It was a cold and dark night as 35 musicians drove into the car park at Kimichi school, unloaded their instruments and warmed themselves with a cup of tea before getting on a coach to drive to London. Kimichi Symphony Orchestra was off on tour for the first time since the pandemic hit. Since 2018 the orchestra had to travel to Prague over the October half term to perform in some of the most beautiful buildings in Europe, including the Rudolfinum. All the children from the school have previously accompanied the orchestra to act as ambassadors. This was also the first time we’d attempted such a trip post Brexit and that has made everything just so much more complicated. It did mean, however, the passengers on the plane had a laugh when the plane was a few minutes late, because the tuba in its seat had to be sorted.
Landing in Prague, we all made our way to the various apartments in the city that we were staying in. Prague is a beautiful city: stunning churches with beautiful, carvings and awe-inspiring paintings positively litter the city and history abounds. On this particular tour, we were lucky enough to be performing in the beautiful church of Saint Nicholas, and also in the Music Museum of Prague. Having settled into our apartments, it was time for a bite to eat, a catch up with old friends, and a discussion about the repertoire we were playing.
The next morning, so as when our way to Smecky Studios; a fascinating place accessed by three flights of stairs, (not so handy for double basses) where are the Czech Philharmonic regularly record works by famous composers. Our very first visit there back in 2018, had drawn many surprised mutterings from the musicians, as it is the studios where John Williams himself has recorded many of his most famous soundtracks. Our rehearsal lasted three hours, and waslong enough to get us back into shape for the performance the next day.
In the afternoon, everybody had a little time to sightsee and buy souvenirs if they wanted to friends and family. I believe some of us were even brave enough to go on a boat trip down the beautiful river Vltava the King Charles bridge, is always worth crossing with its myriad statues and street performers; a bustling hive of activity, no matter the time of day. Eating out is always a pleasure in Prague, so if you’re not a big meat eater, it’s a little harder to find somewhere!
The next day brought to concerts: an afternoon one in Saint Nicholas, followed by an evening performance in the museum. The orchestra performed Tchaikovsky, six Symphony and the Tchaikovsky violin Concerto with the wonderful Katy Smith performing the solo part the symphony, especially is an incredibly emotive work and to play it in such beautiful surroundings was quite an emotional experience for many musicians. The sheer pleasure of making music together and performing such timeless works can never be fully explained.
Needless to say, celebrations were in order after two very successful concerts. Members of the orchestra congregated in a favourite haunt, the fat cat, to do so.
The next morning brought an early start again, as we all grabbed our various instruments and made our way back to the airport to reverse the journey all the way back to school, a wonderful experience, taking brand Kimichi overseas and bringing live music with us wherever we go.