The Hendersons Geneva and our performance at the World Harp Congress
2002 Choral Union European Concert Tour and Our Subsequent Vacation
July 24, 2002 – Wednesday – Interlaken to Geneva
The drive to Geneva takes about three hours. At first we are enthralled with the scenery, but after an hour or so, we are out of the Alps area. The countryside is still tidy, but not as dramatic as around Interlaken. We stop for lunch at a rest area – it is not as clean as places in Interlaken.
We get into Geneva around 11:30 a.m., but our hotel rooms are not ready. A guide gets on each bus and we go on a combined coach and walking tour of Geneva. This city doesn’t have much to commend it – it is busy and noisy. There are a lot of 1950s vintage buildings that are completely lacking in charm. Tassos remarks to our guide that it looks like Greece – lots of ugly buildings. The guide doesn’t react but we get quite a chuckle out of it. The old city is nice – we see the Cathedral where we are going to sing – it is the place where John Calvin preached and was, to some extent, the center of the Reformation. The church was stripped of all decorations – no frescos, no statues. John Calvin’s chair and pulpit seem to be the highlights. There is a small chapel off the main sanctuary that has been restored to its pre-Reformation style. The chapel has frescos in very vibrant colors. Geneva is headquarters to many world organizations, including the World Trade Organization and the International Red Cross. There might be a few interesting things to see in Geneva, but not many.
We return to the hotel where we are told to unload our luggage and stow it in a room in the hotel (supposedly safe). We go across the street to a pizzeria for lunch with the Hilstads, Wutzkes and Harstads. After figuring out what pizza we want for lunch, the waiter tells us that they don’t serve pizza after 2:00. Tom and I have a chicken with pommes frites and a salad – it is very tasty, but we are rudely surprised when the waiter tells us they don’t accept credit cards – so why the VISA logo on the door?
We return to the hotel (the road the hotel is on is down to two lanes, with the middle two lanes torn apart for constructing tram lines – it is very noisy). The ‘secure room’ is propped open by a suitcase – anyone could have walked in and taken anything. However, to the best of our knowledge, no one is missing anything.
Our room is quite nice, although small. We requested a room off the street – we get a room facing the train tracks going into the central bahnhof. The trains are electric, though, so they are rather quiet. Because I have a little time, I do some laundry in the bathtub.
Back on the buses to go to one part of the campus of the University of Geneva, where the World Harp Congress is headquartered. We get our passes, then go to a practice room where we are supposed to rehearse with the harpists who are playing our Friday evening concert. The first harpist, Nathalie Chatalaine will accompany us in the Otcenas, the second, Patricia Wooster, is supposed to accompany us in the Mass. We also work a bit on the La Luce delle Tacite Stelle, a piece for harps and voice that was commissioned by the World Harp Congress. While we are waiting for the practice we meet Melina Mettiner’s parents. Melina was our harpist for the first four concerts and stayed with Tom and me in June when she came up to practice with Richard on the Mass.
After practice we walk to the restaurant where we have a group dinner. We sit with Sue and Mike Byrd. The meal is good enough – a salade Nicoise (with tuna and sardines), a pork dish with noodles, and ice cream for dessert. Parking around this part of town is very difficult – we have a few blocks to walk to get to the buses after dinner.
July 25, 2002 – Thursday – Geneva
Today is going to be hectic. We have several rehearsals, with waits between. The first rehearsal is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. in the same room we used yesterday. However, the room has been double booked, so we are left without a place. Because we are supposed to rehearse with the Moscow Harp Ensemble at 2:00 we don’t have enough time to do much. We sit around until about noon, and then have a rehearsal of the voice parts of the Kikta piece. I don’t enjoy this piece much – the sung parts are either not very melodic, or require blastissimo.
The harp ensemble doesn’t show up at 2:00 p.m. – they have a concert in conflict with the rehearsal. Whoever is organizing this conference is not very organized. We work on some of the other pieces, and learn that Melina is going to accompany us in the Mass instead of Patricia Wooster – that is a pleasant surprise, as Melina really knows our music. At the close of the rehearsal, Tom and I walk back to the hotel and I do a little more laundry.
Later that afternoon we are bussed to the cathedral for more rehearsal and are supposed to get the instruments set. This is going to be a real challenge for the organist – the organ is modern and therefore has pre-set stops, but it is in the back of the church, in a loft, and she will have a hard time seeing Richard. Tassos decides that the best solution is for him to relay Richard’s signals to the organist.
We finally have our rehearsal with the Moscow Harp Ensemble. Kikta is there. We had made several corrections to his text (grammatical and spelling) but he doesn’t seem to notice. The practice is very tiring – we’ve been hurrying up and waiting since 10:00 this morning. Added to that, we have to sing full out because the room is so large. We spend a little time on the rest of the music, getting used to the room. It is late – around 9:00 when we get back to the hotel – we still haven’t had dinner, so we just have a light meal in the hotel.
July 26, 2002 – Friday – Geneva
Today we have an excursion to France, to a little town called Annecy. The drive takes about an hour through some pretty countryside.
Annecy is beautiful. It is on a lake and there are many flowers. It also seems to be devoted to food – there are a lot of butcher shops and patisseries, fruit and vegetable stands, restaurants and little food stands with panini and gelato. We walk around for an hour or so, first looking at the pretty cathedral, then browsing the shops. We finally decide to get a panini (grilled) that we eat in the nearby park. We continue our walk and stop at a little café where we see Peter Henrickson and Gretchen Meyer having a cup of coffee and dessert. Tom and I have grand café au lait and a pastry. On the drive back we see signs telling us that the Tour de France passed this way today.
We only have 45 minutes to clean up in preparation for the rehearsals and concert. We take our concert dress with us and plan to change after the rehearsal. The Moscow Harp Ensemble is late to the rehearsal and there is another group that is supposed to rehearse after us, so our time is limited. At this point we have not had a full rehearsal with Nathalie on the Janacek since Wednesday and only have one run through on the Kikta with the full ensemble. We don’t have enough time to go through the Mass, but we have sung it often enough that we know it very well.
After rehearsal, we put our concert dress in the chapel, and then many of us go to a little café next to the cathedral. They specialize in crepes. Tom has a crepe with mozzarella and jambon, mine is poulet and spinach and tomatoes. They are really good, but the poor waiter is running ragged trying to serve everyone.
The men change first, then the women. Anne Urlie’s music bag has disappeared. Once again, this was supposed to be a ‘safe room’ to store our belongings.
The concert begins with a set by a Scottish Harp group – they are young people, teenagers mostly, and are really good. Our Otcenas follows. Nathalie loses count at one point and comes in early. However, the choir is excellent. The next piece consists of some traditional harps and Chinese and Japanese harps. It is weird at best. The women cannot see the conductor, but Vic Hanson gives us a sidesplitting imitation of him during the intermission.
Next we sing the Kikta. The audience loves it. The composer is ecstatic. He hugs the harpists. He hugs the soloists. He hugs Richard. I guess we did it as he envisioned it – hard to say – the third movement is a spoken and whispering piece and is very difficult.
We sing the Mass from the fifth movement (Credo) to the end. It is very well received. Richard seems pleased.
The way back to the hotel is very funny. Tassos imitates the last piece before the intermission. He thinks he will compose a piece called the “Mess for the New Millennium” which will be microwave, cell phones, kazoos and typewriters. Our driver gets lost, so the 20-minute ride back ends up being 40 minutes or so. We are really tired and need to be ready by 10:00 a.m. tomorrow to go to our final destination, Italia (at last). I haven’t heard anyone say they would like to come back to Geneva. I think we will all be glad to leave.