Anthea Kreston’s weekly diary on life in the international Artemis Quartet. Compelling, as ever:
The North America tour is complete. 11 days, 9 concerts, one video session, one photo session, several interviews, two trains, one rental car, one cold, 10 flights, one massage, three HIIT exercise sessions, one visit to Niagara Falls, one Bikram Yoga. Chicago, NYC, Schnectady, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Toronto, Connecticut, NYC, Montreal. Reviews were great, audiences fantastic, quartet grew in each concert – personalities flourished and group sounds meshed. To be totally honest, it was in some ways much harder than I anticipated. In other ways (such as a quartet flow and group cohesion) it vastly exceeded my expectations.
During tour, the daily schedule (of course every day is different, but this is a general schedule) goes something like this.
6 am wake up, shower and eat
7 am leave for airport (train/car)
2 pm arrive at destination city
3 pm arrive at hotel – options in this two hours and 15 minutes are: eat your most nourishing meal of the day, practice, nap, FaceTime family, exercise
5:15 pm leave for hall
5:30-7 pm Beast building and rehearsal
8 pm concert
10:30 pm break-down stage
11:30 pm back to hotel to pack
The obvious difficulties here are being able to be well-rested, focused for the concert (of which the first several are jet-lagged), and well-nourished. There is often not a good breakfast option (this is a big difference from the European tours), and dinner is not really possible either. Eating after the concert is too late, and before there is not time. Our back-stage rider includes things like fruit, cheese, crackers, nuts, and drinks. This happened more often than not, which is a life-saver. In Chicago, my mother delivered four emergency food bags for us with trail mix, powdered miso soup, and peanut butter and jelly.
I have gotten great advice from teachers over the years – two bits of which I follow religiously. Well, actually three. The first was from Phil Setzer from the Emerson Quartet. He told me to buy a new pack of underwear before every tour, because the endless washing in the sink every night is a real bummer. I can tell you that by the end of the tour I could smell my suitcase when it was zipped up. And I don’t even want to talk about how I smelled personally. Ok – that was gross. Second bit of advice – never get on a plane without an emergency peanut-butter and jelly. My teacher said – “you may not eat one of them for a year’s worth of flights, but one day it will save you like you never thought possible!”. The third piece of advice was from Ida Kavafian. When I was studying with her I was just beginning to play professional concerts (read:getting paid to play violin). She said to me, “Anthea, you sound great, but from now on you can’t miss any more notes. People won’t pay you if you do”. Tell it like it is! Love that.
So – the hard part of tour. I had experienced, during our first tour in Europe, an interesting swing in the group rehearsal and atmosphere dynamic around concert number 5. The comments during our dress rehearsal were shorter, more to the point, less finessed and with a frustrated tone of voice. There was even what I would classify as our first fight. I spoke to a quartet member after the rehearsal and they said – “oh – that always happens around concert number 5, I don’t know why”. Incidentally, my brother-in-law had recently mentioned something like this as well – the 5th concert annoying rehearsal – which he has experienced a lot touring with a quartet. Hmm – I wonder if this is fixable? I decided to bring fresh strawberries to the next rehearsal. Maybe that helped a little.
So – as we approached concert 5 on the North American tour, I decided to head it off and see if we could just sail through and not get testy. I wrote a Group Sworn Statement and asked everyone to recite it with me. It went over better with some than others, but I think it could certainly be a good thing to read together for any group – could even work for an entire orchestra, I suppose.
5th Concert Group Sworn Statement
Raise your left hand, and place your right on your music.
I, (fill in the blank), so solemnly swear the following:
- I am tired
- I am slightly annoyed at everyone
- I wish my suitcase was better organized, like it used to be at the beginning of this tour
- I am experiencing some slight digestive problems because of random nutritional inconsistencies beyond my control
- I wish EVERYONE would FINALLY do my idea at (moment of silence to fill in the spot/spots)
I hereby pledge to
- try to be positive as much as I possibly can under these extremely annoying circumstances
- Only say comments that are uplifting and encouraging
- Realize that we actually sound pretty good
- Eat some more fruit
Optional group activity
So – this actually worked. We didn’t get annoyed. We stayed nice and generous. Fantastic!
I know that I am usually very optimistic and relentlessly goal-oriented and problem-solving. But this is not to say that I am always happy. No one is. I had a hard time around concert 8. I was lonely, overwhelmed, and home-sick. No one answered my calls for two days. I felt isolated. I cried. The quartet saw me cry. But, this is normal. This is ok. I got hugs, Jason called, I made a list of things that were stressing me out, and gave the list to everyone. Some things can be fixed (Gregor has gone to Ikea and hired someone to begin installing our kitchen, I almost have health insurance, I hired a German tutor). Some can’t (I miss my family, friends and Oregon). And some will take time (finding our new family balance and adjusting to our new home). This is not easy at all. But we can do it. I know we can.
I saw so many old friends on this tour – old students, colleagues, family, friends. I even had a friend fly from Oregon to see our Carnegie concert. This was a great boost to me – thank you all for coming! Sunday I head back to Berlin with Jason and the girls. We are in Oregon for a short vacation and to wrap up the things we didn’t have a chance to finish before- sell the car, etc.Tomorrow we go to the Saturday Market and meet friends at our favorite bakery. Our footprint here is nearly erased, but I have every confidence in the shape of our new family footprint in Germany. With patience, all things will come.