Month: June 2015

Blog No. 24: Michael Gray

Good day to everyone in Blog land on the interwebthingy!I hope you are all in fine fettle and enjoying this wonderful weather. As regulars will know, and possibly some irregulars, I am the violinist in the Scarborough Spa Orchestra and am also in the BBC Concert Orchestra. The Beeb are very kind and give me some time off during the Summer to come and play to you all! It’s not as free as all that and I do have to go back to London for some of the more important concerts, but it tends to work out ok. I have a new dep this year, Matthew Batty, who is doing sterling work while I am away. Thanks Matt.

Anyway, this week I am not with the SSO, but rather than pass it up and give the blog to someone else for the week, I thought it might be interesting for you to have an idea of the sort of things some of us get up to when we are away. 

One of the commitments for the BBC CO is Grange Park Opera, which this year has been…..FIDDLER ON THE ROOF! with BRYN TERFEL! It’s been a joy to hear those familiar songs performed by Bryn and a great cast. We are performing it at the Proms this year which will be a really great evening. Grange Park is near Winchester, so a bit of organisation is needed to do the Scarborough to Winchester commute with the right clothes/Violin/Food etc. So on Wednesday night after the Spa Concert I drove to London and got quite a good sleep before being picked up the next day. There are three of us sharing the driving the year, so I’ve tried to get lifts on the days I’ve driven down. It’s working out ok, and sometimes I even get a little snooze on the way there! The show’s at 5.20pm so we set off at 2pm and have a stop at Waitrose, (other supermarkets are available) to pick up supplies for Dinner. Grange Park has an hour and a half interval so the paying public can have a slap up meal or bring a picnic and eat in the rather lovely grounds. I tend to buy ready meals and eat them in the not quite so lovely band room, but it has three microwaves and an urn so I get by. Then it’s in for the second half! Show done by about 10pm and off home. I got a text saying that the Sinatra night with Jez Unwin at the Spa was a great success. It was a shame for me to miss it but well done to everyone! Have a couple of days off so all the brass and Sax players can rest their lips.

Friday saw me doing rehearsals at Maida Vale for a concert entitled “The Edge Of Sound” conducted by Charles Hazlewood at the Queen Elizabeth Hall next week. Morning and Afternoon Rehearsal so time to fit in a quick awards dinner afterwards. Oh yes indeed, my sister Carol who works for the Police and is a big supporter of the SSO had been nominated for Police Staff Member of the Year because she is lovely and clever. It was a good opportunity for us all to get together and attend the awards dinner at the City Grange Hotel in Tower Hill. What an enjoyable night! All the people that had been nominated were winners already really and are all doing fantastic work. It was an honour to help celebrate their success, but to top it all off, Carol Won! Hurrah!!!

Carol with her award. Well done sis!
Saturday was a rare day off, so I did very little.

Sunday brought another Grange Park and My turn to drive. The journey isn’t that bad unless they close the slip road to the M3, of the M3 itself or have road works on the North Circular or close the Fore St. tunnel or…oh you get the idea.

Monday saw more rehearsals for the “Edge Of Sound” so I battled through the London Underground to get to Maida Vale for 11.30. It seem a bit quiet on my approach but I could see the big van with BBC…. Symphony Orchestra on the side, hang on a minute! I got inside and double checked with the chap on the door that the Concert Orchestra were on today. “Oh Yes” was the reply so I assumed we were in studio 2 and sat down with a bottle of water purchased from the canteen. It wasn’t until one of the Chefs politely enquired what I was doing there today that I started to wonder again, so back to the chap on the door who it turns out thought I’d meant the Symphony orchestra and that no, the Concert Orchestra were, in fact, not there today! Oops! Quick call to the office, “Hi, where are you?” ”Watford? Mm, might take me a while.” How embarrassing! Oh well, got there by 12.45 just in time for the break, perfect!

On Tuesday I was woken by a phone call from my No.2 in the Section, Matthew. The poor chap has been off sick because he came off his bike and grazed his arm badly as well as bruising most of his left side. It seems he felt a bit better and decided a little football would raise his spirits. A turn in Goal couldn’t hurt could it? Turns out it could! Making an awkward save he bent his little finger on his right hand and has broken it in 3 places!!! If ever I needed proof that sport was bad for you! Only joking Matt, Get well soon. Ok, let a few people know then get to work. QEH Radio 3. Sure of the venue? Yes! GO! What? Another text? Charles Hazlewood has gone sick? Oh no! Some days it’s just not worth getting out of bed. Hope you are feeling better Charles. Ok, the plan is for Steve Bell, our Principal Horn (and very good conductor) to step in, perfect! To say Steve did a great job is an understatement. The concert was designed to give a musical picture of Finland’s Myths and Legends and included pieces by Sibelius, Rautavaara, Lindberg and a folk Finnish group called Värttinä. The folk group were pretty amazing and performed seven numbers with us live on Radio 3. One about a bird’s mind, one about an old man and an encore including whips! So something for everyone. I think the band really worked hard to not just get us through the gig but really pull off a good performance, well done the BBC CO! Phew!

Wednesday, Abbey Road, TV sessions for “The Hunt” 10-1 and 2-6. Abbey Road does a very good breakfast so try and make sure I get there early enough. The Concert Orchestra have provided the soundtracks for some great TV series over the years such as Blue Planet and The Paradise and some of the music is great to play, especially if you can see a monitor with some of the amazing wildlife footage! The only downside was 7 hours in an airless and very hot Studio 2 so I was glad to get out and get home.

Thursday and Friday were both Grange Park days and as I write this it is Saturday and I’m on the train back up to Scarborough. I had to miss the Peasholm Park concert on Friday which is a real shame. Who doesn’t want to travel to work by motorised Swan? Anyway, time to catch up with what’s really been going on whilst I’ve been away.

Hopefully see you soon, here’s to another marvellous Summer Season on the Spa,