Well hello there 4am! The good work we had done in combating jet-lag was swiftly undone in one fell swoop. Fortunately our taxis were prompt, Medford airport small and efficient and we were supping coffee plane-side in plenty of time for our red-eye. The short but picturesque flight took us to Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah. Founded by Mormon pioneers, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints make up the majority of the population. The concert later that day was to be at Brigham Young University, Provo. They had sent two large cars to meet us at the airport to make the 50-minute journey south. Our two chatty representatives from BYU would look after us for the weekend and had pretty much thought of everything, driving us straight to a very comfortable hotel, ensuing all our room keys were ready so that we could catch up on some much needed sleep.
After a few hours of rest, we were picked up and taken to the brand new music building of BYU, so new in fact that it wasn’t quite finished yet! The main Recital Hall was out of action, so our performance had been moved to the smaller Choral Hall. This featured a state of the art adjustable acoustic system, but unfortunately it wasn’t yet working, so was permanently set to ‘very dry.’ As brass players we love reverberant spaces to play in, so much of the rehearsal was spent making adjustments to combat the acoustic.
The pre-concert meal they had provided was, however, absolutely top draw: melt-in-your-mouth beef, tender stem broccoli, mashed potato, cheesecake and a cheese course; we had to be careful not to over-indulge. Sasha made the most of this with a little banditary (who could blame him?) and snuck three beef fillets back to the hotel which later adorned a pizza as a late night snack. This was in fact the third time Sasha had eaten steak that day, which amounted to just shy of 1kg consumed in 24 hours.
The ‘intimate’ acoustic, bright lights and close proximity of audience members made for an intense experience during the concert. As Dan put it: ‘it felt like being hosed down naked in front of an audience’. That said, it was a rather terrific performance which was wonderfully and enthusiastically received by a sizeable audience. The ‘Special Relationship’ programme, as it is known, is a real crowd-pleaser, pairing Finzi, Elgar and a new commission by Pete Walton with three of Gershwin’s Piano Preludes and Copeland’s atmospheric Appalachian Spring.
The day was also shaped by the fact that it was Artistic Director Matthew Knight’s birthday. Desperately holding on to his youth – whilst looking every one of his thirty-seven years – Matt had managed to find a suitable venue in which to celebrate. ABG’s bar in central Provo was a lively affair, which was warmly embraced by all. The night was appropriately cut short by fatigue and a reasonable closing time of 2am, with most people grateful of a free morning and a 1pm check-out.
Being a bit of an early morning person, I was keen to explore some of the stunning scenery which surrounds Salt Lake in the morning. Running is a bit of a passion of mine, and by far the best way to see new places when on tour. I had decided on a run in the mountains and ordered an Uber to take me to the start of the trail. What I had not bargained for was that the trail was covered in snow and ice and that my racing flats were utterly inappropriate for it. Nevertheless, an hour of uphill followed, and despite my desire to carry on I simply had to turn back once I found myself standing knee deep in snow. The down hill was half run, half ski, just once depositing myself firmly on my backside.
Provo largely shuts down on a Sunday, so after some lunch at a brewery just south of the hotel – a pretty terrible lunch to be honest; how can you mess up fajitas?! – we headed back to Salt Lake City airport to fly to St. Louis, Missouri.
Upon arrival, two large Suburbans greeted us at the airport (the size of these things never ceases to amaze me) and took us to the Double Tree Hilton in downtown St. Louis. Having missed dinner on the flight, a few of us popped out to a pub to see if we could grab a bite to eat. A very strange encounter followed with the lady behind the bar. She took real umbrage with the fact that Simon and I were not drinking, threw a pen at Sasha, moaned about my ‘bad attitude’ because I suggested that I would prefer to order rather than let her decide what I wanted, and kept having a go at me for folding my arms. It was a strange clash of personalities which resulted in far too much beige, fried food being laid out in front of us. If I have one hope for tomorrow, it’s that we find some better grub.