Ukrainian Adventure Part V
It is quite interesting to watch catastrophic world events emerging when you are far from your own home. Of course, there is the time change: Lviv is 8 hours ahead of Denver, and 6 hours ahead of the events happening in Washington. As reports are unfolding, we awake to find that our travel agents have in fact discovered that our flights for the following Wednesday from Kiev to Munich have been canceled by Lufthansa, but there was no effort on the airlines’ part to rebook us. Thus the next day leaves us wondering what our itinerary is going to be. Should we fly back from Lviv? Do we stay until Saturday and fulfill the professional obligation with the Lviv Philharmonic? Later in the day we were informed that our flights will now be on Monday from Kiev to Frankfurt and then on to Denver. So close to the same itinerary with only a change in the connection city. This is in great part to the joint and heroic efforts of Jane Folsom at Destination by Design and Ann Dean at New Horizons Travel.
Furthermore, we learned that CSU is suspending live instruction after spring break, and the Fort Collins Symphony along with most other arts organizations are canceling or postponing events across the country. It is a worrisome period, particularly for artists who are most of the time living hand to mouth and dependent on the performances in which they participate. Now the ensemble directors at any university have to determine how to provide instruction in a distance learning situation. Creativity will need to be at the forefront of our efforts. At least we have until after Spring break to sort it out.
Meanwhile, life goes on in Lviv with their own growing concerns. There is talk of the “virus,” but the Executive Director of the orchestra shows up ten minutes before Thursday’s rehearsal and asks if he can have five minutes to talk to the musicians onstage. This is so he can assure the orchestra that despite a ban by the Ukrainian government of any gathering of over 200 people, the concert the next night would go on. As he said to me, “we are not a government agency; that makes it different” — translated as exempt? The rehearsal sees the orchestra continuing to work hard bringing the music to life. There are subtleties in the Dvorak Symphony that are emerging. This is my first crack at conducting a truly European orchestra and their kinship with Dvorak and Tchaikovsky is being clearly demonstrated. As the principal cellist pointed out to me, Tchaikovsky’s roots and the tunes in his piano concerto are based on some Ukrainian folk melodies. One troublesome aspect is their Steinway piano that does not want to hold a tune in the top octave. The piano was out the previous day, particularly the top Ab (a critical pitch in Bb minor) and it was the same on Thursday. As soon as the rehearsal is over a piano technician is at the keyboard trying to solve the issue.
In the afternoon following the morning session, Leslie and I grab a light lunch, and then head for the cobblestone streets to walk through open air markets, view the opera house, some of the churches and cathedrals in the area and stop in some souvenir shops.
Lviv has adopted recently the lion as an icon of the city. As a result, you see it on many trinkets, sculptures, and other paraphernalia. We return to the hotel then meet Anastasia for dinner at a most unusual restaurant that is a former stronghold for the Ukrainian underground. To start, you knock on the door and a man opens a window and asks a question (in Ukrainian of course) to which one answers — in Ukrainian of course — “Glory to Ukraine.” Then you are given a shot of schnapps and granted entry to the vast catacombs of rooms where rough tables and chairs await your party. The restaurant serves indigenous dishes including potato pancakes and borscht both served with ample amounts of sour cream, pierogi and, on this evening, the largest piece of pork belly I’ve seen on a plate. There is a gift shop with many unusual items to commemorate your visit. It is fun to speak with Anastasia about her life on Cypress and how she has learned to speak Ukrainian using an App called Duo-lingo.
We head back to the hotel and seem secure that our return to the U.S. is still as previously indicated, but as everyone now knows, everything is evolving.