9 June Turnham Green, Covent Garden, Waterloo
10 June Paris
11 June Zurich Bahnhof Road
12 June Vienna
13 June Vienna
14 June Venice
15 June Milan
16 June Berlin
17 June Leipzig
18 June Stockholm
19 June Copenhagen BBC interview
20 June Amsterdam
21 June Rome
23 June Portsmouth England
29 June Depart for Kampala Uganda
29 June – 3 July Visit Kampala Music School and Tender Talents Magnet School
4 July Cape Town
8 July Concert with Hout Bay Music project
10 July Johannesburg and Soweto
12 July Sydney
17 July Melbourne
21 July Singapore
26 July Taipei
30 July Singapore
1 August Return UK
13 – 18 August Burton Bradstock Festival
20 – 22 August Recording in London
29 – 30 August Hong Kong
30 August – 1 September Shanghai
2 – 3 September Beijing
4 September Japan Tokyo
6 September Kobe
7 – 9 September Tokyo
10 – 11 September Seoul
12 – 13 September Hong Kong
14 – 15 September LA travel
16 – 18 September Buenos Aires
19 – 20 September Montevideo
21 – 24 September Rio De Janeiro
25 – 27 September Rio De Janeiro
28 – 29 September Miami
1 – 3 October LA
4 – 5 October San Francisco
6 October LA
7 October Seattle
8 – 9 October Vancouver
10 – 11 October Toronto
12 – 13 October Chicago
14 – 15 October Boston
15 – 16 October Washington DC
7 – 22 October New York
20 October Ebay New York
24 October 10 Downing Street London
In 2007 David Juritz completed a round the world busking trip to raise money for a charity called Musequality whose mission is to support communal music-making for disadvantaged boys and girls in developing countries, giving them the skill, confidence and experience they need to turn their lives around.
A photographer rings up. He’s heard the Mark Lawson interview and would like to take some pics. I do a brief interview with a journo from the Times. He rings back while I’m out and speaks to Jane (my wife) but has to go to print before he can speak to me. When the article comes out there are a couple of minor inaccuracies; I lead the London Mozart Players, not the RPO and I can only surmise he got the bit about ‘one of the world’s greatest violinists’ from my mum..
The article certainly does the trick. The day before we were fretting about not having any media interest. Now all three phones start ringing off the hook. I’m recording with the LMP and dash off to hastily arranged interviews between recording sessions.
BBC Breaksfast, CBS, ITN, BBC News 24, the Today Programme and RAI all call, as well as numerous papers. Jane drafts in help to tidy the house, in preparation for the CBS and ITN crews that want to film inside.
Somehow I get my bag packed and get to bed at 3am. Up at 6.30 to prepare for the day. Cycle down to the tube station to do a spot on Today from the radio car before being whisked off to White City for Breakfast News. The black marks under my eyes present something off a challenge to the makeup department but the interview is fine and I’m soon on my way back to Chiswick for a few last minutes at home and waiting crews from ITN and CBS.
The house is now mayhem. The crews stay out of the way with the skill of a corps de ballet. The phone hasn’t stopped ringing and there are last minute emails to deal with. Miraculously we leave the house, on schedule, at 10.15.
At the local Bedford Park Festival, Torin Douglas announces me to the crowd come to see me off and I play a little bit. I’ve still not had a chance to get used to the fiddle and my ampified rendition of the E major prelude sounds like a bee in a jar, but the assembled throng are charitable in the truest sense of the word, and our money collecting buckets are soon overflowing.
As we walk over the road to the tube it suddenly dawns on me that I’m about to leave Jane and the kids for the longest time I’ve ever spent away from them. Aware of the assembled cameras and unsure where to look I adopt a Zoolanderish middle distance stare which I hope doesn’t look too affected.
At Covent Garden we’re greeted by a smaller crowd and our own policeman. After a short stint there it’s down to Waterloo where I do a quick busk at the Jubilee line entrance before where, ominously, I am almost completely ignored by passers by.
A bundle of Euros from the buckets are stuffed in my hand and I grab some pounds ‘just in case’. I say goodbye to Jane at the terminal and a few hours later arrive in Paris where, I am greeted by an old pal, Bobby.
It is clear my fifteen minutes of fame are over. I queue for an hour to buy the vital Interrail pass and then we set out to meet two of my sisters-in-law, Nathalie and Sasha who show me to my first pitch, Place des Voges. Bobby, who is 82 and recently came close to losing a leg after being bitten by a spider, struggles with the many staircases at the Metro stations along the way.
I stand in the middle of the park. I am used to having my audience waiting before I come on stage. Getting the fiddle out and starting to play with no-one there feels a little like diving into a pool, not knowing whether there’s any water in it. Not a great pitch. The gaggles of Parisians, sat on the lawns, look on in bemusement but don’t move. Or applaud. A tourist approached and films me for several minutes, then moves off, leaving my case still un-annointed.
I move to some nearby arches, where there is a little bit of an acoustic though fewer people around. After about fifteen minutes I have just over €4 in my case though half of this has been put there by my supporters.
The next morning I discover I have left my razor at home. Day one and I am already on the road to breaking one of three sacred promises I made to my daughter. Off to the Eiffel Tower. Moved on after seven minutes. No money. Set up pitch nearby. Play for twenty minutes. Bobby saunters over and a thespian streak emerges as he ostentatiously places €20 in my case. No on else is convinced and we move on with, now with a few coins to show. Musee D’Orsay yields about €15 in 45 minutes and, by now parched and starving, I walk to St Michel passed table after table of diners settling down to lunch and glasses of chilled beer. At St Michel I guzzle a goats cheese baguette washed down with a bottle of water before finding a pitch very close to my first busking spot in the 1970s. This is better and after I’m joined by the very attractive Nathalie and Sasha, trade picks up. We move on to Notre Dame – hopeless – and then the Pompidou centre where business is a little better but not great. My take for the day stands at just over €97, about a third of what I need to be earning. I’ve been told there’s a concert at the Chatelet Opera so I dash across on the Metro, a strap on my rucksack breaking on the way there, only to find the building fermé.
Up at five the next morning and on to Zurich. I’ve been trying to get hold of a friend in Zurich over the weekend and he returns my call shortly before I have to change trains at Basel. In the meantime I’ve arranged to meet another mate for coffee at Basel station and we briefly discuss my diverting to Lucerne. Oliver rings the Lucerne concert-hall manager but since there is no concert happening that evening I press on to Zurich. In Zurich, I have no licence to busk on the streets and, I am told, there are no concerts going on, so no possibility of busking outside any halls. It’s not looking good, in other words.
I decide to ring Mirion, another friend, who I haven’t seen for a couple of years. Mirion, who plays with the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, is a big man and his greeting is similarly expansive. It’s great to see him as we traipse up the many stairs to his apartment.
There is a private concert at the Tonhalle, Zurich’s main concert venue. I have sat on that stage leading orchestras many times but, today, have to plead with one of the organisers to be allowed to play in the foyer. After five bars, a more senior member of management stops me and I am ejected. I set up on the steps outside and, after 20 minutes, have attracted a single contribution of 2 Swiss Francs.
Undaunted, we depart and walk along the Limat river to a small square where, although there is limited passing trade, the acoustic is reasonable and I decide I will at least do some practice. As people walk past, hands go into pocket but, instead of wallets, mobile-phones emerge and I realise that I am becoming invisible. Eventually, one or two people stop to listen and I have a little audience, never more than five, but at least someone is listening. After an hour and a half I have about 50 SwF which, with a contribution from my hosts, takes the days taking to nearly 100SwF.
I find a supermarket and join the homeless and drug addicts in Zurich Bahnhoff as I wait for the night train to Vienna. One man shouts, gesticulates, leaps about and harangues passers-by, all of whom pretend he is not there. He, for all his desperate efforts has become truly invisible and it is clearly driving him mad.
Vienna is a different story. I have been invited to stay at the ambassador’s residence and am greeted by Antonio, his butler. A relaxed morning with briefings from amazingly supportive staff is followed by a brief foray to an internet café. I meet the ambassador for lunch during his break from the round of International Atomic Energy Federation talks that are going on this week. He has organised an informal concert for the next day.
I don’t have a licence to busk in any of the best spots although I am allowed to play in other locations. I spend an hour walking around. I ask whether, as a member of the LMP I might play in Mozart’s house but this is not possible. Eventually, I decide to risk it in St Stephans Platz outside the cathedral and play for about an hour. A group of kids come over and surround me so I decide to tell them about what I am doing. They pepper the fiddle case with coins and soon I have another small audience. I sell a couple of CDs and eventually move on to the Kozerhaus, where one of the managers agrees to my playing outside. Once again the audience is sympathetic and moderately generous.
