Orchestra musicians love touring. The notion that the orchestra is building bridges, making connections, drawing together a diversity of people through music—while also enjoying ovations, sightseeing, history, and culture—make tours a memorable part of any musician’s career. For a while, every musician is removed from everyday concerns—laundry, dishes, what’s for dinner, traffic—and can really focus on the music, leading to real bonding and morale-building amongst orchestra members.
You might wonder, however, how the Houston Symphony’s upcoming tour of Europe next month benefits concertgoers here in Jones Hall. A great orchestra like ours must always keep challenging itself, and the artistic challenge of performing in concert halls where the classical repertoire has been played since its creation is significant, to say the least. The ever-changing acoustics of the different concert halls the orchestra visits will require all the attention the orchestra can muster.
For starters, rehearsal time prior to each concert is limited. Our musicians must listen closely to each other in these unfamiliar settings while also managing to respond to many variables, such as whether the hall is dry or booming or if it favors high frequencies over low ones. Based on what they hear, the group must instantly evaluate the sound and make minute corrections. These concentrated efforts raise the level of the ensemble and by extension performances back at home. As Houston Symphony horn player Nancy Goodearl explained, “We learn to hear each other in different ways, bringing new insights to the music and flexibility to our playing, which makes us better musicians. We return to Houston a more refined ensemble, presenting better concerts for our home audiences.”
An American orchestra on tour can also be one of the most effective ambassadors of the United States. Our sold-out concerts indicate that European audiences are eager to hear what Houston audiences get to experience at Jones Hall on a weekly basis. Even so, every time an American orchestra visits Europe, it must prove that it can play at the highest musical level. It’s not just enthusiastic music lovers that will get to hear our orchestra play the socks off a very challenging set of pieces, but international critics, administrators, agents and other musicians. Playing abroad helps build our orchestra’s reputation, which can lead to guest artists becoming more eager to visit us and orchestra musicians more excited to audition when vacancies open in the orchestra. Music lovers abroad may also become more aware of the amazing artistry they can experience in our city, making them more likely to visit or even move here if the opportunity arises.
In the words of our music director, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, “It is very special for me to take the orchestra to some of the most distinguished halls in the world with major works that are essential to the classical repertoire…Touring is an important part of our artistic growth that helps us connect with audiences in other parts of the world and represent our city of Houston well.” Most importantly, touring shows us how symphonic music can help people from all over the world come together, realizing human harmony and timeless beauty. —Carlos Andrés Botero, Musical Ambassador