A blossoming of weak sun welcomes us to Sogndal, the painted houses huddling under snow-dusted roofs. Snow is something we see surprisingly little of in Bergen. If it appears, rain soon returns to create a slushy, treacherous mess. Two busloads of musicians begin the routine all over again … stretching of spines, the hunt for room keycards, foraging for food. There’s usually a clock ticking maddeningly in my head on tour, especially on concert days. A constant assessment of time needed for this or that task, when to eat, whether to eat – and how close to concert hour. As well as trying to remember which floor my room is on today. On longer tours, this gets unintentionally entertaining. WHY is my card not working again??!….er…oh right. That was yesterday’s number stuck in my brain.
My refuelling needs are adequately met by the local Italian restaurant, enhanced by lively conversation and an exchange of Norwegian sayings to add to my collection. Today’s find is “ugler i mosen”, or “there are owls in the moss.” I’m told this can be used to convey that “something’s fishy…” Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say. The company remains entertaining through coffee and we disperse to prepare ourselves for the evening ahead.
In Sogndal’s Kulturhus, the boys in our crew have been hard at work, unloading instruments as efficiently as ever and making sure the way is paved for a smooth performance. Fresh fruit is being chopped for the break as the harpist begins her tuning routine. I’m quite glad I only have four strings to deal with…. Meanwhile, I’ve come across a bizarre statue of Adam and Eve reaching up for what is obviously their pet cat, who in turn is scrambling higher up towards an apple. Who knew? Not quite sure how to interpret this new version, but I’m glad to see they are cat people. The only tempting going on here seems to be how to entice that cat back down. Fire service, anyone?
The hall is full of bright-eyed (and cheeked) locals. Enthusiasm has gone up a notch even from yesterday and true enough, the reception we get is the warmest yet. The acoustic may be as dry as Bond’s martini, but the audience is firmly on board and we respond accordingly. Our 26 year old conductor is growing daily in confidence – I’m impressed that he is already thinking outside the box. And the soloists are in top form. Dagfinn Rohde in the second violins has been with the BFO since 1977 and is on the cusp of retirement. So it’s a poignant moment when he takes over the baton for a vigorous reading of Strauss’ Radetzky March. I spot our two man coach driver team thoroughly enjoying two central seats and what they admit is a new experience amongst one of our audiences.
We squeeze off the stage, ready to pack down instruments and clothes. Navigating past the enormous travel boxes for basses, I note that our bass players have pared down their dressing routine to the, literally, bare essentials. Why go to find a dressing room when you can simply change in the open case? This is clearly a shrewd move, bearing in mind the equation of large thirsty orchestra equals lengthy bar queue. The rest of us giggle and wriggle out of evening wear within the confines of heaving dressing rooms. It’s a lively celebration back at the hotel and a welcome glass or two. Mission accomplished.
Understandably, the long coach journey home the following morning is a muted affair, punctuated by a few distinct snores. Possibly my own. The scenery, admittedly, is breathtaking enough to drag me onto the top ferry deck…… where I’m well and truly awakened by vicious gusts slapping at my face. I dutifully fill my lungs with Fresh Air. Continued driving takes us ever deeper into a glitteringly harsh Narnia. The frozen river bed looks like a location shot for the flight from the White Witch, and I’m sure I’ve spotted some magical extras lurking in the trees. Real life returns with the comforting click of knitting needles and rustling of sandwich wrappings. Nearing Bergen and the sea, snow vanishes. Home at last, and time to prepare for our fast-approaching Salzburg residency. Snow, Mahler, Mena…..and some rather good coffee! Coming soon….