The Canadian baritone Gerald Finley gave up his summer break to ascend unprecedented heights in order to raise funds for Help Musicians UK. Here’s the first extract of his climbing diary.
Woken by muezzin calling at 4 a.m. (!), who continued to bellow til about 6 a.m. The anticipation and anxiety joined to keep me awake. However, it was soon time to get up at 6:45 to organize luggage and boys, valuables, etc. and the chaos was pervasive. It was the sheer number of groups going out, Chinese, Spanish, American and Australian, which generated the hubbub.
It was sunny and warm and there were lots of smiling faces. We finally were piled into a van with Filex, and two porters, Thomas and Johnson, and “jambo!” became part of the talk. Then football, Manchester, Tottenham and Liverpool! Banana trees and maize fields mixed with sunflowers framed the journey to the gate. And there we met the thronging masses – patrons, guides, hawkers, trekkers, drivers, all waiting to sign in, get permits, weighing of luggage and general admin. Trekkers hung about, all with a mix of apprehension and excitement. The variety of gear was astounding, but finally we set off into the forest step by step , very slowly, “Po-le, po-le”.
The initial trek was on a wide road through forest and quite easily managed, but an incline all the same. I had a pack on, which seemed immensely heavy, but when porters would scamper by, certainly not “Pole, Pole”, they seemed to have twice their weight on their heads or backs. But it was long and after a while I began to feel the effects of the trek. The ‘Camelbak’ drink system worked well but we got into the humid rain forest and it became quite hard work. Finally, we arrived at camp and were desperate for food and rest. Happily, both were supplied and we collapsed into a single tent and double for the night. We slept fitfully, with yours truly having a quasi-panic attack about what we were doing with so little fitness preparation. But it was clear that there were all sorts on the trek and that there would be a chance for everyone to acclimatise.
We woke early and since two trips to the private dunny (bucket) had interrupted a good sleep, it was still difficult to get going. Breakfast in our own “mess tent’ was excellent millet porridge and fruit juice with toast and egg. Having packed our gear, we set off on the sunniest of days to do the route. The tough route! We immediately climbed on a lesser path above the cloud layer and suddenly the energy of light, clarity and rhythm began to propel us along. Sunscreen and long sleeves but it was hot going in spite of the cool breeze. We climbed and climbed into the moorland, while vegetation changed and we settled into a good “Pole Pole” rhythm. The pace was good and although we did well, there were the occasional twinge in knee and hip reminding me of what was due ahead on ascent and descent. However, we persisted, and were rewarded by views to Mount Meru and across the Shira Ridge, our destination. Drinking, plodding, sweating and always being overtaken by porters with their remarkable strength and effort. The sun beat down strongly and we were covered by long sleeves and trousers. We reached the Shira camp around early afternoon and were grateful to be able to stop and have lunch. The ridge looks over to Mount Meru and the HD clarity of light was a wonderful inspiration to be at this altitude. All three of us felt ok, if tired, and took the chance to sleep with the warmth of the sun on the tent. After a glorious sunset, the stars and moon were crystal clear, and frost formed on the tent. We ate a good dinner of rice and beef stew and ended the evening with cards. The market-like hubbub of the international camp (some zoo) was reduced to snoring gentleness over the mountain plateau. But the stars! the moon! the strange glow of tents and the mountain bathed in half-light that has been a highlight. Pointing out the only constellation I know in the Equator region of Leo to two porters – funny!
The imposing baritone has spent his summer ascending unprecedented heights to raise funds for Help Musicians UK.
We shall serialise his diary of the climb exclusively on Slipped Disc from tomorrow.
In one of the guide books it stated that ‘attitude sickness, rather than Altitude Sickness is a main reason for unsuccessful summiting’.
Our flight arrived in the cool 15° morning in Nairobi, and the connecting flight would be a couple of hours later. Waiting in the corridors of the terminal was a first real taste of the hustle and bustle of Africa, and we noted the duty free shops where all was priced in dollars. Our flight to Kilimanjaro airport was short, but we did have a great view of the main mountain as we flew. The immensity rising above the clouds made me think immediately: “Are we crazy to do this?” This feeling began to permeate much of the next few hours as we landed, were greeted by “do you have your Yellow Fever certificate?”(no!), immigration (finger prints!) then the drive with “Sabas” from Zara Tours. The culture shock was profound, with animals being herded across the road; Masai garbed in blankets, maize crops lining the road ready for harvest, and a general vastness to the landscape. There was a cloud layer so we could not see the mountain at all, but its presence was undoubtedly felt. Roadside mini-markets and continuous offerings of vegetables in stalls reinforced the basic lifestyle most people were living.
