I caught this shot of Harry during a moment of quiet contemplation during the recording sessions for Mozart’s Divertimento, K 334
The recording was for Linn Records. The divertimento features two horns in D and a string quartet with double bass instead of ‘cello.
The elegant instrument Harry is holding was made by Engelbert Schmid – a beautiful horn and exactly the same as the one I was using.
Congratulations to all involved for some extremely fine playing and some very intense work!
The other players were:
Alexander Janiczek – director/violin
Nikita Naumov – double bass
Ruth Crouch – violin
Jane Atkins – viola
August 4, 2010 | Categories: hornplaying, photos | Tags: Alexander Janiczek, Divertimento, Glasgow, handhorn, Harry Johnstone, horn in D, K334, Linn Records, Mozart, natural horn, Schmid, Scottish Chamber Orchestra | Leave A Comment »
This is Su-a, a much celebrated colleague, who plays ‘cello with Scottish Chamber Orchestra and dozens of other bands of all kinds.
This was a lucky shot. I was crouching behind Su-a, without her knowing I was there, trying to get the rainbow across the top of her head, when she turned around suddenly and this wonderful profile photo just happened.
The worst thing about this particular trip is the travel. Today, for example, we had to get from Krakow to Budapest. We did this by means of two flights: Krakow to Frankfurt, then Frankfurt to Budapest. To put this into perspective, try to imagine flying from Manchester to London with a short stop-over in the Galapagos Islands.
At Krakow Airport, to get to the aeroplane, all of us passengers were shown through an exit from the terminal building into a big bus with no seats. We stood, freezing on this bus for fifteen minutes until, eventually, the doors closed and the bus moved off. It drove a full thirty-five feet and stopped next to our aeroplane …which was also parked right next to the terminal building. Laughing and shivering loudly, we waited for another ten minutes until eventually the doors of the bus opened and we piled out into a scrum around the steps up to the aeroplane. Anger levels were just about topped by hilarity levels.
Later, hilarity levels were swept away by a tsunami of anger as we stood waiting for our hold luggage at the carousel in Budapest airport. As other passengers took their suitcases and left, it gradually became apparent that our group were the only people left standing there. We resisted for as long as we could the acceptance that none of our suitcases had come with us, but soon there was just no denying it.
It seems that Lufthansa had accidentally dumped them somewhere over the the Andes. I hope they landed on something soft – my lovely little pocket-trumpet was in there.
Not to worry, though; Lufthansa gave us little bags each. Inside was a note saying:
“Dear Passenger, we are really sorry for the inconvenience you’ve been caused. Be assured that we are doing everything we can to see to it that your belongings are located and destroyed brought to you as soon as possible. In the meantime, please accept this Overnight Kit. We hope you find the lack of any useful contents as funny as we do useful. Ha ha ha!”
(This proves to me that they planned it all along.)
[Lufthansa: please note!] The following essential items were missing from my complimentary Lufthansa Overnight Kit:
- Laptop computer.
- Pocket trumpet.
- A large bundle of cash in Pounds, Euros, HUFs and Dollars.*
- Teddy Bear.
- Pain killers (or just some killers)
I’m away again with Scottish Chamber Orchestra, this time for concerts in Perth (Scotland), Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bydgoszcz and Krakow (Poland), Budapest (Hungary) and Istanbul (Turkey).
The best thing about this trip is the music. All seven concerts are of the same program, which includes two of Mozart’s greatest piano concertos, in C minor and Bb Major.
The soloist, Poland’s own Piotr Anderszewski, has been playing incredibly beautifully and with no conductor we have all been enjoying the freedom to tune into each other and play just how we like. The woodwind section for these concerts is on exceptionally fine form.
Another thing I like is that Harry Johnstone and I are playing on natural horns. It’s precarious, but exciting and fun. I so much prefer it to playing classical music on modern horns.
The Polish audiences have been great. Full halls, no mobile phones going off, no beeping watches, and tremendous enthusiasm expressed through synchronised clapping, cheering and standing ovations.
“Kolkata”, sounds like the name of an opera by Janacek. I much prefer “Calcutta”, with its whiff of Gilbert & Sullivan and afternoon tea.
After the hotel welcoming rituals of melon juice, flowers and a friendly bullet through the forehead, the first thing that happened was that my horn broke (see “my (other) horn broke“). All I did was to pick my horn up …and the finger-plate of the first valve lever fell off leaving a sharp spike which threatened to disembowel my index finger if I tried to use it.
