I’m travelling with the orchestra to Toronto tomorrow morning for a concert at Roy Thomson Hall. It should be an easy tour – bus down, concert, sleep, bus back. Simple, right?
Regardless of how many tours I’ve done or how long they are, I still have the same uneasy feeling the day before we leave. There’s a bit of pressure knowing 70 people are depending on you to make sure everything runs smoothly. Some of my fears are well founded, based on negative experiences on past trips, while most of my worries are completely irrational.
In order, here’s what I worry about on tour.
Buses Nothing gives me nightmares more than buses. While most of the buses we get are nice, clean, modern coaches, I have had the unpleasant experience of getting crappy buses. The door didn’t work on one of them, you couldn’t turn the heat off on another, one of the buses in Mexico didn’t have a bathroom while another broke down outside Mexico City. I practically beg for the best coaches a company has, but sometimes you are simply at the mercy of the faceless dispatcher.
Drivers are another variable. Most are nice, but some don’t appreciate that the orchestra has a schedule to keep. One guy stopped by his home to pick up some luggage, another guy wanted to do a little detour on the way to Montreal to pick up some upholstery. Unbelievable.
I take notice of buses almost every day as I drive around town. I know which companies have nice Prevost H3-45’s and which are using MCI Mirage. The best buses by far were in Germany. They were big and comfortable, with a washroom downstairs by the rear exit so nobody was forced to sit by the toilet. The driver also sold water and beer at the front of the bus. Very civilized.
Hotels I try to put the orchestra in nice hotels. It’s tiring being on tour, and I think it’s a definite morale-booster when you walk into a really well-appointed hotel.
Ideally, I arrive at the hotel about 20 minutes before the group. This gives me time to collect all the keys, check them against the master list, and fix any errors that the front desk has made. If some rooms aren’t ready, it gives me a few minutes to look sternly at the front desk staff and implore (beg) them to get me more keys before the group arrives.
My favourite tour hotel? I have a soft spot for the Grand Hotel in Locarno, Switzerland. It wasn’t the nicest hotel, but it had Old World charm. The worst? Probably the Hotel Moderno in Pontassieve, Italy. It was moderno in about 1924…
Planes Fortunately we’re not flying on this little tour, so I’m not freaking out about that. I am always nervous about flying commercially with the orchestra as you can never get a straight answer about whether some instruments will be allowed on board. It’s never gone horribly wrong, but I have had to intervene on occassion to make sure a cello actually gets a seat.
Back in the “good old days”, I would show up at the airport an hour before the group and get all the boarding passes. When the orchestra arrived, I’d hand out the boarding passes, the musicians would drop their luggage, and we’re done. Needless to say, that doesn’t happen anymore.
Those are the three big things I worry about. Of course, there’s also stuff like visas, sick musicians, damaged instruments, missing pants (don’t ask), blah blah blah that can really ruin your day.
So it’s about 12 hours until showtime. Will Coach Canada come through with nice buses and put a smile on my face? I’ll keep you posted.