Ever wondered what it is like to be on tour with a large symphony orchestra? Here's an overview of a 'typical' day from the EUYO's recent tour to the United States of America. Not that there really ever is such a thing as a 'typical day'...


The scene... New York

The date... Wednesday, 18th April 2012: Concert Day!


8 am: The truck with all the EUYO's larger instruments, including timpani, percussion, harps and double basses - not to mention a hand-made wind machine and thunder sheet - arrives outside Carnegie Hall. This being New York, there is very little space, not least because Carnegie is undergoing renovations. The official load-in time is not until 10am, when the Hall's own team of loaders will ensure that all the instruments are carried safely off the truck and into the backstage area.


9am to 10am: Meanwhile, over in Secaucus, New Jersey, the 116 musicians of the EUYO are heading to breakfast. Exhorbitant Manhattan hotel costs means it's impossible to put such a large group up in the Big Apple itself, but the Holiday Inn in Harmon Meadows, just through the Lincoln Tunnel, is in fact only a 20 minute bus-ride from Times Square (or several hours, depending on traffic!). After breakfast, they have a free morning - time to practice.


10.30am: A van pulls up outside Carnegie Hall, bearing... 27 European Union Member State flags and poles, along with the EU flag! Thanks to the European Union's Mission to the United Nations - situated on the 20th floor of a building on East 41st Street, 16 blocks away from the Hall, the EUYO will be able to put up its trademark backdrop, so that the Carnegie Hall audience will immediately see what the EUYO represents - 27 nations on one stage! The EU Ambassador's staff have themselves dismantled all the flags that normally greet visitors to the UN mission - for one day only, the hallway will be empty. Meanwhile at Carnegie Hall, expert guidance is provided to ensure that the flags are put up on stage in the correct protocol order...


11.30am: The EUYO's management team meet with the Senior Vice-President for Communications from KLM/Air France, the US tour's Official Airline Partners along with Delta and Alitalia, to review the partnership.Without major corporate sponsorship, it is impossible for the EUYO to undertake such major tours, especially ones that involve so much travel. Meanwhile, the EUYO's stage manager and librarian are working behind the scenes at Carnegie Hall to direct the setting up of the stage for tonight's concert. As the EUYO will perform Strauss' Alpine Symphony, which requires a vast orchestra, every millimetre counts!


1.15pm: The EUYO's musicians load onto three 56-seater coaches, with instruments and concert dress, to head across to Carnegie Hall for the final rehearsal. Tonight, the EUYO's soloist is the legendary Itzhak Perlman, and the buzz on the coaches - not only amongst the strings - is palpable.


2.30pm: Three young musicians from the Juilliard school arrive to join the rehearsals. In celebration of the great cultural ties between the EU and the US, the EUYO has invited them to perform as part of the Orchestra at tonight's concert.


3pm: Rehearsals begin in the Stern Auditorium, with the EUYO's Music Director, Vladimir Ashkenazy. The whole orchestra shivers with excitement at the arrival of Perlman. Ashkenazy carries the Maestro's violin for him - Perlman, who suffered from polio at the age of 4, uses crutches to get on and off stage. For an hour, they rehearse Mozart's Violin Concerto in G K. 216. Perlman snaps a string mid-rehearsal, to loud cheers and much laughter from the Orchestra - not least because of the hilarious way in which he restrings the violin, singing an outrageous accompaniment all the while. 


5.45pm: Rehearsals are over and a few musicians head back to one of the green rooms to do a radio interview with Radio France Internationale. The others all head out to nearby diners and cafes to get an early supper before the concert begins.


7.30pm: The hall is beginning to buzz as more than 2,500 spectators file in to the Stern Auditorium to hear the concert. Among the audience are many European Consuls-General, here to hear and support their own country's musicians; along with private supporters of the EUYO, and representatives from our US tour partner, the British Council. Meanwhile, backstage, the musicians are putting on their concert dress, with the traditional EUYO additions: a blue bow tie with golden stars for the boys, and a blue silk sash with golden stars for the girls.


8pm: Bang on time, the curtain goes up! After a spirited rendition by the orchestra alone of Copland's 'Outdoor Overture', the audience greets Perlman's arrival on stage with rapturous applause - and a standing ovation after the Mozart violin concerto. At the intermission, the whole Orchestra queues up by the Maestro's dressing room, all hoping to get an autograph or a photo with their musical hero. After 20 minutes, it's time to get back on stage for the second half - a magnificent rendition of Strauss' Alpine Symphony, in which the Orchestra proved itself beyond doubt to be, in the words of the New York Times critic who was present at the performance, 'among the elite institutions of its kind.'


(c) Richard Termine


10pm: After a further standing ovation and tumultrous applause, it's time to pack up and leave Carnegie Hall. Emotions are riding high for the musicians, for whom this was their Carnegie Hall debut, and no-one is in the mood for bed. Groups head out joyfully into the New York night for some fun and to let off steam before heading back to the hotel in Secaucus, ready for a 9am departure the next day to Boston. Meanwhile the staff ensure that everything has been safely removed from stage and loaded up onto the truck, ready for the next leg of the trip. Just another magical day on tour...