Why do orchestras tour? Ann Choomack believes that tours are “for eating as much as you can.” The Symphony piccolo player has been astonished by the land of creative food production. “I’ve never had soup dumplings or Korean barbecue. I’ve had the best doughnuts, the best sushi”–although not together. “One of the best things I’ve eaten was the homemade pop tart at Nickel Diner” in downtown L.A.
The music has been extraordinary too. “We played Messiaen for kids yesterday,” an Education Concert for kindergartners and a few older at Berkeleys’ Zellerbach Hall. “The kids were very attentive and engaged,” Ann said, “We did an abbreviated introduction with a couple of demonstrations, then we played about two-thirds of the piece. You could feel the energy in the hall. They’re young and open.”
Tuesday is the last night of the tour at Walt Disney Concert Hall. For Ann, it’s her first time playing there and adds “It’s an exciting place for it to be the last show.”
And the last night for Messiaen’s From the Canyons to the Stars. “Each time playing the Messiaen it’s more natural; we’re more at ease. And each time it feels like a different piece. It has been awesome to listen to Roger Kaza in the Mahler 5, and then he plays the Messiaen horn part from memory. He’s so laid back about it, even with all the stress of travel. He’s solid.”
The orchestra left the bright skies of Palm Desert Friday morning for the clouds and rain of Berkeley in the afternoon. I reached second violinist Andrea Jarrett just after she and her fellow musicians had reached the hotel. “We can’t see anything past the hotel,” she told me. “Yesterday in Palm Desert we faced the mountains.”
Last night’s concert at the McCallum Theatre “was awesome,” she said. “The hall was kind of dry,” she reported, “but as challenging as that was I think it made us listen more closely and we played tighter. The concert was almost sold out so there was a lot of energy. I find we’re getting settled into the pieces. We don’t have to count so frantically in the John Adams’ [Saxophone Concerto] because we’re feeling more comfortable.”
Many of the musicians of the St. Louis Symphony are serious foodies. Andrea offered up a not-so-serious, yet delicious sounding culinary discovery: Dole Whip. “Yesterday my boyfriend and I were on the main drag of Palm Desert and discovered it. They take Dole pineapple juice and whip it into soft serve.”
Friday night it’s Adams and Mahler Symphony 5 again at UC-Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. Then a day off for the ensemble that remains to play Messiaen’s From the Canyons to the Stars Sunday afternoon. Andrea is among those. “We’re hoping to do a lot of food/coffee exploring. Plus, I knit in my spare time and there’s a yarn shop really close to the hotel. There’s a particular brand of yarn I found on Instagram, and they have it there. Very hipster yarn.”