After a very long flight, Esprit Orchestra arrives in Beijing with all orchestra members, including instruments, intact. We collect luggage at the carousel and exit the area. As the doors slide open and we move through the crowd, we hear “Orchestra over here!” and there is a charming Chinese woman beckoning us over with a sign.
However, she was not Mimi Mok, our project manager who was to have been there to meet us, but someone else holding a sign. It seems that she saw us carrying violin, viola, horn and trumpet cases and thought we were the orchestra she was sent to greet! What are the chances that TWO orchestras would land in Beijing at the exact same time! It was all very amusing as we told her that we were not the North German Radio Orchestra (NDR), but Esprit Orchestra from Canada. Much laughter all around!
We do eventually meet up with our own Mimi Mok, and we follow her to the bus — chaos! It seems that two buses show up and park cheek to cheek in the waiting zone. Yes, it was the bus for the NDG Orchestra, and the bus for Esprit Orchestra. In fact, the horn player for the NDG Orchestra (Jens Plücker) was blindly following musicians and was about to board OUR BUS! We almost adopted a German horn player!
There were good vibes as all orchestra members intermingled and chatted and were in good humour about it all. Our clarinet player, Michele Verheul was chatting with a musician and it turned out that he, the principal clarinettist Karl Leister, was a hero of hers! She excitedly remarked Karl is “a big deal.” He was Herbert von Karajan’s clarinettist with the Berlin Philharmonic. She told us that his were some of the first recordings that she fell in love with. He had been a great musical inspiration for her, although she had only known him through recordings. Here she was in Beijing, chatting animatedly with him as we were boarding our side-by-side buses. They were on their way to perform Mahler’s Symphony #1 the following day, and we were on our way to perform Schafer! The concerts were to take place simultaneously on May 29!
Of course, the inevitable happened — we met the same musicians at the airport on the outbound — they for Shanghai, we for Nanning. There were many more photos taken and many more stories shared.
A wonderful musical encounter at the Beijing Airport!
Double Happiness – Double Orchestras!
– Alexina Louie