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Blackbirds of Broadway 1999 Tour

Europe: Week 1


Monday, 11/22/99 - Monday begins our travel process. The company, with some effort, boards a bus at mid-day for the Cincinatti Airport, where our Delta/Sabena flight will depart for Brussels at 6:40pm. We have quite a bit of time to kill at the airport and   I am fortunately enough to find the book "Germany Since 1945" by Lothar Kettenacker while browsing in a bookstore. It will take me 2 1/2 weeks to read it, and will really help bring things to life on the trip.

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Unloading the bus at Cincinatti: Sheesh!

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Our Chariot: Delta 2752, an Airbus A330

We depart Cincinatti on time. During our 8-hour flight east to Brussels, we also gain 6 hours from crossing time zones. We land in Brussels at 8:40am on...

Tuesday, 11/23/99 - While it's still before 3am in the US, we start our first 'day off' in Europe. It is cold and snowy, and our 737 from Brussels to Munich is delayed. On arrival in Munich, we meet our management team from the Austrian firm of Konzertdirektion Schlote. Our company manager is Trude, a lady who can make even a tornado sound like no problem in her musical Austrian accent. Our bus driver is Martin, who has an Arnold Schwarzenegger accent and makes all the women in the company purr like kittens. Trude's daughter Conny has hired on to assist our hardworking wardrobe team. We are in good hands.

Because we are carrying the show's props and wardrobe with us, we have too much freight for the bus to hold.  This makes it necessary to wait for a while at the Munich airport while arrangements are made to transport the excess to Augsburg. We also damage the door latch to the bus's onboard bathroom while attempting to load freight. It will remain unusable for the entire tour. We finally depart Munich around 2pm for Augsuburg. The going is slow due to continuing snows.

We arrive in Augsburg at the Hotel Alpenhof around 4pm. It is located on Donauworterstrasse a couple of miles north of the city's center. We will be here for three days. We are each advanced half a week's pay in German deutchmarks. I hit the street on foot as soon as possible and begin my search for a cheap supper and a munzwascherei (laundromat). After walking about three kilometers into town, with my feet soaking wet, I find what I seek. On the way back to the Alpenhof, I pick up some sweet bread and bottled water from the Norma grocery store.

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Hotel Alpenhof: Our home for three days in Augsburg, Germany

Wednesday, 11/24/99 - Having located a coin laundry, I strike out early to get my work done. This turns out to be quite an adventure because the laundromat is extremely modern with all pay and control functions assigned one central panel and all the instructions in German. When I return to the hotel, I'm greeted with the good news that this afternoon's rehearsal is strictly technical and that the band will not be needed. I immediately begin my search for local music stores, in hopes of finding some real German 'oom-pah' band music. My search takes me to Anton Bohm & Sohn, which sells music & CD's and is a publisher of church music. A lovely lady named Heike speaks good English, and helps me find some interesting music and loads me up with catalogs. She is the first in a series of terrific people that I will meet in this still-strange country.

Thursday, 11/25/99 - This afternoon, we report for dress rehearsal at the Stadthalle in Neusass, a suburb of Augsburg. After rehearsal, we enjoy a nice italian meal at a local restaurant where Rodney (drums) becomes the life of the place with his fine command of the Italian language. Interestingly, our waitress is Croatian. We return to the Stadthalle for our first performance of the European tour.

Friday, 11/26/99 - After pigging out at the Alpenhof's breakfast buffet, we board the bus for a lengthy ride to Bad Reichenhall, a beautiful little tourist town on the border with Austria. It lies between Salzburg and Berchtesgaden. There are only a few hours free before call time, but I manage to see a number of street musicians, eat some fast seafood at Nordsee, and find some of the music I seek at Musikhaus Fackler, a few blocks from the hotel. I will find out later that I was personally mentioned in a review of this performance. I have yet to see a copy of it, or hear what was specifically said. I'm told by our company manager that it was very good, but haven't seen a copy and don't know which newspaper it appeared in. Drat!

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Bad Reichenhall:  The unbelievable Austrian Alps, and one of many street musicians encountered.

Saturday, 11/27/99 - Back north to Munich for a performance at the Philharmonie am Gasteig. Immediately after settling in at the Astron Hotel in the suburb of Unterhaching, I jump on the S-Bahn and head into downtown Munich. My objective is Musikmarkt on Landsbergerstrasse. Arriving right at closing, I find that they sell very little music, and are more like a German version of Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center. Disappointed, I jump on the S-Bahn and head for the Philharmonie. This is a huge building which has several concert halls. The Budapest Klezmer Ensemble performed in the hall adjacent to us. Because Unterhaching would have rolled up its sidewalks by time we got back, we had pizza delivered to the theatre. I ordered pepperoni, and find myself with a cheeze pizza covered with some kind of green peppers. In Germany, you have to order a 'salami' pizza.

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Our venue in Munich: Philharmonie am Gasteig. This is not our production. It is a stock photo of the room.

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Swanky Digs in Munich: The Astron Suite-Hotel in the suburb of Unterhaching featured a bar and living room (pictured) in addition to bed and bath, and I was truly touched by the personal greeting waiting on my TV set.

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Musicmarkt!: Germany's answer to Washington Music Center

Sunday, 11/28/99 - We turn around and head right back where we came from. Now we enter Austria where we will stay in the cute little tourist town of Wels at the equally cute Hotel Grief.  The performance is an hour's bus ride away in Steyr at the Stadttheatre. This weekend marks the celebration of Advent, and the opening of 'Christmas Markets' in most of the town centers. In Wels, Sunday afternoon finds the town center crowded with families and outdoor booths are set up selling hot food, hot drinks, and all sorts of things what would seem to make good Christmas presents. We will find this in almost every town that we visit for the rest of the tour. Our performance in Steyr is uneventful, and we all look forward to having our first day off on Monday.

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Wels, Austria:  A storybook town in every way. A Sunday afternoon concert in the Stadtplatz (top) featured a panflutist (yep, just like Zamfir) who accompanied himself on guitar. He sounded excellent  Outside the old city gate (middle left), you can see a couple of booths from the Christmas Market. Bogart Music Pub(middle right) was just across the street from my hotel room. It made me feel just like I was on Lombardy Street in Richmond. Our digs at the Hotel Grief (bottom) were just as cute and cozy as the rest of this town.

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