage of not needing to take bags on the Amsterdam metro and through the streets, but the disadvantage of not knowing when they’ll be delivered!  And the next day we already have to take a train again to perform our first concert in Drachten.  Gill’s bag is the last to be delivered, so she takes a later train and only just makes it to the hall in time for our rehearsal. 

By now the Wellington fog has firmly taken up residence in our heads! Just before going on stage to perform, Gill offers these words of encouragement “OK everyone, we just have to pull ourselves together!”  Somehow, the concert goes well and our lovely Dutch agent seems very happy.  From here it can only go up, and it does.  Springtime in Europe has been a wonderful experience, rich in blossoming fruit trees and short bursts of sightseeing between activities.  We have loved playing Gareth Farr and Jack Body for European audiences, and Mozart, Mendelssohn, Székely, Brahms and Janáček in historic halls that have heard it all before.  In Maribor the radio producer from Slovenian Radio 3 remembers our concert there 17 years ago.  In Nijmegen a talented young group plays Székely for us.  Various friends and relatives come to concerts – including our Turkish friend from Wellington who is spending a semester in Ankara and decides to combine a sightseeing trip to Ljubljana with our concert!  And a sizeable contingent of my German family attends the final concert in Göttingen, ensuring a sociable end to this short but intense tour.  

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