At home, poor Jane is frantically updating websites and dealing with phone calls. She’s sounding quite exhausted and I know she’s trying very hard not to show what must be considerable anxiety.
The next morning is taken up with an interview for the TV station Wiener Heute. Whilst waiting for them at Karlsplatz, I am accosted by two policemen demanding to see my licence. Linda, from the embassy is at hand and after they are satisfied that I am allowed to play there, move off, declining to make any contribution.
I meet Guenter Pichler, the leader of the Alban Berg String Quartet for lunch. While we are eating, BBC World Service ring up, asking if I could play a snatch of Bach down the phone, which I do while Guenter acts as sound engineer.
The rest of the day is taken up with changing plans. As I’ve been earning much less than I’d hoped, we can’t afford to buy an air ticket to get me to Rome as originally intended. I spot that Jeffrey Tate is conducting in Venice the next day so a frantic and eventually successful effort is made to contact him. We get through and it looks like the opera house may agree to my playing in their foyer.
That evening, we have our Ambassador’s busk. John MacGregor more than lives up to his reputation as a fine pianist and the rest of the party are made up of the Medlam family and Oscar, a very talented violinist studying in Vienna, I’d met in Cyprus the week before.
We have a very appreciative audience and I have the chance to explain what it is that I am trying to do. After the concert, they show their gratitude and we find €955.11 in our collection box. I’m nearly back on track. On the train to Venice to be precise.
New members join the team
We’ve got two new helpers. Warren Morson has joined us as project manager of Round the World and Bach, and will be in the control room when I’m on my travels. Warren has a degree in Music and Arts Management from Middlesex University and until recently was Label Manager at Street Jam Records. He will be helping me part-time, and is currently co-ordinating the CD production and travel arrangements for the first leg of the trip. Warren comes with extensive experience in arts admin and would be an asset to any team, but not for another six months!
Matthew King will be working on fundraising for Musequality. Matthew graduated from York University in 2004 and spent two years at Barclays Bank in international student finance. He joins RSM Robson Rhodes as a trainee chartered accountant in September 2007. A keen musician, he has recently worked on fundraising projects at the English National Opera and assisted at numerous music camps for young children.
Report from the Tender Talents Magnet School, Kampala
I knew quite a bit about the Tender Talents Magnet School before I arrived. It looks after AIDS orphans, war-refugees and children from the poorest families in the district. I also knew what to expect; a makeshift establishment of open classrooms, scattered around a dusty playground. It suffers from a lack of resources. A positive point is the dedication of the husband and wife team that founded and keep this school going. I also know that I am committed to finding £35 000 for them over two years, and £10 000 a year after that, to enable them to run a music project.
Knowing all that, however, is not the same as seeing it first hand. Frank Katoola, a musician and dancer with Uganda’s famed Ndere Troupe, started the school in 1999. Gradually, as news spread, pupil numbers increased until they now educate some 400 children. Of those parent that are still alive, few can afford the fees and, incredibly, the school is even taxed on income they receive. Donations of food, bartering and funding from the occasional donor, keep them going.
After we have gone through the plans and meticulous costings for the music room refurbishment, the first stage of the Musequality project, Frank takes me to meet some of the pupils. Some boys playing the Endingidi, the Bugandan one string fiddle, try to teach me one of their tunes but I get no more than passably close to it.
When I realise that they are about to put on a performance for me, I feel embarrassed. A troupe of about 30 children in traditional dress assembles, with drums, kora, xylophones and endingidis, and they launch into a song. After that, they hurl themselves into a wild, exuberant, courtship dance, every fibre of their bodies bursting with life. Finally, as a girl of about fifteen is handed a microphone to take the lead in the final number, Frank’s wife, tells me that she is one of those children here whose families have been destroyed by AIDS. Just her and one grandmother survive. As she sings ‘It’s time for us to care’ in a strong, clear voice, I am grateful that I have a video camera to hide my prickling eyes.
Afterwards, as I stroll around, having short, stilted, conversations with shy children, it suddenly hits me just what it is that is missing here. There is no self-pity. In this community, misfortune is everyday and, without any safety net, these are people that can’t afford to give in to heartaches, small or large.
As I leave, I am thankful that Musequality can transfer the funding for the building work immediately and play a small part in their future.
The next day, I am taken to meet the M-Lisada Brass Band at, or rather, under their rehearsal studio, a large tree. Eleven years ago, a group of street kids started hanging around the studio of a German trumpet teacher. After several unsuccessful attempts to chase them away, the teacher, Christopher Kowlezyk, invited a few of them in for lessons. The band leader, Emma Gones, then a 13 year-old earning a living as a pickpocket explains, ‘Before then we lived by begging and stealing and, because we didn’t have a place to live, our dependence on drugs helped us overcome the cold.’ The boys were soon hooked on music instead and, in a short time, had formed their own group with dented and battered instruments supplied by Kowlezk. Living in one room, sharing three to a mattress, they supported one another and paid their own school fees out of their earnings from the band’s occasional gigs.
They now receive some support from one of Uganda’s leading telecommunications firms, MTN, who hire them regularly but with success has come additional responsibility. Other street children have gravitated towards the band, which now provides for 64 boys and girls in two separate homes.
One of these children is Ali. Shortly after both his parents died, Ali saw the M-Lisada performing and was transfixed by the baton-twirling conductor. He pleaded with the group’s leaders to take him in, and is now can be seen wielding his own baton at the front of the band.
Brian lost his mother at an early age, and became homeless a few months later after his father suffered a serious nervous breakdown. He now doesn’t know where his father or three siblings live. ‘The band makes me happy.’ he says, ‘It educates me about life and helps me go to school.’ His favourite subject in class is science and, when he grows up, he wants to be Minister of Health. Perhaps he will meet Ali again. Ali wants to be a journalist, ‘so I can write about the problems of children and help them.’
M-Lisada are strict about their stipulation that all the children attend school, and the older members, with their knowledge of life on the streets, keep a watchful eye over their younger ‘siblings’. Even so, there are inevitable cases where a few children end up on the streets again. Life is still not easy. When the group has no money, the younger boys make ends meet by carrying water or garbage. However, the children can also see from the examples of the band’s leaders that they too can have a future. Of the band’s founders, several are studying music, one is a teacher and one, a newly qualified lawyer.
Musequality can’t yet afford to make any commitment to the M-Lisada Brass Band. Instead I have to leave with a promise that I will try, somehow to find some support for them, perhaps a few instruments (they don’t have enough to go round) or some financial support to ease the increasing responsibility of caring for a growing number of street children.
At Sydney airport I smuggle a bag of mixed fruit and nuts past the Customs sniffer dogs and am soon outside greeting Kate, a flatmate from my student days.
I’m staying with another friend, last seen 25 years ago, and over a cup of tea, the three of us discuss an Aussie busking plan.
I decide to sell myself on eBay – or rather a short private recital for the highest bidder. There’s very little time so we opt for a one-day auction and circulate details to local press contacts.
Most of the next morning is spent on the phone, in pursuit of the Holy Grail -permission to play in the foyer of the Sydney Opera House. Last time I visited Sydney, it was as guest concertmaster with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, so I start with a few of my old contacts. Getting to the right person is complicated but each call is a step in the right direction and, by lunchtime, I’m within one dial-tone of the clincher. A youth orchestra is playing there over the weekend and all I need is their agreement. I have a quick sandwich before calling.
‘That’s not appropriate at all.’
‘Even though it’s a charity in aid of music projects for children? Surely that’s of interest to you?’
‘No. That’s entirely inappropriate. We’re not interested, thank you.’
After that, I go to the Town Hall to pick up a busking licence. I’m dejected and paranoid that I’m about to be mired in bureaucracy, but seven minutes later, I emerge clutching a card saying ‘Approved to busk’.
Down at Circular Quay, the punters are hurrying past on their way to the Opera House. It’s freezing and it takes ages to get my fingers going. I make A$57 in about an hour and a half – a sort of musical sympathy vote.
The eBay auction hasn’t exactly excited the hoped-for media frenzy. In fact, lame is a good description. Just one bid and that’s from my sister-in-law. Undaunted, I decide to try it again for Melbourne the following week.
The boardwalk on Manley Beach is busker’s heaven. It’s a beautiful sunny day as I play to passing strollers and surfers. I miss the ferry back to Sydney by seconds so, not allowing time to sit heavy on my hands, I set up outside the terminal.
