Synergy represented by


L-R: Simon Grant, Michael Dore, Tom Bullard, Heather Cairncross, Rachel Weston, Gerry O’Beirne, Amanda Morrison, Micaela Haslam

“This was Tom’s first Sinfonia with Synergy and it was great to have him on the team, as always. We had no rehearsal before heading to Brussels, so it must have been a bit strange for Gerry singing with a completely new desk partner at the first orchestral rehearsal. Tom has sung tenor 2 in Sinfonia a gazillion times, so we knew there’d be no problem – which of course there wasn’t – but it’s always good to keep everyone on their toes!

We all prefer to take the Eurostar to the continent when possible – no airport hassle to contend with – and this journey was as delightfully quick and straightforward as ever. We headed first of all to Brussels to rehearse with the Brussels Philharmonic, before continuing to Paris the following day. We had a very fine people-carrier waiting for us at Brussels Midi. The only downside was that no-one had told us where to find the driver. We kept our eyes peeled at arrivals for someone with a sign, then headed for the taxi pick-up area – no-one there for us either. Finally we found our man (after several phone calls to and from Brussels Phil) standing in front of Sam’s Café – nowhere near the Eurostar arrivals, nor indeed the taxi rank, so an interesting choice…. Still, we finally got to our hotel which was the main thing. Unfortunately, we had virtually no turnaround time before our singers’ rehearsal with the conductor. Our driver-scouting had used up precious time, and the traffic in the centre of Brussels was awful. Apparently, François Hollande was in town, so the whole place was gridlocked. I know it’s not exactly strenuous sitting on a train for a few hours, but I always feel as though I need at least an hour’s chill-out time before starting work after a long journey. I think it’s something to do with getting into the right head space – or is that just me? Anyway, ‘twas not to be on this occasion.

We hailed 2 cabs to the rehearsal venue, which was only about 3 km away, but about 30 mins in this appalling traffic. Heather, Mike, Rachel and I had a kamikaze taxi driver who whizzed through petrol stations to jump queues, pushed into any space bigger than a foot, and even drove down the middle of the road towards an oncoming tram at one point. Fortunately, he managed to squeeze back into the line of traffic before we were taken on a ride back up the road attached to the front of a tram.

The conductor, Michel Tabachnik, went through a few sections of the piece with us, a cappella. After about 10 minutes he declared that we didn’t need that rehearsal. That’s all very well, but I could have had my hour’s chill-out in my hotel room! Anyway, we cracked on with the tutti rehearsal and finished in time to head out for a very nice meal just around the corner from our hotel – easy staggering distance back to our rooms.


Sam’s Café


The following morning, we headed back to Brussels Midi to take the train to Paris, only to discover that our train was delayed by an hour – another hour I could have spent in my hotel room (actually the Mercure Hotel in Brussels wasn’t great – I had an incredibly noisy room, so I wasn’t missing it). Having done the round of the station shops, we camped back in old Sam’s Café, until our train finally showed. Thalys provided a substantial packed lunch on the train because it had been delayed. You wouldn’t get that in the UK!

Finally we got to Paris and to our hotel (Hotel Mercure directly opposite the Cité de la Musique – previously a Holiday Inn) – just in time to head straight out to the sound check! Once again, no rest for the singers. Having got the monitor levels sorted out, we retired to the hotel while the orchestra played through Mahler 1, then returned for the Sinfonia run-through. I know that things always sound different when the orchestra gets going and the front of house speakers are mixed in, but I’ll never understand how (stored) monitor levels can change so radically from one rehearsal to the next. I spent most of this final rehearsal running to and from the sound desk because monitors were too low / completely off / individual voices were sticking out etc. Michel kindly chose to ignore my comings and goings, and we seemed to get everything sorted in the end – fingers crossed!


Simon & Tom – cool, calm and collected before the gig


I’m happy to report that all was well for the concert. The monitor levels were good and the team performed well. There’s always a corner or two (different every time) that I’d like to improve on but, all in all, I was pleased with what we did. We were sitting among the players for this performance (often the singers are arranged directly in front of the conductor), with the sopranos and tenors on the outside. It’s not what we were expecting, but actually I rather enjoyed it. It’s nice to feel like a member of the orchestra, rather than being stuck at the front, and I felt as though we had built up a good rapport with the players after our two days together.


Post concert dinner


Best of all, Sinfonia was first in the programme, so we had plenty of time to enjoy a good meal (and a kir royale or two) in a delightful restaurant across the road!”