We trundled into Moshi, a thriving, busy and bustling town, with motorcycles and vans all vying on the road. We briefly followed the paved road and then encountered a dusty wide road, which was to take us to the Springlands Hotel, the base for Zara Tours, for safaris and mountain climbing. It was a gated hotel along this dusty road, very contained with high walls. As we passed through the gates, people of various cultural descriptions helped us to settle us in.
We then met our guide Filex, after signing our life away to the risks involved in climbing high mountain! Filex explained that bags could weigh no more than 15 kgs for the porters to carry so that was a priority to sort. After a session of organizing our things, including chocolates and sun cream, and a bit more snoozing til dinner, we still felt exhausted and ready to sleep, in preparation for the first day of the trip. Some other hotel guests kept the noise up, as they celebrated the end of their climbing event, but even they seemed exhausted and were to bed early. Even so, it was nigh on 11 when I finally got to bed. The words of the Alaskan guide “Tom” we had met at dinner began to beat rhythmically in my head “Drink 4 litres of water per day. PERIOD!”
(c) Gerald Finley/Slipped Disc
Our social affairs editor reports the wedding of Tomasz Golka, chief conductor of the Riverside Philharmonic (California) and Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá, to Anna Kostyuchek, associate concertmaster of Riverside Philharmonic. We wish them much happiness.
Paloma O’Shea, founder of the Queen Sofia School in Madrid and a piano competition in her name, has sadly lost her husband, Emilio Botin. He was head of the global Santander banking group.
Emilio suffered a heart attack, aged 79. Our sympathies to Paloma, her six children and the school.
Leaping into the current fray of to stream or not to stream, Riccardo Muti has nailed his colours to the mast.
Chicago have just announced:
Taping for Worldwide Streaming of Beethoven’s Ninth
The concert on Thursday, September 18, will be videotaped and made available, at a date to be announced, free, on demand at cso.org, at RiccardoMutiMusic.com, on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and on the websites of other media and music organizations around the world.
Other free goodies offered:
Free Concert for Chicago
Continuing a tradition that Muti began when he became music director in 2010—to offer a free CSO concert each year outside of Symphony Center—Muti and the Orchestra return for the third time to the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. On Friday, September 19 at 6:30 p.m., the free Concert for Chicago features an all-Tchaikovsky program, including The Tempest, Op. 18, music from The Sleeping Beauty and Symphony No. 4.
In addition to the free Concert for Chicago, Muti will continue traditions he began in previous residencies for making classical music accessible to more people. As part of his longstanding commitment to perform for young people who are incarcerated, Muti will visit the Illinois Youth Center-Chicago with musicians from the CSO. Muti has visited similar facilities before; this is his first visit to this one.
Muti will also open a CSO rehearsal for no charge to select community groups and students by special invitation. Another rehearsal is open to the public: On Monday, September 29 at 7 p.m., Muti will lead a rehearsal of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a preprofessional training orchestra of young adult musicians that is part of the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. They will rehearse Liszt’s tone poem, Les préludes. Tickets are free but required, and a $2 per ticket service fee applies.
On Wednesday, September 24 at 7 p.m., Muti will conduct the Symphony of Oak Park and River Forest in a rehearsal that is free and open to the public (tickets are not required) at the Dominican University Performing Arts Center in River Forest. They will rehearse Strauss’ Death and Transfiguration. CSO’s Principal Trombone Jay Friedman is the ensemble’s music director.
The scheme has been boosting young careers since 1999, among them Alison Balsom, Mahan Esfahani and the Belcea Quartet.
Here are the latest beneficiaries, with only one British artist, and one woman, among six. The BBC is a national broadcaster, paid for by the British nation. Sometimes it loses track of its prorities. Here are the six chosen artists and ensembles:
The Armida Quartet – String Quartet (Germany)
The Armida Quartet is named after one of Joseph Haydn’s most successful operas. The Quartet was founded in the summer of 2006 in Berlin and is currently attending the Artemis Quartet’s class at the Universität der Künste. In September 2012 the Armida Quartet received first prize and the Audience Award at the 61st International Music Competition of ARD, where it was also awarded the Special Prize for the best interpretation of the commissioned composition “Lost Prayers” by Erkki-Sven Tüür.