A woman comes up to me while I’m playing one of the fast numbers. ‘Nah. You won’t get any money like that! You’ve got to hold the notes longer.’ I start another piece with some occasional longer notes, but still predominately short, jerky ones. ‘That’s more like it. Nooo. Hold the note. Longer than that. That’s right. No, no nah. Yeah. Like that. Yeah. Longer, no, no. You need to hold them… My Dad played the violin.’
The Aussies are friendly, appreciative and generous, and by Monday, I’ve amassed enough to buy my ticket to Melbourne plus three long-haul flights. Free violin lessons aren’t the only examples of largesse. I’m invited to parties, given fruit and cookies, and several people put A$100 bills in my case. Thanks to Kate’s efforts, I get a couple of plum spots on ABC radio.
I sneak up to the Opera House for that all-important photo. We get the pic before being chased away by security. Supper is a meat pie and, as I look across to the Harbour Bridge, it dawns on me that I’ve made it halfway round the world. It feels great.
Melbourne is experiencing its coldest winter in a decade and, from the plane, I can see snow on the hills. Rick, a friend of a friend, is waiting at the airport. As well as sorting out schools visits and local busking permits, he’s lined me up with a local radio station, to plug the auction.
The interview does the trick and the next day I’m sold for A$475. Two other people get in touch asking me to give concerts for them, too.
Finding somewhere to stay is no problem. Within five minutes of meeting Mary Johnston, an ex-pat fiddler of a similar vintage to me, I have a roof over my head.
Despite the purchase of a woolly hat, it’s bitter playing outside. The eBay concert, the next night, is a welcome opportunity to play indoors and, halfway through, the radio station phones to check how it’s going. Happily, my buyers seem satisfied and ply me with sushi and wine afterwards. I will definitely be eBaying myself again. Next time, I may just add a little note in about ‘Caring for your purchase.’ Just to make sure.
Last time I wrote I was stuck in Singapore following a slight débacle with Indian immigration. My fault entirely – I hadn’t realised I needed a visa to go there.
With five days to go before my return flight to London, I needed to fill the gap in a hurry. Frantic emails went out as we looked at various alternatives in Malaysia and Singapore. About two hours later it was settled. One of my hosts in Singapore, Shuh Fang Koo – possibly the world’s best organiser – arranged for me to go to Taipei where I was met by the amazing Yew Kia Koh and inimitable Paul Chiang who kept me on the go for three days, dawn to dusk. It was fairly exhausting – the days whizzed by – but I was extremely well looked after.
Next stop: three weeks in England for the Burton Bradstock Festival – and to remind my family who I am, though Jane tells me that I was so immersed in the festival and forward planning the next leg of the tour that it was not that different from when I was away. Apart from the washing.
There was an incredible amount of catching up to do, and some frantic last minute organising for the next leg in the Far East. With so much still to be done we needed help, which appeared in the form of Jo Biddolph. We came across her less than 24 hours before I took off again – usual thing, a friend of a friend had met her through a friend – and though she was originally asked to recommend someone else to take on the work, and with so little time to do so, she took a deep breath and plunged in. I left for Hong Kong.
Chance, luck and assumptions
So much of the tour has been about chance and luck. A friend, with contacts all over the place, put me in touch with a PR pal of his in HK, Robby Nimmo. After checking into my hostel (a room slightly larger than the bed with no window to the outside) in the Mong Kok area, I headed off to meet Robby who had for some reason expected me to be 70. Oh well. I’d expected HER to be a rugby-playing bloke.
Robby did a great job sorting out the media. She managed to get a piece in the South China Morning Post, published just before I arrived, and a radio interview with Phil Whelan on the morning talk show which set the ball rolling. Through Phil I was introduced to Brenda and Laurence Scofield, who plucked me from my digs and invited to stay at their house overlooking Hong Kong on The Peak. Amazing view.
I spent much of the first day being chased around Hong Kong by security guards – water off a duck’s back for me by now plus I’d been warned that Hong Kong was busker-unfriendly and I was prepared for rejection. On the second day I found the perfect spot: a pedestrian subway with no guards to hassle me. A couple of TV stations ran pieces and the public was far more generous than I’d been led to expect.
Best of all, thanks to the media coverage, an invitation arrived from Societé General Private Banking to play at a private event for their clients. Later the same day, Iris Wong from the Miramar Group got in touch to offer to promote a fundraiser around the same date. Both were for days a couple of weeks ahead, when I was due to have left the Far East. But, with some swift rearranging – Lima and Santiago were dropped from the itinerary and Seoul was added – I was able to accept these two invitations.
Next, a train ride to Shanghai, my first visit to China. At the station I realised I didn’t have so much as a map of Shanghai, let alone a guide. One of the problems of visiting so many places in such a short space of time is that it would bankrupt me to buy all the guide books I’d need – even if I’d had space for them in my luggage (and the strength to carry them all).
I’d been lent an apartment in Shanghai and my absent host even arranged for a driver to pick me up at the train station. Shanghai turned out to be much less difficult than I’d expected. My major worry – about China – was that I would fall foul of the police and, on the first afternoon, it seemed highly likely. I’d met a journalist who wanted to take a photo of me in action. We set up the banner in the street and, before I’d even got the fiddle out of its case, five security men surrounded me. In the end they allowed me to pose for the picture but no more.
The next day I had a second attempt at busking, though with the case firmly closed to contributions. I had the camera rolling thinking that, if I was going to be arrested, it would be good idea at least to get it on tape.
Well, I was disappointed. The security guards ambled past, occasionally stopping to check up on me, but not really that concerned. After about 40 minutes, one came up and asked me to put my banner away. I suppose it should have been obvious that they would be suspicious of a sign they weren’t able to read but it hadn’t occurred to me that this would be a problem.
Next I headed to the People’s Park, a beautiful wooded area in the centre of the city. This is where parents who are looking to marry off their children meet on Sundays. They set up stall with a CV describing their progeny and his/her achievements. Not sure my kids will buy into that arrangement!
By now, desperate for some form of official disapproval, and with a ‘camera crew’ (some mates, actually) in tow, I decided to play right outside the art gallery in the park. Again, I was left alone by the guards. They just looked on benignly, with no hint of harrassment. That’s the thing about the police. They’re never there when you need them!
Beijing wasn’t at all what I’d expected. It is huge and the amount of building going on is extraordinary, but the residential areas feel surprisingly like villages. The traffic is something else too. The main rule of the road, apparently, is that whoever is going fastest has right of way. Most motorists are relatively new to driving and the numbers are growing. As one of my friends there put it, “Beijing has 7,000 new killers on the roads every month” – an exaggeration, perhaps, as I saw some spectacular techniques for changing lanes but not a single accident in my two days there. Wouldn’t like to try driving there myself, though.
The next morning I faced that eternal traveller’s conundrum. Laundry or The Forbidden City? I managed to get a couple of loads in the washer and then had an hour and a half to dash round the palace, kicking myself that I’d only allowed two days for Beijing. That afternoon I was invited to play in a recording session with some local musicians which felt very much like any session in London.
Throughout my time in China, Marcus Shadbolt and co from Vermilion Partners looked after me royally. In Beijing, I had the use of an apartment, again with an absent host but, importantly, an internet connection, and, in both cities, they treated me to some of the best meals I’ve had in years. They were up there with the all time great eating experiences of my life – and gave me a chance to put on some of the weight I’d lost in the rather leaner European leg.
The last morning in Beijing was a visit to the Harrow International School followed by an absolutely mad dash to the Great Wall where I dragged my obliging taxi driver up the wall to act as cameraman. We had all of 15 minutes there – long enough to meet a woman from UNESCO with projects in Tanzania, an amateur oboist working for the World Bank in Washington and a photographer from Buenos Aires; funny where you meet people who might help us in the future – before having to rush down and head to the airport for check-in. As usual, I was pushing the limits and, had I missed that flight, I would have lost the rest of my round the world ticket. It was fairly tense but I arrived just as they were closing the counter.
The wonderful Michiko Abe, or Abesan, had been organising my activities in Japan. After a late night arrival in Tokyo, I set out for Kyoto the next morning where to meet Abesan. We set out to my busking pitch: Kyoto may be a city of temples but I was in an underground shopping mall – not quite as beautiful but ideal for my purposes.
After a couple of hours, we headed off to the library for an outdoor performance. A Belgian girl, Sue, came over to say hello. She’d recently arrived in Kyoto having hitchhiked there with a friend from Estonia, a journey that took them five months. It made what I’m doing seem rather tame.
Next day I had to make my own way to Kobe to play at St Michael’s International School but had just enough time for a quick morning dash round two temple complexes before catching the train. All went smoothly for about 15 minutes until the train stopped at a station for five minutes. Announcements were made and there we sat. After 15 minutes it was clear we were going nowhere.
