Synergy represented by:

Micaela Haslam, Amanda Morrison, Rachel Weston, Heather Cairncross
Andrew Busher, Gerard O’Beirne, Michael Dore, Simon Grant

Our poster

“For the second time this year, the weather scuppered our travel plans (though not as drastically as in April).   Most of us flew out to Amsterdam the night before our first rehearsal, and all our various flights were delayed due to fog.  Inconvenient, but not a problem.  However, Andy and Gerry’s delay the following morning put paid to our singers’ rehearsal with the conductor, Ed Spanjaard.  We agreed that singing through Sinfonia with only 6 singers and a piano wouldn’t have achieved very much, so it was cancelled.


Instead, I went up to the Concertgebouw alone to meet Ed who, happily, turned out to be absolutely charming, well-prepared and delightfully accommodating.  We talked through the score and soon realised that we trusted each other implicitly.

Ed Spanjaard

Our first foray into Sinfonia with the Concertgebouworkest turned out to be somewhat unusual in that we had no microphones for the first half of the rehearsal.  Our chairs were all there at the front of the stage, but no sound equipment (nor even music stands for a little while).  So we sat rather sheepishly humming and chatting our way through the massive score, smiling all the way!  With hindsight it was probably quite useful for Ed.  Never having conducted the piece before, he was “broken in” gently to all the goings-on on the front row.  The lack of mics had not been a deliberate ploy, however  – just a timing issue – and all was in place after the break.  We’d set aside an extra hour after this rehearsal for the singers alone (making up for the previous morning), but Ed cancelled this when it was clear that we all knew what we were doing.

A cold and frosty Amsterdam from our hotel window

As in the UK, Amsterdam was bitterly cold in December, so outdoor wandering wasn’t as attractive a prospect as it usually is in this beautiful city.  We settled for a bit of Christmas shopping and some fine dining instead.  We had an especially successful group dinner at L’Express on Utrechtstraat.  Lovely (inexpensive) meal, good service and very pleasant surroundings – everybody happy.

Stage set for Sinfonia

We had two concerts on consecutive nights.  It’s great to do a piece more than once on tour, particularly when it’s new to an orchestra and/or conductor.  The performing relationship has a chance to grow and the piece often feels completely different on a second night.  The first concert went extremely well, though I accidentally inhaled some saliva as I breathed in for the first (incredibly quiet and exposed) first note.  I’m not sure how I kept going, but I did, and I’m delighted to report that the incident is completely inaudible on the recording!

Meet and Greet

After the concert, there was a “Meet and Greet” in one of the grand salons of the Concertgebouw with Joel Fried (Director of Artistic Administration), Ed Spanjaard, one of the bassoonists, and me.  Kind words were exchanged, a few questions were asked and answered, then we retired to a local pub with our good friend Mark Haanstra (bass player on Steven Mackey’s Dreamhouse, member of the electric guitar quartet Catch, and bass player in Steve Mackey’s band)  and his gorgeous wife Aziza, who live in Amsterdam.

The second concert was relayed (sound and vision) on a live webstream for AVRO (now available on YouTube), so it’s just as well we saved our red sparkly tops for this gig – to match the Concertgebouw interior!  This performance was even better than the first.  All was going swimmingly well when suddenly Ed Spanjaard (in the final section of the final movement), accidentally turned two pages of the score at once.  Poor Ed – it could happen to any of us at any time.  Thankfully, he recovered brilliantly and though the singers all later reported a brief slow-motion-life-flashing-before-your-eyes moment, I don’t think the audience even noticed!  We were all glowing with professional pride at the end of the show.  Crisis averted as a result of team-work and experience – or was it because we all took on board the oft-repeated line from Sinfonia, “KEEP GOING!”.  Perhaps the piece saved itself…

Standing ovation

I do hope we get to collaborate with Ed Spanjaard and the Concertgebouworkest again soon.  We had a very happy few days working together, and two excellent concerts.”


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