As we all know, Hillary Clinton was recently diagnosed with pneumonia and, judging from the news coverage, has passed away.
The media is salivating: how long will it take for Tim Kaine to read all the white papers? which Democrats will choose Clinton’s replacement? will the Sanders camp make their move once the funeral director closes her eyes? I mean, technically Hillary walked out under her own power to greet reporters after an episode of exhaustion on 9/11, but that doesn’t really count because… Because. Her pneumonia is clearly terminal, if only because that’s interesting. Plus, her illness, temporary incapacitation, and ultimate death play into pre-established narratives about her reputation, her personality, and her campaign…plus, a presidential candidate dying this close to the election is fascinating (maybe even fun?) to think about…plus, it’s clickbait, promising the numbers of clicks that until now we thought could only come from coverage of the reality TV star candidate. As Alex Ross tweeted today…
The media is grappling with another death, too. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra has just gone on strike, and like Hillary, it too has died. Most people would think of an orchestral strike as a bad thing, or a sad thing, but ultimately an eminently solvable thing.
However, the Fort Worth Star Telegram Editorial Board apparently knows better. They’ve already written the orchestra’s obituary less than a week after the musicians called a strike.
This was the first sign that greeted the Minnesotan contingent backstage at the Concertgebouw:
To the left, then!
After snaking through the maze of players, staff, trunks, and instruments, I stepped out into the auditorium with flute player Wendy Williams. I watched her watch my slack-jawed reaction. Her excitement and exhilaration were contagious. “Isn’t it beautiful?” she gushed.
“Oh, my God,” I said. Then I think I said: “I’m – I mean, it’s – ” and then I couldn’t even imagine what else to say.
“You have goosebumps, don’t you?” Wendy smiled. “I can feel from here that you have goosebumps.” I don’t remember, but I think I said something voluble like “yes.” (I hope I said yes.)
“Will you need any help with that?” the clerk at the front desk of the Amsterdam Hilton asked politely. I staggered in front of her, attempting to hoist the weight of my knapsack onto my back.
“Nope,” I said, writhing like some kind of injured turtle. “I think…ayep…yep, I’ve got it.” Subtext: I can’t remember if we’re supposed to tip bellhops in Amsterdam, because I can’t keep the various tipping traditions of four countries straight, and I don’t have any Euro coins easily accessible if they do, and my back is shot after all this air travel anyway, so why not add one more injury on, and I will not look like a dumb stereotypical American tourist who doesn’t know what she’s doing, goddammit, even though it is totally obvious to everyone that I am a dumb stereotypical American tourist who doesn’t know what she’s doing.
“Your room is 117 and the elevators are right behind you,” she smiled sympathetically.
My ears pricked up. Room 117? Was I to be banished to some kind of servants’ quarters next to the public toilets and the ballrooms? For the price I was paying (thirteen times the cost of my viola bow, by the way), I’d better not be. But she’d mentioned elevators… I hesitantly stepped into the cab and suddenly remembered that in Europe, floor zero is a thing.
So. The performances are over; the trunks are packed. Many musicians are on their way back across the Atlantic as I type. I haven’t had time to get final drafts about Ainola or Amsterdam or Copenhagen done yet (although rest assured: they are coming, and you are going to love the stories). So to compensate, I thought I’d shoot a video here in Denmark with some tour tidbits and thank-yous to everyone who contributed to this fabulous experience. I also transcribed a few paragraphs from it below in case you don’t have time to watch.
More coming! I’m in Iceland and off the grid for two days (some Minnesota Orchestra musicians will be, too), but I will be sure to share pictures of the scenery on Instagram.
Some housekeeping items…
The process of entering the Minnesota Orchestra’s concert in Lahti was extremely casual. The doors were opened, then patrons lined up and flashed their tickets to the ushers, who chanted “kiitos kiitos kiitos” at each person as they passed. No ticket stubs were collected, no bar-codes brandished. The Finns really seem to enjoy making things simple. And so I enjoy the Finns.
Inside the auditorium, I was immediately struck by the conviviality and camaraderie of the crowd. It reminded me so much of what we see nowadays at Orchestra Hall: folks waving at friends from balconies, acquaintances clustered in aisles chatting, rowmates leaning over each other to talk. As I sat down, the woman next to me told me something in Finnish and then giggled. I laughed back.
This morning the Minnesota Orchestra bid farewell to cosmopolitan Helsinki and traveled north to Lahti, Finland. The first bus left earlier in the morning; the second, closer to concert time. If a musician took the early bus, he would have more time with the instrument he hadn’t seen since the night of the 16th, as well as a chance to over-practice and over-think. On the other hand, if she took the later one, she might feel rusty or rushed. It seems to me that without adequate mental discipline, the timing of either bus could encourage musicians to play mind-games with themselves.
I nearly puked during the descent into Helsinki. Which was weird, because I’ve never been airsick before. But something about the exhaustion, the time difference, the pressure change, the thin canned air, the claustrophobia, the unsteady descent, the blindingly bright sunshine, the hunger, and the multiple layers of clothing I had arrayed on my lap all conspired to roil my guts.
Thankfully, the nausea subsided after we stopped moving, and I joined the musicians at the baggage carousel, maybe a little paler than usual, but otherwise recovered. My suitcase was the first one out, and then the carousel just…stopped. I volunteered my toothbrush as a communal grooming device, but it turns out Icelandair had not actually lost every piece of luggage besides mine, and soon everyone was reunited with their bags.
As I type, we’re between times and days. It’s three-thirty in the morning in Reykjavik and ten-thirty at night in Minneapolis. The in-flight entertainment system reports that the temperature outside is seventy below, and we’re creeping toward the Labrador Sea. I just finished watching an arty Icelandic movie about two estranged brothers who both raise sheep. Scabies hits the farms in the valley and complications ensue. The brothers eventually decide to reconcile and work together to save their breeding stock. The film ends with their flock escaping in a blizzard, and the brothers clinging to each other naked in an ice cave that one of them dug while seeking protection from the wind. I’m beginning to get a sense of the pathos that awaits us in Scandinavia. For the flight from Reykjavik to Helsinki, I’m planning on lighter entertainment fare. (Namely, Fargo.) (“Prowler needs a jump!”)
It’s four minutes to midnight.
One of the reasons I love blogging is that I can chew through my own thoughts at my own pace. However, covering a whirlwind European tour in real time does not lend itself to lengthy rumination. So tonight, after the Minnesota Orchestra’s farewell pre-tour concert in Minneapolis, I’m setting a timer to see how long it takes to describe the night. Let’s see if I can replicate this schedule on the trip.
It’s two minutes to midnight.
And so it begins! The Minnesota Orchestra leaves on its European tour a week from yesterday (!), and now seems like a good time to start writing.
I’ve decided to head entries with the date they were written. I won’t always be able to post them as I write them, but I will get them online as soon as possible. (Entries will also be supplemented – Internet connection permitting – with short videos and images and status updates and Tweets on social media.) I may also cluster shorter entries together, like I’m doing below. I’ll be experimenting and learning as I go along, so your patience is appreciated!
As for hashtags, the Minnesota Orchestra is using #MNOrchTour, so I’ll be following their lead.
If you want to contribute financially to making the coverage happen, I’m not going to stop you. ;) Link to the Gofundme here. A hearty thank you to everyone who has donated. I’m so frickin’ moved by your generosity.
If anyone has any questions about what the tour is like, feel free to ask!
HERE WE GO!