A spectacular few days: Meg's Tour Blog

CBSO Events Officer Meg Bradshaw and Individual Giving Manager Eve Vines recently hosted 32 CBSO Members on a trip to Hamburg, joining the Orchestra for the final concert of its German Tour - and first with Music Director Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.

It’s back to business as usual for Eve and me after a spectacular few days with a group of CBSO members, while we joined the Orchestra for the Hamburg leg of their German Tour. 

We departed the UK last Sunday, arriving in Hamburg early evening and (despite a missing coach) were delighted to be welcomed by the staff at Hotel Scandic Emporio situated right next to the Laeiszhalle, where the CBSO has performed previously. A free evening allowed some of our supporters to begin exploring and others to join us for a gin and tonic in the sun (and a Hamburger!), what a fabulous first evening.

The following morning our group split into two and we were taken on a city walk by two very knowledgeable tour guides. Even though the weather was not on our side and made for quite a soggy trip, the groups visited many Hamburg hot-spots including the Laeiszhalle, Johannes Brahms Museum, St Michalis Church, the city’s port and finally the Elbphilharmonie – what an extraordinary building it is. The outdoor viewing platform on Level 8 is open to the public as well as audience members and offers some stunning panoramic views of the city and its very busy port situated on the River Elbe.

Megan Bradshaw
Events Officer

The reason for our trip was, of course, to experience the Orchestra perform at the Elbphilharmonie, the most expensive concert hall in the world – and the CBSO had the privilege of being the first UK symphony orchestra to perform there, as part of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival. We have all read and heard so much about this concert hall. Since its opening in January, every concert in the main hall has sold out and we were all very intrigued to visit and experience for ourselves how it compared to Symphony Hall. We returned to the Elbphilharmonie later that day, dressed to impress, for a sneak preview backstage and to hear our fabulous Orchestra rehearse for that evening’s concert. The backstage areas, as Second Trumpet player Rich Blake describes in his tour blog, are second to none. Every detail had been thought about and every musician performing there really does experience the very best facilities. The 2,150 seater auditorium is just as special, each acoustic wall tile is unique and there are 1,000 hand-blown glass light bulbs. Despite its size, the hall feels very intimate and the sound was sharp and lively.

As the excitement continued to build and the hall opened to the public, our members met at the bar for a drink pre-concert ahead of a sell-out concert of Debussy’s Prélude à l’Après-midi d’un faune and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with Jan Lisiecki. Sadly, because of the popularity of the concert, Eve and I couldn’t attend the first half; however we were delighted to receive a message during the interval from our Chief Executive Stephen Maddock who had spotted two empty seats for us to fill for the second half so we could watch Stravinsky’s Pétrouchka

What a phenomenal performance – as the applause continued, we were left with an immense feeling of pride to work for such a magnificent Orchestra who delivered an outstanding performance to the citizens of Hamburg and to our loyal home supporters.

The Elbphilharmonie from the River Elbe.
The Elbphilharmonie from the River Elbe.
The view from Elbphilharmonie across Hamburg’s port.
The view from Elbphilharmonie across Hamburg’s port.

A performance like that deserved a celebration and that is just what we did! We made our way back to the hotel to join the Orchestra and Mirga, who had very generously organised a party where food and drink was plentiful. Unbeknownst to any of us, Mirga had flown out some Lithuanian friends who played in a small folk band and after a few short speeches she announced that in Lithuanian tradition, when someone offers hospitality, you must return the favour by dancing – now the party had really begun. Eve and I strategically placed ourselves behind several obstacles prepared to launch for cover to avoid the “dancing circle”, but many of our members and musicians (including Stephen) embraced the fast-paced jig. It was certainly an evening to remember!

The following morning, with a few sore dancing feet (and heads), the Orchestra made their way back to the UK having finished another incredibly successful first tour. Meanwhile, we made our way to Landungsbrücken – Hamburg’s floating dock. We boarded our midday harbour tour and were greeted by another brilliant (and hilarious) tour guide who talked us through the interesting sites of Hamburg’s port, named “Gateway to the World”. The enormity of both the port and the vast container ships and loading rigging was fascinating to see – our captain was very brave to take us so close! On our return we were able to see the Elbphilharmonie again from a different angle (the view used in the hall’s marketing materials and tourist postcards) and were truly able to appreciate its elegant wave-like design, between the downpours! 

Our group enjoying German cuisine on the last evening.
Our group enjoying German cuisine on the last evening.

A free afternoon allowed everyone time to visit the various attractions on offer with some visiting Miniatur Wunderland, Kaffee Museum and others hopping on an open-top bus tour. Meanwhile, Eve and I staked out a restaurant that would accommodate all 30 of us at short notice that would hopefully serve some traditional German food. What a gem we found! The Höfbrauhaus was everything we could have hoped for, offering schnitzel, currywurst, sauerkraut, beer drunk from steins and all served by waiters in lederhosen. Lots of happy chatter and laughter for our last evening and a wonderful end to our few days in Hamburg.

Touring with the Orchestra is a benefit to CBSO members (Patron level and above) and there are a limited few spaces available on our next trip to Hamburg in November. Click here for tour information, or click here to learn about supporting us through membership.

Touring through the lens...