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2011 European Tour

(Not) Groundhog Day

(Note: LA Phil Principal keyboardist Joanne Pearce Martin wrote this entry on February 1st, 2011; however, we think you'll agree it's perfect to publish today.)

Tomorrow is “Groundhog Day”. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, the protagonist wakes up each day, faced with the same recurring events, repeated ad infinitum. To the uninitiated, touring with a symphony orchestra might seem like Groundhog Day: Eat, Travel, Sleep, Wake up, Practice, Perform. Repeat.

Olivier Messiaen's organ

A necessary pilgrimage for any keyboardist - Olivier Messiaen's organ at Église de la Sainte-Trinité.

But touring with the LA Phil is anything but that. Each day brings forth new sounds, new smells, new sights, and an air of exuberance for the new city to be faced.

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Bringing It All Back Home – Lionel in Paris

Bonjour et Bienvenue à Paris!!!

Salle Pleyel

Salle Pleyel, where the LA Phil played its two concerts in Paris, and where LA Phil Associate Conductor Lionel Bringuier grew up going to concerts while studying at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris.

I’m really excited to be here with the orchestra! Four years ago I came from Paris to Los Angeles and was hired by the orchestra as Assistant Conductor. Later on that season, I happened to be in Paris during their tour in November 2007, and was incredibly happy to see my new family on stage in Salle Pleyel. Now, it is with much joy that I am here again with the orchestra as Associate Conductor and to see them perform on this stage.

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Ah, Paris – C’est Magnifique!

Bonjour from Paris! This is day 14 of our 20 days away from Los Angeles. For those of us who have been in the orchestra for several years, there is a familiarity with performing in this city.

LA Phil rehearses

The LA Phil rehearses at the Salle Pleyel in Paris.

In 1996, the year I joined the orchestra, we had a one-month residency which reignited the push to build Walt Disney Concert Hall. We performed the Rite of Spring with Esa-Pekka and the Paris audience absolutely loved it. The Rite went on to become one of our signature pieces, which we later performed for the opening concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

In 2007 we played at the Salle Pleyel and stayed in the same hotel as we are currently in. We performed the Sibelius symphonies with Esa-Pekka.

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Trailing Spouses

Toby, my husband, has just arrived in Paris for the remainder of our tour. He refers to himself as the "trailing spouse" - those husbands, wives, partners, and significant others who accompany orchestra members during tours. They have the advantage of enjoying all the sights, sounds, and tastes of the cities we travel to, but without the added responsibilities of performing. We have a number of family members with us on this tour; the European cities we are visiting this time are hard to pass up.


The LA Phil arrived in Paris on Saturday and plays its second concert tonight, has a long-awaited free day tomorrow and leaves for Budapest on Wednesday.

The last time Toby was in Paris with me was during the Philharmonic's residency here in 1996. We had been married just 3 years and reveled in the romance of the city.

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London Calling

(Note: This post is by Gretchen Nielsen, the LA Phil's Director of Educational Initiatives. These are her thoughts on a rehearsal led by Gustavo Dudamel for an orchestra of young musicians involved in community music projects in east London, alongside several members of the LA Phil and the LSO. These students participate in programs similar to the LA Phil’s own Youth Orchestra Los Angeles and the El Sistema program in Venezuela.)

I write this post from the Eurostar on the way to Paris…

Gustavo Dudamel
Gustavo demonstrates the technique he wants to see from the young musicians while they play the last movement of Beethtoven's Seventh Symphony.

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Briefly Noted – From Cologne to London

We're flying from Cologne to London as I write this. The two concerts in Cologne went well - we received a very warm reception from the audiences. And, of course, it's hard not to like a concert hall when they hand you a glass of beer as you walk offstage after the concert. We celebrated Gustavo's 30th birthday with a post-concert bash until late into the night - good times on this tour so far!

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The Show Must Go On!

(Note: Now that the tour has reached the halfway point, we thought we'd ask LA Phil Orchestra Personnel Manager Jeffrey Neville to weigh in with a "behind-the-scenes" view of the tour so far.)

It’s 11:30am on Wednesday morning, Gustavo’s birthday,  Our performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 at the Philharmonie in Cologne is just hours away.  One of the largest repertoire pieces as far as personnel goes - 106 players strong.  "All hands on deck," as they say.  My phone rings and a voice on the other end says, “I’ve been up all night, I’m sick and I don’t think I will be able to play tonight.”

Jeffrey Neville

LA Phil Orchestra Personnel Manager Jeffrey Neville shows off the perfect combination of charm and managerial savvy that lets him get the job done while on tour.

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Unforgettable Mahler, Unforgettable Cologne

Violinist Johnny Lee and Associate Concertmaster Bing Wang

Violinist Johnny Lee and Associate Concertmaster Bing Wang (right) at Music Director Gustavo Dudamel's 30th Birthday Party in Cologne, Germany -- right after the LA Phil finished a command performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony.

We played our second concert in Cologne on January 26, which happened to be Gustavo's 30th birthday.  This is simply incredible.  How many professional orchestras get to celebrate their Music Director's 30th birthday?  All of us knew it was a very special day and it's wonderful to be back at the Cologne Philharmonie on this memorable occasion.

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The Tour So Far — A Painter’s View

Plaza a Luis de Camoes in Lisboon
A view from the Plaza a Luis de Camoes in Lisboon - watercolor painting by Caitlin Heimerl.

On this tour, I'm traveling with my niece, Caitlin Heimerl. She is a recent graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, and she is loving the opportunity to paint in all of the beautiful cities we are visiting on this tour.

After visiting the castle in Lisbon, we found the Plaza Luis de Camões and stopped to paint as the sun was setting.

In Madrid, after a morning at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, which houses Picasso's "Guernica," and a walk through the cobblestone streets of the city, we found a lovely fountain on Paseo del Prado. In spite of the cold, Caitlin pulled out her watercolors to paint there in the early evening.

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Party On, Dudamel!

Gustavo cake
Save me a corner piece!

Wednesday, January 26 was a big day for the LA Phil and its Music Director, Gustavo Dudamel. Not only did he lead the orchestra in its fifth performance of the 2011 European Tour -- in Cologne, Germany -- but he also turned 30 years old!

Clearly, a celebration was in order. And that's just what the LA Phil did, cutting loose during a "Crazy Hats"-themed birthday bash at a venue called Alter Wartesaal, near the famous Cologne Cathedral and the Kölner Philharmonie, the hall where the LA Phil performed. Spanish singer Pasión Vega provided the entertainment and, as seen in the gallery below, a great time was had by all.

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