Wholly ignorant of what was going on, I reached for my trusty Toshiba Smart phone which works everywhere (more of this later) to ring Abesan, explaining that we were stuck and I didn’t know why. I passed her to a slightly startled fellow traveller and Abesan translated. There’d been a serious accident and we had to change not only trains but stations as well.
It was clear I was not going to make the concert at the school so frantic calls were made to rearrange everything. After a brisk walk to a nearby station, and four trains later, I reached Kobe.
I visited Hiroshima before about 20 years ago and remember being horrified by the scale of what the city had endured. This time, with all the conflict currently in the world, it was a very sobering experience.
Soul in Seoul
After Japan, I moved on to Korea – added to the schedule so I could go back to Hong Kong for the two private concerts. Thanks to the kindness of strangers and friends of friends of friends (again), I was booked into a fantastic traditional guest house, Buk Chong – in Seoul. Inappropriately billed as a backpacker’s hostel, it was beautiful, close to the city centre and cheap. What more could you want?
The schedule in Seoul was extremely tight. An interview as soon as I arrived, down into town for a quick photo op, and then on to another interview. It was 8pm before I had time to find a spot to do some busking. On the path of a stream that runs through the centre of the city, and pedestrians only, it was very restful. I found a gallery area under a bridge and started playing.
The Koreans know their music and soon a little crowd had gathered. I did have the case open for contributions which soon started coming in. It wasn’t long before I’d attracted the interest of a local policeman who came up, took photos on his phone, made notes in his book and started speaking on his radio. I was already packing up but it didn’t look good. One of the bystanders spoke a little English. “Problem?” I asked. The policeman spoke. “He says this is criminal activity.” Oh, oh. After 10 minutes or so, policeman one was joined by policeman two and they conferred. All the time I was wishing I’d had a bite to eat as I was absolutely starving. I recalled, wryly (and a little anxiously), the old maxim: “Never get arrested on an empty stomach or a full bladder”.
After their discussion they gestured to me to walk towards the steps leading to the road where I was expecting to find a waiting police van. Huge sigh of relief when they stopped at the bottom of the stairs and let me go – no police van in sight.
In search of a haircut
The next day I decided to get a haircut. I’d noticed shops with barber signs outside so went into the first building displaying one. Down some stairs, knock on the door and enter. I’d decided to video my haircut experience so was clutching the camera as I entered a rather purple, dimly lit waiting room. A barber stuck her head round the door and looked horrified by the camera. She seemed to be wearing rather fewer clothes than do most barbers in the UK.
Thinking I must have got the wrong door I retreated and found another barber’s sign a few doors along. This time there were signs of hairdressing equipment on display. A woman came out, again not overdressed. Shortly afterwards a Korean gentlemen came in, was greeted by a barber and disappeared into the next room. I waited. After five minutes, another assistant emerged – wearing rather less than the receptionist – and offered me a drink. As they say, I declined, made my excuses and left. Call me an optimist, or just slow to catch on, but I did try again at one place that looked quite respectable. Not a barber’s chair in site. I gave up, bought an ice cream and, as I was wandering around eating it, found a ladies’ hairdresser. Haircut, at last!
Back to Hong Kong
Hong Kong the second time round was great. The Miramar Hotel Group had made their top restaurant available and promoted the event brilliantly. Loads of people (and superb food) it was an excellent opportunity to meet new people and tell them a about Musequality. The evening raised well over £2,000.
The Societé Generale event was equally good. This was a private party for their top clients and, after I’d played, I had the opportunity to try some really fantastic wines as well as meeting their guests. Again, they made a generous donation for which we are very grateful.
I decided not to busk on this second trip here – I was concerned they might be bored with me – but caught up on some much needed relaxation, again staying with the Scofields and drinking in the view from the Peak. I also needed to prepare myself for the very long journey ahead. To South America.
From South to North, Buenos Aires to Miami
Buenos Aires is as far away from Hong Kong as it’s possible to get. There was a two day stopover in Los Angeles: time to do some laundry and a chance to go to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl before checking in at 9am at LAX for a flight via Atlanta.
Ever since I heard Astor Piazzolla’s album, Zero Hour, I’ve wanted to go to Argentina. I arrived after an overnight flight, still jet-lagged from the flight from Hong Kong to LA. Mind you, I was pleased to have arrived at all. I’d checked in at LA at 9.30am the day before and flown to Atlanta to pick up the plane to Buenos Aires. At Atlanta they breezily informed me that my flight was oversold, I didn’t have a seat and that I was number four on the standby list. If the word “sorry” came up in the conversation, I missed it, and, even though I’d checked in eight hours earlier, it was no reason to assume they were going to let me on the plane. I was very controlled, kept all my darker thoughts to myself, and was thrilled when they rewarded my restraint with a seat. Thank you so much Delta!
You know when you’ve been tango’d
Almost as soon as I arrived at the home of the very lovely Livingston family, my Buenos Aires hosts, I was out of the door again and on my way to hear a tango recording session. I spent the afternoon in the control room listening to six of Argentina’s best tango musicians recording half an album. Absolutely wonderful stuff.
Families reunited – an Argentinean link
That evening was a very special one for me. I’d noticed a Diego Juritz popping up in Google searches of our family name and, as there aren’t many of us in the world, I had to track him down. Diego arrived and we exchanged family histories. Mine left Posnan in Poland to emigrate to South Africa in the 1820s. Diego’s grandfather had a Spanish name which implies that the family was living in a Spanish speaking part of the world before he was born. The biggest surprise for me was that Diego’s family is Jewish, mine is gentile. More research required, I think.
There was time for a very brief busk in the park at Recoleta outside the main cemetery. Very cold and windy but I did earn 16 pesos (about £1.80) in about as many minutes.
Moments in Montevideo
After two very short days it was time to move on to Montevideo, a beautiful, slightly dilapidated city, quite tranquil after Buenos Aires and especially so after the Far East. I found a great spot to play in the pedestrian mall in town. A bit chilly and, although fairly good in the remuneration department, not nearly enough to cover my hotel room.
The director of the opera house who passed by sent a message inviting me to play outside the theatre that evening before the first night of Carmen. I went along there, partly against my better judgement as I have found concert halls not to be great spots, and was proved right again. After 20 minutes, and some harassment from the security guards who hadn’t got the message that I was going to be there (I’d spent about half an hour confirming this arrangement with the theatre beforehand). I gave up with about 25 pesos – about $1 – to show for the effort.
It was getting dark when I returned to my old spot in the mall. By now the crowds had dwindled to street traders packing up for the day, a few drug addicts and a small group of street children hanging about. After about an hour, I’d earned enough to buy supper.
The next morning the alarm went off at 3am and I got my taxi to the airport. The ride was, shall we say, exciting – at about 60 miles an hour through the town with a driver too busy to take much notice of red lights as he scrolled through numbers on his mobile phone! (Sounds more like London drivers to me, Ed. That’s a comment from one of my backroom team of two at home.)
I arrived in Rio later that morning and followed Bob Nadkarni’s instructions to The Maze, his guest house on the favela in Catece (the one obligatory destination in South America, this place, see http://jazzrio.info – ignore the fact that the website is sometimes out of date; Bob’s a busy man wheeler-dealing with top film companies on how they should compensate the favela for using it as a film location).
After a completely open schedule in Montevideo, Rio was pretty busy. My first gig was a street in Carioca in downtown Rio where I set up amongst the card sharks. I really wasn’t sure how Bach was going to go down here so was really pleasantly surprised when a small circle formed around me. I was joined after a while by Helen from the BBC, who lent a touch of glamour to the proceedings (it always helps to have someone holding a mike at you in the street – people stop just to work out what’s going on).
That night was jazz night at the Maze with a great band of Brazilian and German musicians who put up with my attempts to scrape along with them. Bob, in his role as life and soul drifting by, Caipirinha in hand, repeating his mantra, “It’s got to be fun”. It’s a phrase that could sound a little hackneyed but, coming form a former BBC war correspondent who had witnessed the massacre at Shatila in Lebanon and, in his time, been on the wrong side of the occasional firing squad, it carried a certain ring to it.
Rio’s favelas are notorious hideouts for drug gangsters and generally pretty dangerous places to be around. The Catece favela, accessed by motorbikes that carry you up the steep winding road, is perfectly safe. A large SWAT headquarters stands at the top of the hill making life very difficult for anyone trying to get up to no good. Houses that started out as corrugated iron shacks about 25 years ago are now piled on top of each other. There is constant building going on here. If you run out of room, the only way to go is up which is what everyone is doing.
Bob had arranged an informal concert on the one bit of land that was sacrosanct – the five-a-side football pitch. I was joined by the local samba drum group, one of those organisations doing a great job by giving local kids the opportunity to join something other than a gang.
