On this tour, four of us were staying together - me, Gwenllian Haf Richards (violin), Eilidh Gillespie (flute) and Amy McKean (oboe). On Thursday morning, our first challenge was to get everything into the car. Four suitcases, assorted instruments, two large food bags, Amy's knitting, a biscuit box, a lasagne and an apple crumble are not the easiest of items to fit into a Ford Fiesta.
The first venue was Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Rehearsal was going swimmingly, then the lights failed. It's a nuisance trying to play in bad lighting (I promise we aren't just being divas). Rehearsal continued with the centre's staff trying to find a solution and the orchestra looking a little like it was part of a sound and lights show. I particularly liked the green light that the second violins were briefly bathed in.
When we broke for dinner, the lighting staff valiantly persevered and by the time we were seated for the A, the stage was more or less back to the anticipated lighting norm. I was very much enjoying the concert until a giant fly, buzzing around the front of the hall, attacked our desk. It flew right at my desk partner Pete; I momentarily thought he was having a minor fit!
It was lovely to arrive at our little Llandudno cottage, Tŷ Fry. We've stayed there a number of times and the landlord Mark had left the lights and heating on for us.
Next day, the journey to Bangor was straightforward. Arlene, our second trombone, is not with us this tour, but still made us an itinerary of when we were supposed to leave, journey lengths and times, venue contact numbers, etcetera.
'Side by side' violins
Additional elements of this tour were 'side-by-side' projects with local students. In Bangor, under- and post-graduate students had the opportunity to rehearse with the orchestra. I wasn't involved in Bangor, so called my mum to have a natter.
I like Bangor, but the orchestra tends to be quite spread out (due to the shape of the stage). It's a concerted effort to keep things together. If you rely on what you're hearing, the music ends up horribly untidy. The concert went well though and I think the Mathais benefited from being performed in a larger space than our studio. To me, it seemed to make more sense than it had done in rehearsal.
With that, there was only Wrexham left. We worked with students from the Wrexham Youth Orchestra, before finishing our own rehearsal. It was very warm on stage and as I wasn't involved in the Oboe Concerto, it was very nice to nip outside for some fresh air!
Concert done and we started the long drive home. Our favourite car game of the tour was pronouncing Welsh place names (Amy and I, with our rather strong Scottish and Irish accents, struggle with this). We also spent a lot of time singing along to Steps - The Ultimate Collection and to the Wicked! Soundtrack. A very enjoyable North Wales Tour!