It is finally nearly here!
Next week the BBC National Orchestra of Wales heads off to China! Typically, I am overexcited (and have been since it first appeared on our schedule). I love traveling, and Asia is a continent that I have long been keen to explore. That I get to play lovely music while I'm there is a bonus.
But what does it take to get a whole orchestra from Cardiff to Beijing? The answer is, a lot of paper work that must all be filled out perfectly. Our office staff are easy to spot in town - they are the ones running in terror from the piles of paper in stationery departments. They've had visa forms, freight forms, travel forms, itineraries that are constantly subject to change to supervise, and vaccination information to procure. In short, mountains of paperwork that has threatened to spill out of the office, all while our own season ticked along.
Our tour to China is part of a very prestigious international festival called UK Now. This will be the biggest ever festival celebrating British arts in China. Not only does the festival mark the 40th anniversary of the resumption of China-UK Ambassadorial relations, but it also celebrates the relationship between the 2008 Olympic Games holders and the UK as this year's Olympic host (come on, you knew the Olympics would make their way in there somehow). It also builds on the success of the British involvement at the Shanghai Expo of 2010.
The British orchestral tradition enjoys a fantastic reputation, not just across Europe, but worldwide, and so it is fitting that many British ensembles will take part in this festival. Our colleagues in the Scottish Ensemble, Academy of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields, the Philharmonia and the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra have already completed their turns at the Festival, and on 4 July it will be our turn to head East! It is an honour and a privilege for us, not just as representatives of the United Kingdom, but also of Wales, to be involved in this huge festival.
As a mainly studio based band, while we frequently tour domestically, we do not embark upon so many international tours. There are many stresses involved in touring - leaving family behind, coping with a different climate and different food - but touring is also a very good experience for an orchestra.
Traveling is always a broadening experience, and not only does it allow us to perform on an international stage, but it also gives the orchestra an opportunity to bond a bit away from the normal stresses of studio life. The viola section still laugh about the great Spanish-English translation error during the viola section dinner on our Spanish tour several years ago (too rude to recount here)!
Over the next two weeks, I will be writing on the highs and lows of touring life. I am armed with guide books, insect repellant (I'm allergic to mosquito bites) and a freshly rehaired bow. Just need to relocate my passport...