I have been traveling with MCO to Ferrara since 1997. Through those years mine and the orchestra's life have changed, but we have always stayed together, growing together.
This time round in Ferrara I arrive with my suitcase, my viola and also with Alice, my 8 ½ year old daughter. Alice is starting her own musical journey. She has her clarinet with her and you could say she is on her first tour as a musician.
Now, I have been bringing my family with me on tour to Ferrara and other places for some years, but for me there is something very special about having Alice for the first time here with me in Ferrara, just us two. No mummy, no little brother, no other relatives in tow, no baby sitters. We are becoming more and more like two equals traveling through life exploring together, and Alice loves it.
Tour life is very special, filled with all kinds of personal routines and rituals that help keep you fit, sane, happy and focused on the reason you're here, to make memorable concerts. Having Alice in Ferrara makes no exceptions to these rules. We are out jogging in the park, have an afternoon nap on the concert day, warm up well before rehearsals and make sure that we enjoy colleagues' company and the regions famous cooking in the evenings.
I should say that while Alice has her clarinet with her she is not actually playing in the orchestra as she has only been learning a few months, but the chance to be in such close proximity to such a fantastic orchestra is something I think she feels. Having to sit quietly in a hall and listen to six hours of rehearsing for three days is something else, but thanks to the iPad and the prospect of Italian ice cream and pizza for dinner we make it through the day.
When not locked in the concert hall listening to Brahms' symphony no. 4, Ferrara has many highlights that are easy for a child to enjoy. There is a park with an adventure style playground and beautiful water fountain in it. There is a lovely toy shop just behind the huge cathedral that I have been visiting even before Alice was born. There are often fun street markets selling everything from local products to clothes, tourist nick nacks and natural remedies. And there are the ice cream shops, or gelaterias as they are called in Italian. After 17 years visiting such a small city, you would think one would know all of them, but incredibly, down a side street across the main boulevard from the hotel Touring we discovered gelateria K2. Fantastic flavors in the softest Italian ice cream style. People seemed to be continuously dropping in for the ice cream, or to take an espresso, or just to chat to friends or the owner. Quality time!
Sunday arrives and Alice dresses up for the concert. She looks beautiful, the Teatro Claudio Abbado looks beautiful and of course the music is beautiful and the orchestra sounds fantastic as ever. I have to wonder is this too much of a good thing for Alice at her age. When I was 8 ½, my cultural experiences stretched to seeing Star Wars at the local cinema.
Later, much much later, around 01:00, while lying in bed, I ask Alice what she is thinking about. I half expect her to talk about the pizza she had for dinner or what time breakfast will be or whether we will get any food on the plane home. She replies, "I was thinking of the music I listened to today daddy."