I had to think of a swift repair – quite a challenge given where we were. I figured that a combination of Araldite (Epoxy Resin glue) and wire ties might work. Suddenly our free day in Calcutta took on shape and form, so I sought the company of my photographic assistant and side-kick, Peter, and over a long breakfast of many curries and a masala dosa, we hatched our mission objectives.
- Take a tuktuk into the centre of Calcutta and take thousands of photographs.
- Find a shop sellling tabla, see how much they cost, try them out, make some noise.
- Get some Araldite and some tying wire.
- Eat more curries.
The “Tuktuk” is a form of transport. These tiny three-wheeled road vehicles, with a single seat in front for the driver and a double seat in the back for anything up to seventeen passengers, are everywhere in India. A tuktuk is fun to ride, and Calcutta is the funnest place to ride one. It is a cross between a taxi and a fairground dodgem and is the cheapest and most fun way of getting about in India’s cities. There must be literally millions of them, with a thousand new ones coming off production lines every day. Most owners tend to go for a fashionable beaten-up look and commonly fit special exhaust systems to make them sound like road-drills or Kalashnikov assault rifles. Custom paint-jobs lending a veteran-of-WW2-desert-battle effect are much in vogue and some of the more hard-core tuktuk drivers go even further, stripping out the suspension for a really bone-shattering ride. For fuel they can run on pretty much anything: petrol, diesel, urine, goat dung or bundles of filthy rags.[SinglePic not found]
Tuktuks can also double up as mobile Hindu shrines containing effigies of, for example, Ganesh the elephant god or Fungus the Bogeyman. Obscuring the payment meter with a sacramental shroud seems to be an obligatory religious ritual of most tuktuk drivers. Not all Indians are cowboys but some tuktuk drivers are.
Rules for tuktuk drivers in Calcutta traffic:
- Change lane immediately.
- Change lane again, immediately.
- Honk your horn continuously unless stopped at traffic lights.
- Turn engine off at traffic lights and go to sleep.
- Never hesitate.
- Drive straight at it, whatever it is.
- Smile benignly and relax.
- Perform a gratuitous u-turn every now and again.
- Take your passengers to better destinations than the ones they suggest.
Rules for tuktuk passengers in Calcutta traffic:
- Keep your limbs within the metal framework of the tuktuk (if there is any left).
- Frown anxiously and tense up.
- Be open and accepting of destinations not of your choice.
- Wear spotlessly clean undergarments.
- Carry an organ donor kebab card.
- Refuse to pay.
- Make sure you know the way (because your driver won’t)
…..to be continued….
The first city of our tour was Mumbai. I’ve no idea why its name has been altered and de-romanticised. I much prefer the old name, Bombay, and I don’t think the Indian film industry would do well to change its name to “Mumbywood”.
On arriving in the rather comfortable Trident Hotel hotel at Nariman Point (at four in the morning) we were thoroughly and tediously scanned for guns and bombs before being shown into a plush reception area. There, we were given glasses of fresh melon juice, a garland of marigolds around each of our necks and a bullet-hole sized blob of deep red bindi in the middle of each of our foreheads. We all looked like we had been carefully shot, then decorated with funereal flowers and resurrected in a tranquil place with highly polished marble floors, ethereal background music, giant potted palm trees and a view through large windows out to a vastness of sea and sky. While not actually dead, most of us felt like we might as well be and our most urgent need, after the unpleasantness of economy-class long haul flight, was sleep – lots of it.
I woke up at dawn, or possibly dusk, in my 15th floor room and pulled open the curtains to reveal a beautiful panorama of deep misty purple half-light all the way Westwards across a bay to Malabar Hill and Chowpatty Beach. What lovely names these places have! I watched as the skyscrapers along the opposite sea front – some six miles away – gently lit up with the crimson sun and slowly shifted colour from purple through orange to yellow, then white. Thus, I reasoned, it was dawn, not dusk …and time for breakfast.[SinglePic not found]
I have had one or two truly great breakfasts in my life and can always remember them in vivid detail. My best ever (and still unbeaten) was served to me in Tokyo in a 47th floor luxury hotel room. The meal was brought in by five women in white and artfully set out around my vast bedroom on several linen-covered temporary tables. Under domed silver covers were exotic Japanese delicacies including morsels of sashimi made from the flesh of endangered species from all around the world. Coming a close second to this was my first Indian breakfast in Bombay, the highlight of which was a delight called masala dosa. This is a large but very thin pancake made from ground rice and lentils with a mild potato curry rolled up within to make a giant golden brown cigar shape. It is served with a couple of chutneys, one of which is almost always made from coconut. I don’t think a day of the tour went past without my eating a masala dosa – usually for breakfast.[SinglePic not found]
Full to bursting with not just the dosa but several delicious dahls and curries and a mountain of fresh fruit salad, I went back to bed and slept for another five hours or so before enthusiastically leaping out of bed to seize the first day of the tour. At this point I was lucky to meet up with Peter Furniss in the hotel lobby. Through our shared Indian experiences, our interests in photography, obscure forms of music, art made with “found” objects, and curry, Peter, a clarinet player, and I have become good friends. We stepped out of the hotel, blinking in the brilliant sunshine and headed into a seething mass of vibrant life.