Benjamin Appl – Baritone (Germany)
German baritone Benjamin Appl studied at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Munich and the Bayerische Theaterakademie August Everding, and graduated from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. He was the last private pupil of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Benjamin is a member of the Yehudi-Menuhin-Foundation Live Music Now and recipient of many awards, including the 2012 Schubert Prize awarded by the Deutsche Schubert Gesellschaft. Benjamin appears regularly with the Wigmore Hall and Schubertiade Festival, while recent opera appearances include Il mondo della luna (Ernesto) in Augsburg, and a new commission for the Bregenz Festival (Das Leben am Rande der Milchstraße by Bernhard Gander). He will also be an ECHO Rising Starts artist during the 2015/16 season.
Alec Frank-Gemmill – French Horn (UK)
Horn player Alec Frank-Gemmill is recognised internationally for the exceptional breadth and depth of his music-making. He has performed concertos with the Konzerthausorchester Berlin, the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker and Sinfonietta Köln and on numerous occasions with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, where he is also Principal Horn. Alec was Artist in Residence at the 2013 Lammermuir Festival and made his Wigmore Hall debute in the same year. Forthcoming performances include the premiere of a piece by John Luther Adams at the East Neuk Festival, a recital as part of the Junge Elite series at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival and baroque horn concertos at the Spitalfields Festival.
Narek Hakhnazaryan – Cello (Armenia)
Narek Hakhnazaryan studied at the Moscow and New England Conservatories; he was mentored by Rostropovich and received a scholarship from the Rostropovich Foundation. Prizes include the 2008 Young Concert Artists International Auditions and the Cello First Prize and Gold Medal at the International Tchaikovsky Competition 2011. Hakhnazaryan’s many high-level engagements have included concerto appearances with the London Symphony, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Czech Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony orchestras, with conductors such as Gergiev, Robertson, Bělohlávek and Koopman. He has also performed in recital and chamber music in many of the major halls and festivals across the globe including Wigmore Hall, Salle Pleyel (Paris), Berlin Konzerthaus and Amsterdam Concertgebouw.
Pavel Kolesnikov – Piano (Russia)
Pavel Kolesnikov began to study piano and violin at the age of six and entered the Moscow State Conservatoire in 2007. He continues his education at the Royal College of Music in London as an Else Gertrude Martin Scholar supported by an Evelyn Tarrant Award. Pavel is the 2012 Honens Prize Laureate, and his other awards include First Prize at the Gilels International Piano Competition and the special Jury Prize at the XIV International P.I. Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Pavel has played in concerts, both as soloist and chamber musician, in Russia, the Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom and Poland.
Esther Yoo – Violin (US / Belgium)
Esther Yoo is currently a student of Ana Chumachenco in the Excellence Bachelor Programme at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Munich and of Augustin Dumay in the Artist Diploma Programme at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Brussels. Esther was the youngest prize winner of the 10th International Sibelius Violin Competition in 2010, aged just 16, and in 2012 she was one of the youngest ever prize winners of the Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition. Following her London debut with the Philharmonia Orchestra under the late Lorin Maazel in March, she is currently touring South America with the orchestra, under Vladimir Ashkenazy, with performances of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and Williams’ The Lark Ascending.
We warned you they were coming. Now they’ve arrived. Watch new health-and-safety defying video.
Tour dates with the LPO are:
London, 15 Sep, RFH
Birmingham, 17 Sep, Symphony Hall
Leeds 18 Sep, Town Hall
Manchester 19 Sep, Bridgewater Hall
A clear win for Joyce DiDonato, but only 371 units sold.
In second place, surprisingly, is Leon Fleisher’s 85th birthday album.
This is Uchida’s Mozart concertos from Cleveland.
Our use of Nielsen Soundscan data has been challenged as being non-comprehensive by a long-retired EMI commercial exec on an esoteric blog. The old fellow may have a point, but Nielsen remains the best guide to US sales, the standard across the industry. Until we have reliable data for paid streaming and downloads, it’s the best judge of the market.
And Slipped Disc is your only immediate source to the stats.
We’ve received these sobering thoughts from a young player who was about to audition for the ASO. He has allowed us to publish his name.
