Daniel Abraham, conductor/director
There is nothing like traveling with 29 eager students. Each apprehensive about traveling to a place unknown, looking forward to feel the progression of events unfold: each concert, each new city, each new encounter, each exchange, each unexpected interaction with fellow ensemble members. The excitement is a constant like the low hum, inaudible vibration of a very large piece of machinery.
Our departure from the Katzen Arts Center was made a bit interesting by the discovery that the one tall, light weight mic stand was not where it should have been. No stand, no recordings. As a group we quietly delayed and gently deceived a fairly agitated bus driver for 14 minutes waiting for someone to bring what we need before leaving for Dulles.
The check-in and security process was about as seamless as one might hope — the only casualty was Dana having to get a bottle of liquid hair solution tested by the TSA people before they would allow them to pass and the TSA worker who rudely joined in the count off (our way of making sure everyone is present by counting 1 to 29 via individually assigned numbers). Amanda, our tour consultant who had flown down from New York City to check us in and see us off, scolded him and his supervisor took notice. Nothing better than having the New Yorker in charge of the process.
Flight – pretty uneventful other than the realization that only a few of us really have any conversational Russian at the ready. Two of the ensemble members (Keegan and Nick) have been studying Russian at AU and they have given it their all to help us learn the Cyrillic alphabet and how to count. We have a nice reference sheet for basic phrases in our self-produced tour guidebook and then there is the music we have learned. Beyond this, most of the group is quickly realizing what phrases we must quickly absorb.
Most of the group slept off and on thought the first 4.5 hours of the flight. I woke around 5 AM (Moscow time/8 PM in Washington) to see the sun start to set out the left side of the plane. As darkness settled outside the portal, we noticed a small city below us. Where are we? Shouldn’t we be in the middle of the Atlantic? Aeroflot does not provide the hip electronic gear that shows one their progress across the pond, so we began to speculate—Greenland? Iceland? Part of Scandinavia? The last of which was quickly dispatched as we just were not far enough along. As several of us stared out the left hand side of the plane we looked at mountain ranges, snow covered cliff, small plots of light clusters connected by sinews of light threads, and a spectacular display of cloud formations. All of this as the so-called sun set without pause turned into sun rise. The glow of the now rising sun at first mistaken by one of us as another, perhaps much larger, city cluster of light, but then realized as the turn of night to day. In an instant we had crossed a very specific barrier—the next day of our adventure had begun. It seemed like the most sensible time to change your watch for Moscow time as we were no longer departing but rather heading towards our arrival.