Monday, February 26, 2007

Guilty Secrets

I should of course be practicing the new programs we have to learn, but a colleague gave me a DVD of "The OC" (3rd season) and I have to admit, I have been watching it... one of my students saw the DVD box before I could hide it, but instead of being appalled, she was impressed that I would watch something that was "ganz schön COOL!" Naturally I am interested in it because I went to a high school very much like it in southern California (before the rich people moved in).
Another guilty secret: I have found an Open Source backgammon game and have been surruptiously practicing. I am determined that one day, I might win at least one game against the Ossie.

I am off to Berlin for a day on Wednesday to see Lionel's musical, it would be great to spend a few days there but I have to squeeze this in to my schedule, which is murderous at the moment. Think I have never had to play so many notes in one month in my life.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

End of Tour

We did Vienna last night... playing pieces that were written for Viennese orchestras by Richard Strauss, so there was some trepidation. And we are all exhausted from doing the tour. But somehow with our last dregs of concentration we managed to get through it, and it was a triumph for the orchestra.
I love Vienna, and this stop on the tour was frustrating because we arrived just in time for the rehearsal, then had about 45 minutes to change clothes, then we were on for the concert. And this morning we had to leave at 8:30. So: no time to see the town. But I was determined, and after the show we wandered into the old town and I ordered my favorite "Wiener Schnitzel"

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dutch Treat

It is considered a traitorous act to leave this town on Carneval Monday (the picture shows people on their way from my street to the parade). Cologne has a population of about 1 million, and the papers reported today that the number of people watching the parade was 1 million. Go figure!
But I did, rather me and my orchestra, to do a performance of Salome in the wonderfully acousticked Concertgebouw concert hall in Amsterdam.
I love the city for its bike friendliness and tolerance. I am a pretty avid biker myself, haven't owned a car for over 7 years, but I am no match for the Dutch, who go everywhere by bike, regardless of social standing. They transport anything on those 2-wheelers... I saw a woman steaming down the street at an enviable clip, transporting 2 small urchins and a cello. Wish I had had my camera out in time to catch it.
Here we are, rehearsing before the show last night. It was a big success, and we got a very long standing ovation.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Backgammon Update

The Ossie and I got each other backgammon boards for Christmas. We play fairly often now, but I am thinking of finding another game, because she always wins.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cologne in Delirium

It is that time of year again: Carneval. If you don't live here, you cannot imagine what an important event Karneval is in Cologne. For the born-and-bred locals, it means getting dressed up in funny Halloween-type costumes on Thursday morning and staying as drunk as you can until the early hours of Wednesday. It involves a lot of singing and watching the Karneval Parades, especially the one on Monday, which starts around 11 and takes about 5 hours to pass any one point. There are heirarchies and organisations and shows, but most of all, lots of beer and schnapps. Morals become rather loose, and men who dare to appear on the street without an escort are likely to be physically attacked by desperate females in an alcoholic haze.
Either you love it or you hate it. My ex hated it, I am mostly fascinated by the phenomenon, because it seems so foreign to the German nature.


We are back in Cologne now, but I can report that the tour was successful, the critiques were all good and the audiences enthusiastic. That said, I thought we were woefully unprepared. Or perhaps it was just me?
The one half day we had free, we walked up to the Acropolis (it is a huge a bluff in the middle of this monstrously loud, polluted city). The weather was cool but promising... then the clouds started to roll in and there was the most cats and dogs with pitchforks downpour which continued most of the rest of the day. (I read later that more rain fell in those 12 hours than normally falls in the whole of the month of February).
Still, we made the best of it and sat it out in a very simple restaurant, got to pick out our own fish and watch the woman preparing it. Lots of white wine, vegetables and Greek salad to go with it. Bill came to just over $10 each.
I love my job.

Friday, February 09, 2007

What a contrast! Cologne in snow (actually this was taken at the airport in Dusseldorf) and Athens in wonderful sunshine. Now have to catch the bus to the rehearsal... Posted by Picasa

Hello from Athens

We left Cologne in a driving snowstorm, but it is sunny here in Athens. Got here last night, wandered around till we found a nice Taberna, and downed a lot of red wine, white wine, and ouzo. Today however we have rehearsals for a concertante performance of Salome, so I have to be a bit careful... But first, we are going to head for the beach for an hour. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Boring Bureaucracy

 Ah the joys of German living... I am off to Athens (that is Greece, not Georgia) day after tomorrow, and went to the city hall to get my Aufenthaltsberechtigungstempel (Right-to-Reside-Stamp) in my passport. After waiting nearly 45 minutes in a smoky hallway, having previously gone to a photo store to have a "biometrically permitted pass photo" taken, and having been assured that I could have the thing done on the spot, I finally was admitted into the smoky office, only to be told that she couldn't give me a stamp in my passport because there weren't enough free pages.  
"What should I do then?" I asked, and the woman said, well, the only possibility is to take the train to Frankfurt, wait in more unbearable hallways, and have the American Embassy sew in more pages. Does the American Embassy employ cadres of seamstresses who toil in back rooms, sewing paper pages into passports??

Sunday, February 04, 2007

 Gustave Mahler's 6th Symphony is an hour and a half long, and we of the first violins are playing nearly all the time, thousands of tricky notes running up and down and up and down, sweat pouring from our bodies. Meanwhile, there are 8 percussionists involved, most of whom are playing only a few measures in the whole piece- and there were 3 players who spent the whole concert drinking beer in the orchestra bar: they had to play only a few seconds of cowbells from backstage (which they could do comfortably from their seats in the bar, which is located directly behind the stage). And they get paid the same as we do. One lucky fellow gets to hit a giant wooden crate with a hammer the size of an oil drum. 
Audience liked it ok though.

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