I’m a twenty-eight years old second generation double bassist, playing in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for a season; my father has been playing in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra as a bassist for I think about 40 years now.
I wanted to write to you to about an aspect of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra situation that I feel is being left out of the general social media foray. Most of the ‘social media’ arguments on the side of the Atlanta Symphony Musicians have been focused on how the current lockout will affect the musicians and arts culture in Atlanta. I’m not writing about what’s already been said…<
Simply put the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is THE orchestral ensemble for the entire southeastern United States. Very recently I was hoping to audition for the ASO’s principal double bass opening. While looking at the map to get to Atlanta while this situation was in its fermentation stage I thought to myself, ‘Holy shit, if Atlanta goes down the shitter that’s basically it for world class ochestral music in the entire southeast.’
As I’m sure you’re aware, the quality of an orchestra compared to its peers can be drawn from a multitude of different sources. One can take into account annual operating budget, the prestige of soloists and guest conductors brought in (which is directly related to budget size), size of various sections in the orchestra, size of the audience, etc. This statement obviously doesn’t work across the board but generally, the higher the budget of an ensemble the more the players are paid, the higher the talent an orchestra can recruit, ergo the higher the artistic quality of the ensemble. The previous statement is zero percent rocket science.
Up until this current point in history, the ASO has been to me the best ensemble in a lot of the aforementioned ‘orchestral quality rubrics’ in their part of the country (I only use the phrase ‘a lot of the aforementioned’ because I don’t have the exact comparative numbers in front of me). One would have to go to Dallas in the west, Cincinnati/Indianapolis/Nashville in the north, and who knows where in the east after one crosses the Atlantic Ocean to hear the same level of artistry. I could be wrong, but what I haven’t heard from the pro-art support of the ASO is how the Atlanta Symphony situation could potentially not just artistically devastate Georgia, but an incredibly huge geographic area of the United States.
I’m not trying to ruffle any feathers with other orchestras in the southeastern United States, or disparage those ensembles. But simply put I don’t know of another professional orchestra in that massive part of the country with the prestige and money behind it that the ASO has enjoyed in the past.
I understand the issues involved in trying to make people that are interested in classical music care about classical music. It’s also my passionate view that one hundred percent of humans, if not other animals, are capable of appreciating emotionally as well as intellectually benefiting from our art. It must be made clear that the loss of the Atlanta Symphony in it’s current form will not just rob the city of Atlanta, but the entre portion of America under which the ASO did or should have had influence.
I completely stand by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians when they say they are an incredibly important part of the arts in their city. But I think America needs to understand they are their flagship arts organization not just for the city of Atlanta or state Georgia, but an entire region of the country.
Here’s what they issued in a press release:
ATLANTA SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA RELEASES FIFTH RECORDING
ON ITS RECORD LABEL, ASO MEDIA
All-Vaughan Williams Release Features The Lark Ascending, Dona nobis pacem And Symphony No. 4
DIGITAL RELEASE AND PHYSICAL RELEASE AVAILABLE TODAY,
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2014
The Grammy® Award-winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) today released its fifth recording on its record label, ASO Media.
Distributed by Naxos of America, this all-Vaughan Williams release features Music Director Robert Spano leading the Orchestra in The Lark Ascending, with ASO Concertmaster David Coucheron as soloist, as well as Dona nobis pacem, featuring soprano Jessica Rivera, baritone Brett Polegato and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus (ASOC). The composer’s Fourth Symphony is also included on the album.
Dona nobis pacem… Does anyone on the lockout ASO board know what those words mean?
See also here.
The pair are appearing at the i-Tunes festival at London’s Roundhouse at the end of the month.
Domingo says he’s ‘thrilled to be the final performer at this year’s iTunes Festival seen all over the world… thrilled to be following Katy Perry who was last year’s closing performer; thrilled to be able to perform with other excellent singers; and above all, thrilled for the recognition that this brings to the unique and magnificent world of opera and classical music’.
We regret to report that Georges Pretre, the unassuming French conductor who turned 90 last month, has been forced to cancel his October dates with the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna Symphony orchestras. Georges broke a femur in June and, though out of hospital, he is undergoing a further period of therapy to the end of the year before he can take up the baton again.
He is supposed to be conducting at La Scala in March 2015.
We wish him a speedy recovery.