I’d been invited to do a concert at the Museo de Republica. The organisers had done a fantastic job on publicity and, when twice as many people showed up as could be seated, we had to move outside to the museum’s gardens.
After that there was a chance to wind down a little. Next day was a concert for a local international school and then a dash up to the Corcovado for the ultimate tourist photo overlooking Rio. Sod’s law that the clouds closed in just as we got there. You can see the results on the web page.
Getting from Rio to Caracas proved to be less than straightforward. I arrived there after a detour to Miami feeling a little shattered. This was the part of the journey that I’d been really looking forward to: a chance to visit El Sistema, or FESNOJIV, the world’s leading social music programme.
I had time for a very quick snooze at the (cheapest I could find) hotel before Rodrigo Guerrero from FESNOJIV arrived to pick me up. Rodrigo said that he was sorry that, because the children were just getting back from their summer break, they were still just at the warming up stage. Could have fooled me. For the next three days my vocabulary consisted mainly of three words – fantastic, amazing and wonderful – and I don’t believe I overused them.
The hotel was rather a different matter with a sink with one more than the usual single hole in it to let water out, chewing gum in the carpet and intermittent hot water.
El Sistema is a huge organisation with some quarter of a million children currently involved in their programme. These programmes are beautifully organised and, despite the scale of the operation, every child is important. The kids work amazingly hard yet they all seem to be enjoying it and, when I heard a group rehearsing Mahler, I could see why. I really couldn’t say that there was a single highlight to the visit; it was just all wonderful. The kids’ choirs, the new concert hall, the instrument workshops and the various orchestras … all just so impressive.
Back down to earth (or water)
Day two and the hot water supply gives out at the hotel. I spend 10 minutes trying to clear an airlock in the pipes by forcing cold water down the open hot tap – to no avail. Have a cold shower – apparently very good for the immune system, or so I am told.
I was thrilled to have a brief meeting with FESNOJIV’s founder, Maestro Abreu. A true visionary, he still has huge ambitions for the future of the Venezuelan project. I believe he aims to have a million children involved in their programme. FESNOJIV is now helping local authorities in, amongst others, Britain, Spain, Italy and Germany set up programmes and I was very pleased to hear that they will offer Musequality any support they can with our projects.
Rodrigo’s last piece of advice to me was to leave plenty of time to get to the airport in the morning. Caracas’ traffic is terrible and any time after 5am can see you stuck in a traffic jam. This meant leaving the hotel at 4.30am.
I wake up and stagger into the bathroom. Never mind the lack of hot water. ANY water would be nice. No such luck.
Just the ticket … to Miami?
I arrived at the airport in bags of time. Just as well. My flight is delayed by six hours. I have two TV interviews set up in Miami which I can’t miss so I run to the American Airlines desk at the other end of the terminal.
One seat left on their plane at 9.30am – business class – $1,150. Ouch. I hand over my credit card. Doesn’t work. Hand over the debit card. Nope. The woman explains that this is because my credit cards have chips in them. I hand over my emergency card – still no joy.
American Airlines in Caracas are shut so I can’t pay for the ticket there by phone.
I ring Jane in London. She calls American Airlines in London. I then think that it would make more sense for me to speak direct to them. Jane is now on the phone for 40 minutes so I ask another friend to text me the AA number. I get through to the London office but they won’t open up the reservation if someone else is dealing with it. Eventually Jane rings back. She’s managed to pay for the flight.
I go to the counter. “My wife has paid for the ticket.” “Thank you sir. Can you give me the credit card that you used to pay for the ticket?” “It’s in London – with my wife.” “I’m sorry, sir, but without the card I can’t issue the ticket.”
I decide that banging my head on the counter may not necessarily move this situation forward. Instead I have a brilliant idea. “Could you try my card in another machine?: Two minutes later she’s back with the ticket and I’m $1,150 poorer, but I will get to Miami on time.
Am I catching up with it – or is it catching up with me?
I realise that I’ve not done very well at updating my blog but, to be honest, I’ve had much less time than I thought I would with a lot of travelling, wandering around finding pitches, constant emails to set up the next few days and, I admit, some socialising. A detailed account will follow once I’ve had time to edit it to something readable.
Now, catching up with my blogs a little late, I’ve got just 10 days to go and am really looking forward to getting home! I’m on a stopover at Rochester Airport on my way from Chicago to Boston. Yet another 4am start this morning but, with luck, that will be the last one of the trip.
THE LAST LEG – FRANTIC ALL THE WAY
Clutching a ruinously expensive business class ticket (for explanation please see previous blog – basically about planes with engine trouble and a TV interview in Miami – see below) I make my way through Caracas airport towards the American Airlines lounge. At the sight of the trays of fruit, croissants and coffee my inner musician takes over and I stuff myself.
I’m just starting to relax when I remember I don’t have anywhere to stay in Miami yet and, without an accommodation address, won’t be allowed to enter the US. Second panic call of the day to Jane. An hour later, by which time I am sitting on the plane, she still hasn’t found anywhere I can afford. The aircraft doors close, I switch my phone off and after four hours, during which I attempt to eat my way through $1,150 worth of business class breakfast we land in Miami. I switch the phone on.
The Levy brothers have come to my rescue. Guillermo, who read an article in the Miami Herald, has emailed and arranged for brother Oscar to make his sofa-bed available, my introduction to couch-surfing. (Couch surfing, Oscar explains later, is an internet network that puts travellers in touch with locals who can offer them … well … a couch. He’s been signed up for a while and is a complete convert.)
Fiddlers – no thanks
At least one other person has read the Herald article – a manager at Miami International airport emails to ask me NOT to play my violin at the airport. I haven’t got time to anyway. Guillermo is waiting outside to give me a lift into town.
The CBS TV crew are waiting at Miami Beach. They plan to run the story on the west coast evening news on Sunday night. Fantastic! Exactly the kind of kick-start we need for the US. I set up eBay auctions (a short concert as the item) for LA, San Francisco and Seattle, timing them so as to capitalise on the broadcast.
Before that there’s a reunion in Dallas. Nicolette Solomon, who I’ve known since I was in short trousers, was my date at my high school dance. Thirty-four years on, Nicolette, who now runs the Suzuki Institute of Dallas, has forgiven me my dancing and agreed to take on the task of looking after Musequality’s US donations.
She’s also had a warning from Dallas Fort Worth airport management about any kind of musical offering. Undeterred, Nicolette’s waiting in the baggage hall with just a small orchestra, serenading the (very, very happy) passengers waiting for their bags! The rest of the day is manic – busking, a few lessons, a short concert in the evening and, finally a couple of glasses of wine. Think it was just two.
Next morning is a very early start to fly to LA. Agnes, my contact at CBS, emails: the network bosses in New York really like the story and have decided to run it nationwide. So far so good. The problem is that the first available slot isn’t for a couple of weeks just two days before I’m due to fly home. Ah! Looks like it’s going to be Plan B again. Ebay bidding is, to be honest, very slow.
A pattern now starts to develop as I scrounge beds from my friends as I make my way round America. Children are evicted from bedrooms although I draw the line at depriving them of their meals as well.
Jane Salonen invites me to stay in LA. I do a sort of preliminary busking probe in Santa Monica (without a permit) and am fairly quickly warned off by a man armed with a clipboard. My problem is that a licence takes up to two days to process. It doesn’t look as if there’s much chance of getting one until a friend of Jane’s, who works at the council, offers to help. She has me sorted out in about 15 minutes!
I do an interview with Dennis Bartel on KUSC, southern California’s classical radio station, which is great but, alas, too late to breathe life into the eBay auction. Never mind. I spend the afternoon and early evening busking (legally for the first time in a while).
The eBay auction attracts one bid. At least it gets me off the street and my buyer, Wilma, has invited a load of friends along. It turns out to be a great evening and raises $400.
San Francisco next. We’re (Jane and Jo in London and me) struggling to get the media interested. It’s going to be much easier to get serious support for Musequality if we can get the story out. I’ve got an interview lined up on KDFC, the Bay Area classical station, but really need to get something in print. I had no luck with the LA Times despite a concerted effort so decide a change of tack. I send out a much more downbeat press release, violinist just scraping by on the streets kind of thing. As a matter of fact, by the time I arrive in SF I’m feeling pretty downbeat myself.
In baggage collection I switch on my phone to find a message from Joshua Kosman, music critic at the SF Chronicle. I meet him in Union Square. I haven’t got permission to play there but talk a security guard into giving us a few minutes for photos. We walk down to Embarcadero where I manage to earn about $3 – a not entirely convincing haul.
