Behind the scenes with the Pittsburgh SO in Dublin

Music on the move: Transporting PSO is like maneuvering an army
DUBLIN, Ireland — An ear-piercing, grating noise fills the air on an otherwise pristine Sunday morning here. Not even John Cage dreamed of a violin making this sort of sound, a dull but loud clamor. But he would still call it music, and in more than the aesthetic sense of a radical composer, he would be correct.

“I would liken it to moving an army”, says John Karapandi, the PSO’s head tour technician since 1981. “On a smaller scale, of course, but we have the troops and we have the supplies. It is very complex.” Symphony cargo tends to resemble the orchestra itself. The music freight has its own management (Genevieve Twomey and Marcie Solomon at the PSO), and its own trio of conductors (Karapandi, Rocky Esposito and Jim Petri). Like fine instruments, cargo cases are custom-made in Europe — the PSO’s by the renowned Paul Gerstbauer shop in Vienna. The payload also has its own itinerary, flying from Toronto to Rome to Athens to begin the tour, while the musicians flew through Frankfurt. The cargo has its own seating arrangement, with each case holding multiple instruments stacked like a Tetris game on pallets loaded into the plane. It also has its own strict program — an important customs document called the carnet that is as strictly adhered to as any concert personnel chart. And, as seen in the brisk pace the loaders maintained on this tour, the quick setup and break down before and after each concert is a performance unto itself, allegro.

The above is a quote from a fascinating article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which is covering the orchestra’s European tour in some detail on the web. The linked page also includes short audio excerpts of NCH and PSO staff setting up for the Dublin concerts, an atmosphere piece about orchestra members’ Dublin experiences, and concert reviews from Dublin and Wales. Well worth a read.

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