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BBC Symphony Orchestra takes to the skies ...

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Phil Hall Phil Hall | 10:39 UK Time, Tuesday, 11 May 2010

BBC Symphony Orchestra sub-principal viola Phil Hall is back on the Blog, reporting from the orchestra's Far East tour

ba_aircraft_takeoff_300.jpg'Bore da! is the Welsh greeting I'm met with from the German passenger on my right on BA flight 005 to Tokyo. The utterer is none other than our principal viola Norbert Blume who has recently purchased a property in North Wales and has been keenly teaching himself Welsh for a few weeks now. He has a penchant for languages and often says things to me in Catalan in rehearsals... well, it's one way of livening them up!

So, as I settle into my seat I raise my eyes heavenward and wonder if he's going to be trying out unintelligible phrases on me for the next 11.5 hrs. You know it's pretty crucial on these long flights to get the seating plan right, for as much as we enjoy making music with each other, (and I hope I'm not shattering any illusions here), that enjoyment sometimes extends only so far when the instruments are put down. Thus when a long-haul flight list appears in Maida Vale 1 an angry mob descends upon it and devours the little boxes until all that's left is a tattered piece of paper with crossings out and hastily written names, lest one sit next to a less-than-favourable travel buddy.

We'll be on tour in the Far East for the next two and a half weeks visiting Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan. We've been to most of the places recently but we haven't played in Tokyo since 1997. Touring is generally considered a good morale booster for the orchestra - some struggle leaving loved ones behind (I waved my youngest off to school with a lump in my throat) but my philosophy is to try and make the best of each trip: the more you put in, the more memories you'll take home. I'm hoping to report back from each country and give a little insight into life on tour with the BBC SO.

Better go, the Japanese air steward is looking bemused ... no Norbert, she doesn't speak Welsh!


  • The orchestra's tour with chief conductor Jirí Belohlávek takes in Tokyo (11-13 May), Seoul (13-17 May), Shanghai (17-20 May), Beijing (20-21May), Taipei (21-22nd May), Kaohsiung (22-23 May), Taipei  (23-24 May), and Guangzhon (24-26 May). Programmes include Dvorak 9, Elgar 'In the South', Prokofiev 5, Brahms 4 and Tippett's 'Fantasia Concertante on a theme of Corelli.  


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