Synergy represented by:

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

“We couldn’t have picked a better time to go to Miami – 26ᴼC and sunny, while the UK was more or less under water!  The New World Symphony Orchestra had kindly offered us apartments in the “Musicians’ Village” (named by me), where the orchestral players live.  This enabled Will and I to have a few extra days in the February sunshine.  Just what the doctor ordered!

Our apartment neighbours consisted of a very friendly percussionist on one side, and a very diligent pianist on the other.  We didn’t mind her practising at all because she was really very good.  There was one amusing afternoon, however, when she was practising the opening of the 5th movement of Sinfonia over and over again.  It is a tricky solo moment for her, me and the flautist, but enough was enough.  So I joined in with my solo from the other side of the apartment wall – that did the trick!

Everglade airboats

Having walked and cycled the length and breadth of Art Deco Miami Beach, and with a whole free day to ourselves, Will and I decided on a visit to the Everglades and a trip on an airboat, so that we could pretend we were in Miami Vice.  As you might expect, the set-up is a bit touristy, with a shop and a café and an alligator “show”, and I wasn’t surprised to see (just by this walkway on the right of the picture), a huge replica of an alligator in the water (presumably to make the tourists go “ooh look!”).  I resisted the urge to reach down and touch it, which was just as well as, when we returned from our airboat ride, the same massive alligator “replica” was sunning itself on the slipway!


We met a few of his slightly smaller friends whilst out on the water, including this character (N.B. picture taken by Will, without zoom, with boat engine switched off – and me crouched on the other side of Will!)










As we were staying just a few blocks from the venue, we headed down to New World Center to check out this amazing new building – a collaboration between Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and Frank Gehry (who of course designed the amazing Walt Disney Hall in LA).  NWC was purpose-built as the home of the New World Symphony Orchestra, and it houses a fabulous state-of-the-art concert hall where these top-notch postgraduate orchestral players can hone their skills and continue to learn from the best conductors and international orchestral players.


We bumped into Anna – my main contact in putting this concert together – and she and Maydela (MTT’s very cute puppy), gave us a guided tour of this fabulous building.  I was particularly envious of MTT’s office and meeting room at the top of the building – just next to the roof-top garden.  I know where I’d spend most of my time if I worked here!


Listening in to players’ rehearsal

MTT invited me to the orchestral rehearsal the following morning, where I bumped into three familiar faces from LSO who were in Miami to coach the “fellows” – a lovely surprise.  After a very productive and delightfully collaborative rehearsal, Michael then invited us over to his amazing water-side house for dinner – along with some of the “fellows” and NWS associates.  I don’t know how MTT finds the time to do all he does.  Such generous entertaining was way beyond the call of duty – but how very lovely!

A bit of Art Deco – Miami style

It was a real pleasure to rehearse with MTT and these wonderful players.  Michael asked me to chat a bit about each movement just before we rehearsed it.  It’s great to do pre- and post-concert talks about Sinfonia but it’s even better to be able to share our knowledge with the players, having performed the piece so many times over so many years.

After a strenuous afternoon in Macy’s, a lovely Italian meal and lashings of key-lime-pie-cheesecake-ice-cream (gorgeous!), the concert day was upon us.  Miami Beach was pretty busy by this stage, as it was in the throes of the annual boat show.  Once upon a job, Will used to sell boats.  He reckons that owning a boat is like standing in a cold shower tearing up £10 notes!  That said, I reckon I’d settle for this one if I had to.

Micaela’s boat

The first half of the concert consisted of several small-scale pieces by Scelsi (my favourite being the one for flute and oboe – never thought I’d say that! – it was played so beautifully) and Berio’s Linea for 2 pianos and 2 percussionists (starring BOTH my neighbours) – very impressive.  Then, at the beginning of Sinfonia, MTT chatted to the audience about the piece, and we were treated to a short film about one of the “fellows” (a great idea to promote the orchestra, showing the players as individuals with personalities, funny stories etc).

A fine job was done by all and Sinfonia was warmly received.  Michael had made a small mistake in the 1st movement (I bet no-one even noticed), so when he came back on for his 2nd bow he turned to the audience and announced that he’d like us all to play that movement again.  This was an admirably selfless gesture.  He clearly wanted this performance of such an iconic piece to be as good as it could be for these young players.  I think we should repeat the first movement in every performance of Sinfonia.  Everyone’s much more relaxed the 2nd time round!

Taking a bow

A roof-top reception followed, during which time we chatted up as many of the NWS associates as we could, in an effort to persuade them to employ a resident group of 8 professional singers.  You never know…

Art Deco sunset

Finally, MTT invited us all to attend the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra concerts on the South Bank in March.

We all went along to the marathon that is Mahler 3 yesterday (March 16th).  It was a triumph, received with a standing ovation and much cheering.  MTT was marvellous, and “man of the match” definitely went to the principal trumpet – brilliant.  “Women and children of the match” were the ladies of the LSO chorus and the boys of St Paul’s Cathedral, who all sang from memory and were incredibly well-disciplined.  They did us Brits proud!

So, same time next year in Miami Beach….?”