Viet Nam News
By Gareth Davies*
There are giant screens erected on the road by the lake to allow anyone to watch, but nobody really has any idea of how many people will come. In front of the stage are hundreds of chairs for the VIPs. So after a brief sound check the orchestra play through the Vietnamese national anthem. I’m not in this part of the concert so I’m standing at the back of the seated area.
I look nervously around at the locals bustling around putting programmes on seats, attaching seat numbers and all the other hundreds of small things that need to be put in place before such a huge event. As soon as the orchestra reach the end of the second bar of the anthem, they have all stopped what they’re doing and are standing up, beaming at the stage. We must be getting it right…what a relief!
The day before a small group of players had done some education work at the local music college and today some of their students are sat on the stage; their excitement is obvious. We all too easily forget how lucky we are in London to have so much culture available to us and there are times when I see some music students looking jaded and uninterested in what’s going on as they sit with us. For these Hanoi students though, this is an opportunity too good to miss.
Bindi tells me that they were so excited to be asked to sit amongst us in the rehearsal as they know the LSO sound from recordings and couldn’t believe that we would let them onstage. You can spot them easily from the seats because of their smiles. Some of them speak very good English, some very little, but once the music starts, we all speak the same language.
Despite being in the orchestra for 17 years, I still find the sound of the LSO overwhelming at times and I can see the look on their faces as we begin. During the third movement of the Rachmaninov 2nd symphony, After Chris Richards stunning clarinet solo, the music builds to an extraordinary crescendo. I look across at the young violinist sat next to Maxine and he can’t take it anymore, he is completely overwhelmed, tears rolling down his cheeks. Maxine stops and gives him a hug — we all know that feeling. It’s a moment none of us will forget.
As we take the final bow of the concert we leave the stage and are told to go round the corner and wave to the crowds watching on the screen. I must admit that I assumed they would have left as it takes a few minutes for the orchestra to assemble there, but I was wrong. We turned the corner and the enormous cheer that greeted us was unbelievable. I can’t tell you how many people were there, but they stretched into the distance as far as I could see. It was our turn to be overwhelmed. I’ve never seen anything like it as they take pictures and high five everyone and shout and applaud…it’s amazing and we could have stood there for hours, but we have a plane to catch. It’s time to go home.
Quite unexpectedly, Viet Nam has grabbed hold of me and won’t let go. I’m very glad to be coming home, but I’m a little envious of the players who are staying there for few days to explore. Such a colourful, warm and welcoming place, I really hope to go back. As we head out on the main road to the airport, the swarms of scooters gradually disappear and our driver uses his horn less frequently. In my bag next to me is my concert flute, piccolo the Chinese dizi and a new addition which I picked up in the market in Ha Noi, a sao truc, something to remember this trip by that speaks my language. It’s dark outside the coach window, but I know that the unchanging landscape of Viet Nam is out there, waiting for my return.
Full account can be read here: http://www.garethdaviesonline.com/blog/hanoi
* Gareth Davies has been Principal flute with the London Symphony Orchestra for 17 years. He has played and recorded with many of the great conductors including Gergiev, Sir Colin Davids and Rostropovich. He has recorded a concerto, dedicated to him by Karl Jenkins with EMI, he can be heard in live recordings with LSO as well as many film soundtracks including Star Wars, Harry Potter, Rise of the Guardians and the Twilight saga. He has also written a memoir about 100 years of the LSO: The Show Must Go On.
You can read more on his website: http://www.garethdaviesonline.com/words.html.