Whoever Riley was, he certainly must have lived a great life, and this past couple of weeks i've been living a life on the ocean wave that i'm sure the master himself would have approved of.
My dear cousin Liz maintains that the reason i don't holiday much is that my life is a holiday and that i've never done a day's work in my life. Well in a way she's right; my winters are spent skiing with happy people who are on holiday and are there to enjoy themselves. You can't call that work. My summers are spent playing music. The clue there is in the expression "play." After all, we don't work a trumpet, we "play" the trumpet. Sometimes though, it really can seem more like a holiday than working and when i was offered the chance to sail on the Queen Mary 2 from Southampton to New York, i jumped at it.
Full Steam Ahead
An eight day cruise with the National Symphony Orchestra and just two concerts was not something i could turn down. As a friend of mine, who knows my taste for the sybaritic lifestyle opined, "no better man for the job." It's not the first time i've played on a ship; when i first graduated from music college i spent four months in the Caribbean playing in the showband on a ship called Britanis and then a few years ago i did a week on the QE2 with London Brass. I loved both of those experiences and it was with a sense of excitment and expectation that i joined the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton.
This was the first trans-Atlantic crossing i've ever done. On each of my other experiences at sea we've called into different ports each day. Many people imagine that it might be boring spending eight days closseted with two thousand other people not of their choosing. However, i loved the enforced idleness of the whole experience. The only work involved was in ensuring that you used your leisure time constructively. And indeed, there actually was an awful lot to do: highlights for me were the magnificent guest lecturers that were onboard and the two shows by a troop from RADA (performances of Shakespeares's Richard 3rd and an adaptaion of Tales from the Arabian Nights). You really could be doing something from 6am to midnight every day and of course there wasn't a minute when you couldn't be eating! The food was excellent, though maybe not as good as i remember on the QE2 and of course, it had to be preceded by the obligatory coctail in one of the many beautiful lounges and washed down with some good wine. Not wishing to be leaving the ship as cargo, i did make sure i visited the gym each day.
The Britannia dining room
It was four days into the crossing that we played our first concert, a programme of American music including such favourites as Sousa's "Liberty Bell" and Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." Then two days later we concluded our efforts with a Last Night of the Proms programme in which our conductor Anthony Inglis relinquished the baton to the big boss on board, Captain Oprey. For this programme we also had a choir made up of passengers, including the recent govenor of the Bank of England, Lord King, who also had an opportunity to conduct the orchestra in a rendition of the hornpipe from the Sea Shanties.
Yea, that looks right Captain
A highlight of the whole experience was an invitation to the bridge from the captain. Here we were given a talk on the navigation and running of the ship by one of the third officers. It was stressed that Queen Mary 2 is not a cruise ship; it's an ocean liner and as such was built for much deeper waters than those encountered by normal cruise ships. Queen Mary 2 is designed to cope with the rigours of the north atlantic and as such sits deep in the water, its hull is much thicker than other ships and it's of a longer, sleeker design.
The National Symphony Orchestra on the bridge of the Queen Mary 2
All too soon the last evening was upon us and we were heading for our final cocktail party and dinner. All that remained was to set the alarm clock for 5am and our arrival in New York. It seemed that everyone onboard had had the same idea and the decks were filled with people taking pictures in the twilight. It really was magnificent to sail under the Verrazano bridge and past the Statue of Liberty before docking in Brooklyn and well worth the early wake-up.
Verrazano bridge at dawn
Before we all headed for the airport we just had time for lunch together in the famous Carnegie Deli. I was asked by our manager Nicola what it was that i enjoyed most about the trip: i replied that it was the dressing up for dinner. Even when the dress code was informal, gentlemen were required to wear a jacket (formal is dinner suit) and it really makes an occassion of the whole dining experience. Funny that although we wear tails for concerts a lot of the time, it's not often that we as musicians get to put on our finery. Also, it was lovely to see all the ladies in their coctail dresses and heels. You don't see a lot of that in the alps....so come on you ski girls, get the glad-rags out!
Eat your heart out Riley!!!!!! Michael.
The gang at the Carnegie Deli
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Hi everybody, and welcome to the first blog post of the 2018/19 winter, direct from Méribel. All went well with the big drive down from the UK to the Alps. Since then I've been gradually settling in, and have so far managed five days of skiing in Tignes, Val Thorens and Val d'Isere. So what are the all important snow conditions?