Later there’s just time to dash over the Golden Gate Bridge where I get my favourite pic of the tour. EBay has not taken off here either but I’ve been saved from the embarrassment of going unsold by an old friend, Jon Angel, who insists on feeding me as well.
Almost the finest hour
Hoyt Smith gives me a really good plug on KDFC radio for a busk at lunchtime which, netting $450, turns into the second best single hour of the trip (after the first day in June). Trevor and Lynda Hastie put on a concert at their home on the Stanford University campus – they get a crowd of friends in and the evening makes over $1,500.
Next morning it’s back down to LA for a house concert at the home of an architect friend. Clive Wilkinson was a travelling companion on my first busking trip through France. Since then he’s designed the Google headquarters and, as it turns out, a very nice little concert hall in his house too.
Nearly miss my flight up to Seattle the next morning after getting out at the wrong terminal. Then nearly miss my lift from Seattle airport when it takes me 20 minutes to spot conductor, Stewart Kershaw, who has come to collect me. In the end, he finds me and drives me to Robert Warren, an old school friend last seen 25 years ago, who is looking after me. We discover that our sons are uncannily alike – to the point that even we would have trouble telling them apart in photos. Nelson Dong invites me in to meet staff at Dorsey and Whitney law firm after which Robert gives me a guided tour of Seattle. There’s also time to visit a couple of schools and to do a bit of busking outside the Experience Museum.
The next morning I’m on the early train up to Vancouver. After a couple of quiet days media wise, things have picked up. Beth, the Granville Island busking coordinator (they actually have someone whose job it is to help buskers – how good is that?) sorts me out with a permit in no time and I get going. It’s a brilliant place to busk. Lots of people, organised pitches and, best of all, indoors. It’s a case of making hay while the sun shines so I keep going. I’m knackered by the end of the day with aching shoulders, the first tinges of tendonitis and, a bit worryingly, an aching joint in my left hand first finger.
I’m very glad when Alan Kenney, who is taking me in for the night, offers to collect me. Life gets even better when Heather serves up a couple of generous helpings of salmon for supper, after which there is just time to be thrashed at video tennis by their son before bedtime.
Call Chris in a corner
There is someone whose hidden presence has been a major feature of this journey. Though we’ve been in almost daily contact, I haven’t seen Chris Helm in about 35 years. Chris’s rugby playing contacts have been a major support right the way round and, from his home in Hawaii, he’s been able to get me out of one tight spot after another.
A personal best
In Toronto. Simon Wynberg, another South African, meets me at the airport. The next morning I do a short stint outside the CN Tower followed by a couple of radio interviews. I pop in to do some teaching at the Regent Park School of Music which provides music education for children in a neighborhood where 70 per cent of the population live below the poverty line. It’s rush hour by the time I’m finished so I decide to slot in a quick bit of busking before supper and set something of a personal best by being moved on three times in four minutes. Dianne and Peter Simon make sure I am entertained, fed and generally well looked after.
Hopping back to America
The next morning Kevin Leung picks me up bright and early to take me to the airport for a hop over the lakes to Chicago. The McArthy family has organized a concert with a spot of busking at the local library in Elgin the following morning. Then a train in to Chicago to meet Rachel Goldstein of the Chicago Symphony who’s arranged a slot for me as a street performer during the Macy’s Music Day.
First I have to find an internet connection so I can make a reservation for my flight to Boston the next day.
Sorting out flights is one of the more stressful chores. I can’t be sure when I’m going to have internet access and have to strike a balance between booking ahead and retaining some flexibility. At this stage I haven’t been able to get online for about 24 hours and am now pushing flexibility to breaking point. I’m running short of time before my slot outside Symphony Hall. There seem to be only a handful of seats available for the next day and, to make matters worse, the airline booking sites keep hanging up on me. There are only two seats that I can afford and which will get me there at a workable time. Only I can’t get in to the web site to book them. I try phoning – no luck. Then there’s just one seat left and, a few minutes later, none. I have to try different routes – there’s a flight via Rochester at 6.35am. That means a 4am start. Oh well, I don’t have any choice.
Rachel is waiting outside Symphony Hall and has brought some duets. Two are definitely better than one especially as we have to spend about 40 minutes competing with a parked bus that, even though it’s going nowhere, has its engine running continuously. We get to play indoors for a bit too, which is great.
Back to Elgin on the train. In spite of an early start we celebrate with a jam session with Rick, daughter Mary and myself on permutations of violin, guitar, ukelele, theremin and banjo. Sue and the family dog look on.
Calling in support
The cab for the airport arrives at 4am. I still don’t have anywhere to stay in Boston. Because I’m doing as many interviews as I can, I have much less time to busk as well so am really going to struggle if I have to book into a hotel. Back in London Jane rings a friend, Libby, and, 10 minutes later, I have a bed for a couple of nights.
First stop is Linden Square where Karen Hilliard has organized some local families to come along. Then to Fanueil Hall for a couple of hours. Karen picks me up from the local train station and drives me out to Dover where Liz and Rud Barrett are waiting with a gin and tonic, supper on the table and a very comfortable bed.
Boston starts to get busy. After an interview with Cathy Fuller at WGBH radio station I’m introduced to Lisa Wong who has dropped by the station. Lisa is a doctor who helps run the Longwood Symphony Orchestra, a band made up of doctors, that raises money for medically underserved groups. I have to dash off to another meeting but we agree that we must meet up again. I’ve got some flexibility in my schedule so can come back to Boston fairly easily. That evening Liz and Rud have invited some friends round and I subject them to my scraping.
Moan, moan, moan
In spite of some good local news spots, we’re still struggling to get wide coverage. Radio stations obviously need to have you in their studio while newspapers usually want a report of how it was busking in their home town. They are also reluctant to commit to anything in advance which adds to the uncertainty. The net effect is that, by the time anything is published, I’m on my way to the next city missing opportunities to meet people who may be able to help.
In Washington Simon Shercliffe has arranged for me to play to staff at the British Embassy. After that I’ve got an interview at Reuters. I’m still nervous about whether the CBS broadcast is going ahead. Agnes at CBS reassures me that we still have our slot, much to my relief, but I know that if there’s a big news story on that day we will almost certainly lose it. Reuters is syndicated nationwide as well so that may get the story out sooner.
Outside the White House I am very politely asked not to play my violin on the pavement. The policeman says I can play as much as I like as long as I stay in the road (pedestrianised, in case you are wondering).
Bell v Juritz: you decide
There’s one other pilgrimage that has to be made. That’s to L’Enfant Plaza, the subway station that was the venue of violinist Joshua Bell’s foray into busking ($32.17 in 40 minutes). I ask permission from someone in a uniform and start up. Almost immediately someone else in a uniform steps in and it’s game over. If Josh played for 40 minutes, I’m lucky if I managed 40 seconds but, crucially, in that time a passer by gave me a dollar. My hourly rate was therefore $90. So who did better?
To Georgetown in the evening. After my subway triumph this is a bit depressing – although there are lots of people around, the pavements are very narrow and there just aren’t any good pitches. $7 in two hours.
Stroke of Guinness
Simon picks me up and, over a bottle of Guinness, he hatches an idea. If I’ve done the White House, I should have a go at the Prime Minister’s residence at No 10 Downing Street. He has a friend who works there and offers to email him. It’s a long shot, but …
Quick quick slow
To New York on the train. As we hoped, the Reuters piece has kicked things off. I meet a reporter and photographer from the Daily News (NY’s biggest circulation daily) at Penn Station and, after that, have to dash up to the Lincoln Centre to meet a journalist from the New York Times. We head to Central Park to do some photos. It’s a little slow but not bad.
A few people come up to chat. A man introduces himself as Dan and asks if I have anywhere to stay. I’m all right for tonight but do need a bed for a few nights coming up. I take his card with a warning that I might take him up on his offer.
Go to Starbucks to check emails. The New York eBay has ended without a single bid. Bugger. Up to the Lincoln Centre where the London Symphony Orchestra is playing. Bump into a couple of them then head out over the road to see how I fare standing on a traffic island in the hope of picking up some passing trade from concert-goers. It’s not stunning.
Back to performing on a platform
There is one thing that makes busking in America great and that is the First Amendment, under terms of which, everyone has the right to freedom of expression ie. I can hack away to my heart’s content without fear of being chased away.
Well almost. I have to meet a TV crew from Reuters. We are immediately chased away from the Time Warner Center by a guard quoting the Homeland Security Bill. I have had the occasional criticism of my violin playing but this is taking it a little far, I think. Still, I’m not about to argue and instead we duck down into the subway. On the platform business is surprisingly good – nearly $200!
