Last month we flew a whopping 99 players over to Katowice in Poland, to perform a two-concert residency at their Culture Nature Festival.

Conducted by Brad Lubman, the repertoire over both evenings included pieces by Stravinsky, Takemitsu and Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

Percussionist Toby Kearney gives us an account of his experience on tour with the ensemble:

Thursday 21 May 2015

Where's my plane?

Where’s my plane?

It’s a sunny day in London, I’ve just checked the weather in Katowice and it’s sunny there too. Good job I’ve packed my woolly hat.

I’m travelling to Heathrow with fellow percussionist Serge Vuille where we’re joining another 65 musicians to travel out to Poland. 32 players from the London Sinfonietta are already in Katowice for their first concert tonight, and we’re all heading there to turn them into a full size symphony orchestra for tomorrow’s concert!

We get to our stopover in Frankfurt on time but our flight to Katowice is delayed by about an hour, which gives us a bit of extra time for some German refreshment; bratwurst and weissbier! After making the most of the in-flight refreshments on our second plane and a short coach journey we arrive in Katowice to find the other London Sinfonietta players celebrating their first concert in the hotel bar.

Friday 22 May 2015

After a lazy morning we walk into the centre of Katowice to have a look around and find some lunch. The centre is small with one or two older streets surrounded by (mostly ugly) post-war buildings; but there’s a nice high street with bars, restaurants and cafés along both sides and a huge church at the far end. We have pizza at a very trendy place (we could be in Shoreditch!) and are amazed that a starter, a pizza the size of a house and coffee comes to about £8 each.

What’s in there? The NPRSO Concert Hall

The new National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra Concert Hall

With our bellies full we head towards the concert hall. On the edge of the town the new National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra Concert Hall (catchy name) which only opened last year is colossus. A monolith in red brick it contains an auditorium seating 1,800 people, a 300 seat chamber hall and 400 backstage rooms including practice rooms, dressing rooms and storage. The auditorium itself is beautifully done in charcoal black seats, wood panels and walls made of black tinted concrete – a nod to the area’s coal mining history – and it has a great acoustic. I’m pleased to hear the acoustic designers behind it are to be consulted for the possible new Simon Rattle/LSO concert hall in London. After a short rehearsal of Szymanowski’s First Violin Concerto we’re ready for the concert.The hall is sold out (for the second consecutive night) and Barnabas Kelemen’s playing is rightly applauded by audience and orchestra alike. He gives us two encores and we’re packed up and ready to go by 8.15pm; the countdown begins to our 3.30am bus to the airport the next morning!

The view from the back

Saturday 23 May 2015

Bleeurgh… this is early.

On the bus – sleep, on the plane – sleep, Frankfurt again – hold eyes open so not to miss flight, plane – sleep. Back home.

A super trip, it was great to see so many players on the stage for the London Sinfonietta, it’s not often the ensemble is able to extend to such numbers outside of their side-by-side schemes where students from the Royal Academy give them that boost. Also it was great to see such a good new concert hall obviously thriving in a small city. Bravo Katowice!

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