Maestro Kenney’s Adventures in Ukraine – part 4

Ukrainian Adventure, Part IV

Another big breakfast then off to rehearsal. The orchestra is quick to respond to changes and adjustments. The strings have bar numbers for the Dvorak but not the winds, so we asked that they get put in for today. Still, a few understand some English, but not all. This only slows the rehearsal process down mildly. Today is the first day to work with our soloist and we get through the entire concerto with a few changes being made. Some challenging spots for sure in the Tchaikovsky Bb minor concerto, but we run through some tough passages a couple of times and seem to be relatively in sync. 

Dvorak movements 1 and 4 are worked over thoroughly as is the Barber which the orchestra seems to enjoy. The acoustics on the stage are very loud so getting softer nuances can be challenging. Hard surfaces everywhere allow for those in the rear to be easily heard, but the orchestra has to be reminded often to not overdo the louder dynamics. 

The room I was given at the IBIS Style hotel was clean and modern, but rather small. OK for just me, but today my wife Leslie arrives and so the front desk suggested a larger room. It is on one of the upper floors and therefore has not only a view of the city skyline, but also a rather large deck where we can soak up a few rays, watch the sunrise, and listen to the city come alive during the day.

It is a short walk into the city center to the shopping spots and most of the restaurants. I quickly move my belongings to this room before departing for rehearsal. On my return Leslie is on her way from the airport which gives me a chance to set things up a bit before her arrival. She is jet-lagged, but no worse for wear, and is eager to explore Lviv. 

On this evening we are met by two people from the orchestra. Tobias is the principal violist of the Lviv Philharmonic and Anastasia the 3rd Flute and Piccolo. Both are former students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Tobias played in the orchestra when I conducted Don Giovanni there a couple of years ago and Anastasia came to one of those performances. Both are happy to be working musicians in a full-time orchestra; still, they are needing to do other things to make ends meet. As an example, Tobias teaches English on-line to Asian students. 

We go out to dinner at an Italian restaurant and learn more about them and their backgrounds. Tobias, for the most part, grew up in Las Vegas, did his Bachelors at Manhattan School of Music, then his Masters at UNLV. During his undergraduate work he spent two years in Wellington, NE on a mission for the Mormon Church. Anastasia is from the Island of Cyprus in Greece, did her Bachelors at Emporia College in Kansas, and then came to UNLV for her Masters. Both met Taras Krysa there who is the Director of Orchestras at UNLV and Music Director of the Lviv Philharmonic. There are others in the orchestra from Las Vegas as well, but they are not playing this concert. During December half the orchestra toured China (Tobias’ group), and the other half toured Germany (Anastasia). They tell us that rather than having a full year’s contract, they sign a new one every month as a renewal. Thus, their situation is rather insecure, but they are pleased to get the playing experience the orchestra affords. 

After dinner we walk around a bit, but end up at a chocolate factory where there are hundreds of gifts to choose from and a cafe on multiple floors. On this evening only the top (5th) floor is open, only accessible by stairs! There is hot chocolate all around which we enjoy as we talk more about music and their lives.

We eventually descend to the street, bid our new acquaintances good night, and head back to the hotel. Two rehearsals down and two to go. 

I am awakened at 3:30 AM by a phone call from Taras telling me that the U.S. has just imposed a travel ban from Europe due to the Coronavirus and suggest I get on the next plane back to America. We start a process of contacting travel agents, but it is after business hours in Colorado so there is no response. Perhaps it is just as well for details on the ban start to sort out and give us a clearer picture. We also discover that Ukraine has imposed a ban on any gathering larger than 200 people. Taras seemed confident that the concert would go on and as it turns out, the travel ban does not restrict Americans returning home from abroad. There is no way to contact the airlines (sat on hold for long periods and finally gave up). We send emails to our travel agents and put the situation in their hands. The next day would hopefully provide more information as to what we will be able to do on the rest of this trip.  

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