Back to Starbucks for the email and then head down to Penn St for the train out to Scarsdale where I’m staying.
Press stress depression
Having spent the best part of three weeks worrying about getting coverage, it now starts to snowball. I’m dashing around New York like a headless chicken while, back in London, Jo and Jane are frantically trying to organise me. Press back in the UK is picking up too. Interview with Guardian lined up for morning. The Independent also gets in touch. Jo juggling between them as they want to run stories on different days, jeopardising our chances of getting both.
Next morning train into New York. In London Jo is engaged in delicate negotiations between Guardian and Indy who still won’t see eye to eye on when to print. Six telephone calls back to London before 8.30 am. As I arrive at Penn Station I get a call from Good Morning America producer. An hour ago I hadn’t realised that life was this complicated but now, with the Brit press complication, the last thing I want is to get caught up in a similar battle between ABC and CBS risking the news slot that is still lined up. I say I need to run any other big TV interview past CBS. This goes down like a lead balloon. Agnes (CBS) says to go for it but ABC have quickly lost interest.
Jo rings. Guardian and Indy have both agreed to run the story on Saturday. Perfect.
Out of the blue I get a call from a Times reporter as I’m walking to Penn St to catch a train to Boston. Can he talk to me quickly? We meet and chat for five minutes after which I hop on train. An hour later Jo rings. The Times want to run their article tomorrow and won’t agree to match publication with the Guardian and Indy. The Guardian and Indy indicate they will probably pull their stories. Depression sinks in.
Weillerstein v Juritz : you decide
Lisa Wong is waiting at Boston station. That evening I give a short concert at the house of David Perlman. The leader of the Cleveland Quartet, Don Weilerstein, a wonderful violinist, is a guest and I really feel that I would much rather be listening to him playing.
Back to NY the next morning. Dan (from Central Park) Arshack says the offer of a roof over my head still stands. Now my computer screen is starting to pack up so need to get that sorted at some point. Arrive in New York and get on with busking straight away. The subway platforms are good places but the passing trains are incredibly noisy. The busiest platforms at the changeovers for the express trains also have the most trains stopping and so I am drowned out for much of the time. I am also having to hump my bags up and down staircases – there are surprisingly few escalators on the NY Subway. This is starting to feel like hard work.
Well, maybe it’s not that tough
Back to 42nd St to meet up with the Arshacks who are seeing a show with friends. Set up outside the theatre entrance and start scraping. Donations are minimal but it keeps me busy. We go back to their place on the subway and I am treated to champagne and fois gras. Their kids come in – conversation is extremely fast, lively and very funny. The World Series in baseball is on and the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are battling it out. In Boston all the talk was about the Red Sox. They’re just as partisan in NY.
Dan and Nancy are a lovely couple. Dan is a criminal lawyer and Nancy, a former dancer, is a midwife. I’m sleeping in Dan’s son’s bedroom. One of my first requests is if I can put some washing on and, as I pair my socks, I realize that I now have five clean pairs with just three days to go. The end is in sight.
After one failed eBay auction in New York, I’ve set up another one and this time I do actually sell – not a huge price, it has to be said, but at least I’ve got something to do on Saturday night.
Revisiting sights in New York
I go down to Ground Zero on Sunday morning. Last time I was in New York I went up to the viewing area of the World Trade Center. Now it reminds me more of a scar than a building site. There can be few people who weren’t deeply shocked by the Twin Towers attack but, visiting the site one can only imagine the overwhelming horror of experiencing it at close hand. Walking round the area is a sombre experience.
Winding up as it starts to winds down
The Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra, a very good non-professional orchestra, has invited me, through Mo Barrett (the son of my Boston hosts), to make a brief appearance at their concert on Sunday afternoon. Afterwards we have a Chinese meal. Mo is extremely entertaining as are his YouTube videos – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Odvauc094I.
CBS broadcast the five minute clip. They’ve done a really nice job. Things have gone our way back in the UK too. After all the negotiations we get coverage in The Times, The Guardian and The Independent back home.
On Monday there is a string of interviews. I’m starting to feel very tired but decide to stop off at 92nd street platform for a final busk – to be honest, I need the money. I’ve been there for an hour when I see two familiar faces – it’s Antonella and Angelo Marini. Angelo saw me in June when I was in Italy, then happened to be walking past when I was in Miami. A week later, I met Antonella in Palo Alto and now, in my last half hour of busking, they get out of a subway train right next to me!
In the evening the Arshacks take me out to supper at a small Mexican restaurant where they’re playing Brahms chamber music as background music. Even if there’s the potential for cultural indigestion, the food is delicious. After that, I nip down to Times Square to try to buy some small presents for the family. I realise with a shock that I’ve been away for two months and have no idea how tall 12 year old Jordy is going to be when I get back.
Last morning. Downtown to visit the British International School. Get a call to meet a photographer down near Staten Island Ferry – rush down there and then have to rush back uptown to the Arshack’s apartment to pick up my bags. Nancy very kindly drives me to JFK airport.
I check in and then, just before I board the plane, get a message that No 10 has agreed to me busking there in the morning. It’s not quite finished yet.
A huge thank you to
Jane Davies and the kids for letting me go on this trip
Jo Biddolph for her amazing support and energy and for working night and day organising all the PR. firstname.lastname@example.org
Warren Morson for all his hard work at the launch and through Europe
Brian Lisus for making a wonderful violin www.violinafrica.co.za
Agnes Reau from CBS for all her support and encouragement along the way.
The Prime Minister Gordon Brown and staff at Number 10 for a donation and allowing me to scrape away on the doorstep for a bit!
Nancy and Dan Arshank for housing a total stranger for four days. Thank you for a lift to the airport too.
Sandy Weisburst, my Ebay buyer
Mo Barrett for introducing me to the BSO
Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra and conductor, Nick Armstrong, for inviting me to play at their concert.
Karen Romano and Michael Ziegler for putting a roof over my head on a very fleeting visit.
Simon Shercliff for arranging for me to play at the British embassy, providing a bed for the night, laundry service and a couple of cans of Guinness.
Libby Pratt for moral support and introducing us to Boston
Liz and Rud Barrett for taking in a stranger at short notice, feeding me and ferrying me around, and for arranging a great house concert.
Lisa Wong for coming to find me and setting lots of wheels in motion.
David Perlman and Jacqueline Wolf for hosting a concert in Boston
Karen Hilliard for lunch, lifts, organising an event in the park and a very nice introduction to Boston
David Schoenbaum for his enthusiasm and superb introductions
Dana Mezacurvitch for ferrying, feeding and very good company
Peter Zazofsky for a chance to meet up over coffee
Cathy Fuller, Allan McLellan and the team at WGBH at Boston for getting me on the air.
April Peavey at the BBC
Tracy Huntington for her support and enthusiasm
Rachel Goldstein and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for letting me take part in their Music Day. Great to have another fiddler to busk with.
Susan Stillinger and Rick McCarthy for setting up a concert and looking after me for two manic days.
Mary McCarthy for giving me my first lesson on the Theremin
Dianne and Peter Simon for feeding and housing me
Robyn and Simon Wynberg for feeding and ferrying
Kevin Leung for a lift to the airport
Staff at the CN Tower for being so welcoming
Heather and Alan Kenney for feeding, watering and housing me
Dan Burritt at CKNW Radio
Globe and Mail
Janice and Robert Warren – a mate of mine since we were 7 years old. Great to see you again and to meet wonderful family.
Stewart Kershaw for coming to pick me up at the airport and driving me all the way to the Warrens.
Nelson Dong for setting up a great event at his firm’s offices.
Mike Brown for his support.
Lynda and Trevor Hastie for putting me up, organising busking and a great house concert.
Jon Angel and Jennifer Angel. Two very old and dear friends who bought me on Ebay.
Hoyt Smith for coming to San Francisco and doing an interview for KDFC Radio.
A very funny guy – he came up with all the best lines in our interview.
Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle for writing a piece in the paper for me.
Jane and Esa-Pekka Salonen for their support and hospitality.
Clive Wilkinson for his hospitality and putting on a superb evening dinner/concert.
Dennis Bartel at KUSC Radio. Great pleasure to meet him.
Eriko Matsumoto for sorting out my Santa Monica busking licence so quickly.
Ben Franz-Knight at the Santa Monica Pier for giving me a great spot to busk.
Dutton’s Bookstore in Santa Monica for inviting me to give an informal concert
Alexander Suleiman – thanks for stopping to say hello and coming to play at Duttons.
Look forward to our next meeting.
Wilma Wong for buying me on Ebay, fetching me from the airport and helping me make some great contacts.