My first impressions of Bombay were of vivid colour everywhere, hilarious horn-honking chaos on the roads and crowds of people on the pavements – some vertical, some horizontal, some animated, some still. Huge bundles of stuff were being constantly moved around in vans, on bicycles and carts or human backs and heads.
I’ve never been in such a photogenic place. In a frenzy of snapping I shot almost everything I saw and found, to my relief, that Peter wasn’t ahead waiting impatiently to get to the next place on some assumed sightseeing itinerary, but was right there with me, clicking away at more or less the same thing.
We soon settled into a photography routine whereby I would see something extraordinary which needed capturing and would rush straight at it to catch the best moment before the scene changed. Peter would then try to get a better shot of the same thing by getting between it and my camera. Having messed up my shot he would then try to shoot almost the same thing himself, always just after the “moment” had passed and always with the wrong settings in his camera. In this way our progress through Bombay and subsequently all the other cities was always very slow but extremely enjoyable.
Most days I think we shot some two or three hundred pictures each; so many that to avoid running out of space we had to copy them all into a large disk drive in my laptop each day. I made some space for Peter’s pictures in a folder which I named, “Peter’s Shitty Snaps”. I did this not so much to help him but so that I could take pleasure in deleting them all at a later date. To be fair to Peter, he did make up for in enthusiasm what he lacked in his photographic skills and by the end of the tour his photography had improved a lot. I think he actually got a recognisable one of a big blurry aeroplane at Delhi Airport just before we flew back to London.
That first evening we met up with a Greg Knowles, an old friend from my London Sinfonietta days back in the early eighties, and also the S.C.O. trumpet section, in a famous seafood restaurant called Chetna’s. None of us had ever eaten pomfret before and we all ordered it on the recommendation of the waiter. I wasn’t expecting it to be all that special but the large pieces of beautifully moist, steaming white fish straight from the tandoor were as delicious as any I’ve ever eaten before. Seeing how impressed we all were one of the waiters brought in a shiny fat pomfret to show it off to us. The beautiful thing looked like a short chubby midget dolphin. It wasn’t twitching but it looked extremely fresh. The big dark grey crabs hanging from the waiter’s other hand, on the other hand, were animated enough to put on quite a show for us, slashing and snapping the air in a frenzied last dance – the habanera, i think. A few seconds later they were taken to the kitchen, dropped into boiling water and then brought back to us pink and delicious with some chunks of lemon and freshly baked oily flatbread.
The poverty in Indian cities, outside of the notorious enclosed slums (of which I saw nothing except from the outside) is pretty much on show everywhere. Many poor people live, eat and sleep on the pavements and they beg without inhibition. Children make particularly persuasive beggars as it’s almost impossible for the untrained to resist their beautiful big brown pleading eyes and huge smiles. We were warned not to give anything to them but everyone in the orchestra succumbed, if only just the once. The result was always the same, immediately more pleading and the sudden appearance of many more beggars. Telling them firmly to go away didn’t work. Giving them more money only spurred them on to greater efforts. The only way out was to run for it, which felt pretty heartless.
On our way through Bombay Airport, heading for our next city, Calcutta, we were treated to an extraordinary floor show. Ten or so groups of about twelve models each, dressed in matching eye-catching air-hostess outfits were positioned around the concourse. There were groups in all the primary colours and some dressed in exotic saris. All had small matching wheeled trolley cases and were being herded around into a variety of different starting positions for a TV advert. Somebody with a megaphone shouted and the various groups set off in different directions at a brisk walk. Some of the groups walked right through each other, to curious visual effect – their suit colours merging for a moment, while other groups strutted off the scene and away into the distance. Suddenly, two white boat-sized objects on trolleys appeared, rolling right through the middle of everything, ruining the take. These were the the two flight cases containing the S.C.O.’s double basses. I managed get a photo of all this from a balcony overlooking the scene. Peter tried too but was holding his camera the wrong way around.[SinglePic not found]
It is my very good fortune to be invited along on a tour of India with Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Over a period of two weeks we will play concerts in six cities: Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh and Delhi.