Here at the Houston Symphony, we are fortunate to have wonderful musicians who are also wonderful writers, willing to share insights from their personal experiences and performers. Below is the third and final blog post submitted by Mark Hughes, Principal Trumpet. It was written shortly after the orchestra finished its second and final performance as a part of the “Festival of the World’s Symphony Orchestras” on Saturday night. As you read, you will notice how much the audience’s participation means to our musicians while they play. If you, as an audience member, ever think that all you’re doing is just sitting there, think again!
By: Mark Hughes
I am safely back in my room and looking forward to two hours of sleep before we start our trip home. Tonight’s concert was a performance to remember! The Doctor Atomic Symphony by John Adams is always a treat to play for me and the other brass principals because Adams chooses to give the important solo lines from the opera (by the same name) to the Tuba, Trombone, Horn, and Trumpet soloists. While a difficult piece, it allows us brass principals an opportunity to get a bit more exposure than we are usually afforded. What a pleasure it is for me to share the stage with Dave Kirk, principal tuba; Allen Barnhill, principal trombone and William (Bill) VerMeulen, principal horn. Three of the best in the world at what they do!
After intermission, the orchestra performed our first piece of Russian music on the tour. While the audience here has been very attentive, you could sense the increased excitement of the audience in hearing an American orchestra interpret some of their music. Those in the balcony were literally leaning over the railings and as I looked out over the audience, I was reminded of something I have heard Dave Kirk (tuba) say before, “We could hear them listening!” The orchestra responded with a beautifully inspiring performance of the Shostakovich Symphony No. 11. Any time 100 or so people are of a like mind, you are going to have quite a momentous product. But when you add the subject matter of the 11th Symphony to the current political environment here in Russia, you are just ratcheting up the emotional impact that is possible in such a performance. And that is obviously what occurred.
While standing ovations are common in the U.S., they are extremely rare in Europe, and Russian audiences tend to behave like those in Eastern Europe. In fact, one of our more experienced musicians told me that this orchestra has never received a standing ovation on any European tour before, but that is exactly what happened tonight. European audiences frequently show their pleasure after a concert by clapping in rhythm, but this night, they were on their feet demanding more from this American orchestra. After several curtain calls, Hans turned to the audience and spoke to them in Russian, announcing that we would play another piece of Russian music, the Baba-Yaga by Liadov. Immediately, you could hear the pleasure the audience felt in the selection of the encore. Afterward, the orchestra received several more curtain calls and again Hans led the concertmaster off the stage, indicating that the concert was indeed over.
After the concert, the festival treated us to a wonderful dinner at our hotel. After several heart warming speeches by the presenters, Hans and new Board President Bob Peiser both thanked the presenters and the orchestra for all of the work involved in making this trip possible. Much merriment followed and now all we have left to do is to make our flight home and prepare for this week’s concerts at Miller Outdoor Theatre.
See you on Friday night!
More photos from our time in Column Hall