Nicolette Solomon and Carl van Wyk for all their support, organising the best welcome of the trip, arranging busking and a concert and for continuing to help Musequality.
Melissa and Edward Roske and Cynthis Engro for all their assistance in organising a very busy day.
Margaret Hubing for taking on the job of processing Musequality’s US charity donations
Oscar Levy for allowing me to couch surf at his place.
Guillermo Levy for inviting me to his son’s first birthday party.
Kelly Cobiella and CBS for setting up an interview.
Rodrigo Guerrero for showing me around an incredible and inspiring organisation.
Maestro Abreu for making me so welcome.
Bob Nadkarni at The Maze. This is the best place in the world, seriously!
Feliphe Lavaro for his help and support
Sergio da Costa e Silva for inviting me to play in his series at the Museo de Republica
The British School at Urca for inviting me to play at their assembly
Adrian Valera and Rosario Varela Pareja for moral support.
The wonderful Livingston family, Ana, Emma and Nick for looking after me so well.
Enrique Guerra, tango-bass king for inviting me along to a recording session to see how tango should be played. Unbelievable.
Clive Wilkinson, an old mate, one of the 1978 busking team, for putting me up.
Alex Fung, CEO of Sonciete Generale Private Banking for inviting me back to perform for their clients. Thanks too to Patsy Leung Pech for all her help in organising the event.
Peter Yu and Iris Wong of The Miramar Group for promoting a fund-raising event at The Lumiere restaurant which raised over £2500 for Musequality. Additional thanks to Wilson Wong and Yan Man for all their work organising the evening.
Phil Murphy at The Lumiere – a great host. Thank you for such a warm welcome and two wonderful meals.
Brenda and Laurence Scofield and Irma for feeding, housing and taking in my laundry.
Bukchong 72 Guest House – great place to stay
Dr Young M Zhang, Gallery Ghm Bit for arranging a private concert and making a very generous donation.
Michiko Abe, Abesan – just a wonderful woman. Thank you! Impossible to list everything she did.
Yoshi and Fumi Mukai for their hospitality, setting up the concert, guiding me round Tokyo, being prepared to lie on the ground to get a photo of the Tokyo Tower, and for a lift to the airport.
Makiko. Aime for taking me around from pitch to pitch and looking after me so well.
Roger Lenk for his invitation to play at St Michaels International School
Mtr Sujita for arranging for me to play in the Zest shopping centre.
Garic Wong – for the lending his apartment to a complete stranger and having a driver meet me at the train station
Victor Rowse for being very good company despite a hangover
Marcus Shadbolt – great company and a very generous host
Ed and Sophie for a very enjoyable evening meal
Peter for the lending his apartment to a complete stranger and having a driver meet me at the airport
Ewan Lamont for introducing me to Slobber Chicken
Su Zhen for arranging for me to play with some of her friends
Xue Wei – great to see you again
Marcus Shadbolt – excellent company
Everybody at Vermilion-Partners for feeding me so well in Beijing
Harrow International School for inviting me to play to the pupils.
Robby Nimmo – for hospitality and some excellent leads with the local media
Phil Whelan – for inviting me onto his radio programme and introducing me to
Brenda and Laurence Scofield –wonderful hosts to me for the second part of my stay in Hong Kong.
Phil Cheung for help, advice, a very good meal and arranging a place to stay in Shanghai
Yew Kia Koh – a fantastically generous host and supporter of Musequality. Hard to know where to start. Especially grateful for the 4.45am lift to the airport!
Paul Chiang for inviting me to Philharmonia Moment Musical and arranging concerts and masterclasses
George Ho for hosting an afternoon concert in his apartment
Tea Room for hosting a concert Singapore
Sook Yee and Ken Choo for a place to stay, for looking after me, organising everything and being such generous hosts.
Shuh Fang Koo – Wonder Woman! The most incredible organiser I have ever met.
Rob Turnbull – great company and I will never forget that it was him I have to thank for my first experience of durian.
Hong Bei Yu for inviting me to play at the Singapore Art Museum
Chris Helm – my ‘hidden hand’ in the Far East – for some great introductions.
Rick Prakhoff – For all his organisation. A great bloke – look forward to the next bottle of wine.
Anna Murphy – for her support
Mary Johnston – for a place to stay and looking after me so well
Susie Booth – for some very good ideas and being my ‘banker’.
Kate and Jon Gunn for all their help with radio stations, busking pitches and food as well as their company
Mark and Jude Ginsberg for a place to stay, numerous lifts, moral support and everything else
Anna Morris for driving me around and being my photographer
Robert Gerrish – an old mate
Julie Cleland, Myers and the Cherrys for buying me on Ebay
Nimrod Moloto for looking after me and showing me a part of South Africa I’d never seen before.
Melodi Music – Lovely kids
Rosemary Nalden for showing me around Buskaid, a great institution
Richard Cock for a delicious supper, a slot on his radio programme and helping ‘fix’ various things round Jo’burg
Mum for everything
Leanne Dolman and the kids at the Hout Bay Music Project Great company and an inspiring bunch of kids with a brilliant teacher.
Brian Lisus for the violin and his support
Angie and Sharon in Greyton for putting on a concert for me.
Peter Martens and Xandi van Dyke for busking with me in Stellenbosch and a special thanks to Quentin Crida for passing the hat round
The kids from the Hout Bay Music Project and Leanne Dollman – a great bunch.
Sam and Kigundu Musoke for having me to stay and looking after me so well. Apologies for getting Kigundu out of bed at 4am to drive me to the airport!
Simon Yiga For showing me around Kampala and introducing me to some wonderful people
Portsmouth Festivities and Tim Hands and Pippa Cleary for their help in setting up my busking pitch and encouraging the audience donations.
Hotel Relias Fontana di Trevi a room for the night – stay here when you go to Rome.
Geerte Wachter and Harro Maas for a bed for the night and laundry service – much appreciated even though I lost my case the next day!
Ann Kristin at Musik Valvet for inviting me to join in their concert
Maria Scheterlich for taking me round Leipzig and helping me find he best pitch.
Michael Scheterlich encouragement, ideas and excellent company
Sascha Scwartz for a place to sleep after a hard day
Giosue Betto Cohen for all his helpful advice
Angelo – for showing me round Milan
Jeffrey Tate for taking up my cause
John MacGregor and his staff at the British Embassy– words are inadequate
Cobus Swanepoel for a very good lunch and a bolt hole for an afternoon
Dorothea and Mirion Glas for picking me up
Sasha and Nathalie Davies for their great merchandising
Bobby Kok and Margeret Cooke for their hospitality
Christine Bradshaw for photography and support
Jeremy Bradshaw for his massive support and incredible energy that he has put into this project
Sir Humphrey Maud for his invaluable assistance and words of wisdom
Rowan Freeland for the same and his signature on various documents
Mo Howley for her encouragement
Sue Dolton and the MBF for their encouragement
Thank you to Andy Bass and Toshiba UK for giving David a Toshiba 500 Smart Phone and paying the tariff
Thank you to Christine Bradshaw for the Photography, Jeremy, Ben andAli Bradshaw, Warren Morson, Jane Anderson, Torin Douglas, the Bedford Park Festival organisers and friends and family for organising and supporting David’s departure.
Charlotte Borger and Shona Scott for valuable press advice.
Thank you to Andrew Riley at The String Zone and Hima for donating a Hima violin case for the journey.
Thank you to Matthew Coltman for the loan of one of his beautiful bows.
Thank you to Jane Anderson for sponsoring the Round the World banner
A huge thank you to all those who have supported us, giving so generously of their time and money.
Round the World and Bach and Musequality gratefully acknowledge the valuable pro bono contributions from
Abbey Road Recording Studios
Philip Pirie Executive coach, www.philippirie.com
Francis Pearce journalist and copywriter
Charles Inge for sponsoring the media packs
Andrew Walton producer, K&A Productions.co.uk
Rowan Freeland Lawyer
Many thanks to contributions from;
London Mozart Players audience, Grand Hotel Eastbourne
Studio Music audience
London Tango Quintet audience Bush Hall
Miss E Bennett
Prof. June Juritz
Ealing Symphony Orchestra
LMP audience Windmill Theatre, Havering
Colin Kirby Green Studio Music
LMP audience Cheltenham
Michael Posner and Julia Desbruslais
Rebecca Leyton Students
LMP audience Cadogan Hall
LMP audience Carnaevon
LMP audience Fairfield Hall
Friends of Liverpool Philharmonic
LMP audience Basingstoke
LMP Friends coffee morning
Mrs S Harrison
Miss P Botley
Louise and Patrick Grattan
Dr Jane Anderson
John and Sue Black
and others who prefer to remain anonymous