Big Apple - Big Tuba
The Bayerische Staatsorchester and the Bayerische Staatsoper on tour: that is one concert at Elbphilharmonie, followed by two performances at Carnegie Hall. A wonderful chance for our musicians to present themselves and their musicianship outside the orchestra pit in Munich, in sold-out venues and with international audiences.
If everything runs smoothly on a tour, there is some time to visit the cities and, more important, to rehearse between long-haul flights and concerts. As most musicians cannot put their instruments into the overhead compartments of a plane (as a matter of fact: the bigger the instrument, the smaller the chance), one of the most difficult challenges when organising a guest performance at a different venue is the following question: Who will get his or her instrument at what point and how do the musicians stay fit, so they can present themselves in the best possible way after only a short rehearsal sound check?
Our tuba player Stefan Ambrosius has found his own solution. He always carries a mini tuba (a model with the cute name "Trolley") as part of his hand luggage, so that he can start playing and rehearsing as soon as he has reached the hotel. This way, the embouchure and the fingers stay “in shape” and as he plays with a sordino, even the room neighbours are not being disturbed.
However, such a small instrument cannot replace the original. Therefore, Stefan started looking for additional ways to rehearse while being in New York. And as in this city everything is a little bit bigger – from skyscrapers to kingsize meals – he encountered “Big Carl”. “Big Carl” is an 8 feet tall tuba, which lives with Carl Fischer, the music publishing house on Wall Street, 28th floor. Being 120 years old, “Big Carl” is not the fittest of all instruments anymore. Its valves, which are as big as hand palms, cannot be used anymore. Nevertheless, the instrument is still useful if you like to train your breathing and the embouchure. And so, Stefan was happy to accept the invitation of “Carl’s” caregiver Samuel and went to visit this New York music institution.
n order to make “Carl” ready to be played on, three members of staff needed to put it up – an impressive show of strength! Stefan could use his mouthpiece, however, it was not clear if “Big Carl” was tuned in B flat or E flat. Well, “Carl” is simply unique and the unusual tune underlines that. After having played some notes, Stefan and “Big Carl” agreed on B. After that, the publishing house experienced a thundering musical potpourri, including Lohengrin as well as the German nursery rhyme Hänschen Klein.
Nevertheless, after this short rehearsal unity, Stefan returned to his small travel instrument. This one is simply easier to handle and Stefan can carry it under his arm when walking along the balcony on the 28th floor of the Fischer building, enjoying this magnificent view over the whole of Manhattan. That way, Wall Street spontaneously had the chance to enjoy some brass music entertainment.
And there were even more good news to follow, when Stefan returned to the hotel: happy faces in our musical department, because the real instruments had arrived! They had survived a long and organisationally difficult trip. They left Munich on the night before the concert at Elbphilharmonie and were brought to Hamburg in a truck. From there, they were transferred to the US by plane. Landed in New York, they had to pass US customs … But now everything is done – one more day until the first concert is scheduled. Carnegie Hall, here we come!