It was an incredibly eventful first day.
Both the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Elizabeth were in Hong Kong today. I was on the at-least-sixth full bus of belongings and half bus of employees being shuttled from the Panda Hotel to the ships. From 6:30am on, I had plenty of time to eat breakfast and to meet several musicians, many of whom I am performing with in the Royal Court Theatre Orchestra.
The topography of Hong Kong is lush and beautiful, from what little that I saw. We arrived at the port by 9am. Our next two hours were filled with all things immigration – paperwork, several queues, and much hurry up and wait. We arrived on the ship after 11am, with just enough time to find our luggage, drop it off in our cabin, and eat lunch in the staff mess (we may eat in either the crew or staff mess, but not the officers’ mess, all three located near each other ).
My roommate is a great guy from Montreal, is almost my age, and is a veteran performer aboard ships. We grabbed lunch (lots of salad and protein) and warmed up for in an area (with an upright piano for me) for almost an hour. I made the realization that the ship’s clocks were a half hour behind actual time and we hustled to our 1pm safety meeting, just in time.
The safety instructors were great. Nevertheless, I was hot and tired, and embarrassingly nodded off in the room at the very end of the first seminar. Moved my seat to under air flow for the briefer second meeting for new hires regarding our company’s commitment to the environment.
We then had about 20 minutes to get in place by 4:15pm for the weekly ship-wide safety drill. I switched shirts, left my blazer behind, and took the elevator from deck 1 to deck 7 area J, life jacket in hand and yellow MUSTER cap on my head. Passengers were routed, their cards scanned so that all were accounted for, the captain addressed the passengers, and we demonstrated putting on the life jackets.
There was just enough time for me to get to our 5pm rehearsal, hat and life jacket in hand. Tonight’s soloist was a flautist from England. Our eight-piece (alto sax, tenor sax, trumpet, trombone, piano, guitar, bass, and drums) had two-and-a-half hours scheduled to rehearse. A little over an hour later, we had played through each piece in the 45-minute set, fixing problem areas. Repertoire included the Can-Can, the first movement of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the Shaker Tune a la Michael Flatley’s Lord Of the Dance, a Beatles medley, Annie’s Song, one of the marches of the Royal Air Force, Pomp and Circumstance #1 (all of it), and Memory from Cats. All of the charts had a rock or pop flair, many taken at virtuosic tempi. House sound and lights were meticulous and the physical theatre (which can hold one thousand) impressive. My in-ear buds worked like a charm with the monitor system. Our music director had an up-tempo 12-bar blues shuffle to bring on the entertainment director, complete with fermata and drum roll to introduce her amidst the bumper – also, bows and a final playoff were extracted from Memory (the final number).
There was time for individual rehearsal, dinner, and a shower (and to first return my hat and life jacket to the cabin). I found my razor – which I thought TSA had taken in their random search of my stowed suitcase (it was in my carry-on garment bag, my wife is so good). Drying off in the middle of the ocean was a challenge (as was the spacial limitations of the shower and its low water pressure). I changed into Broadway black with tie and blazer, arriving at the theater at 8:10pm, 10 minutes early for the 10-minute call for the 8:30 show. The air conditioning in the theater was munificent.
The production – exquisitely mixed and thoughtfully lighted – also included dry ice from the 5-minute places call after the group seated. It was quite the slickly-packaged show – I was most impressed. It ran like clockwork. I’d give my reading/playing a high 8-out-of-ten.
My roommate, Alain, and I picked up a ton of charts for the rest of the trip. We dropped them off at the cabin, stopped by staff mess for a drink, and made our 10-minute call for the 10:45pm show. My playing was a solid 9.
I have a Yamaha baby grand on stage – it seems to like me. Playing while the boat is pitching was an adjustment (my left foot counterweight compensates just fine).
We changed clothes and ate a fourth meal at crew mess, returning to the cabin around 12:30am. I changed into a shirt from Weston Playhouse and pajamas, neither had I worn before. I would not be surprised to find out that I’ve lost another five pounds. I hit the bottom bunk – that was all (until this 3am entry).
The ship is en route to Vietnam. We are at sea. The rocking of the boat is strangely comfortable for sleeping.
My regret is that my ship’s account will not be set up until tomorrow – I can call my wife then. And that’s when I will post this.
We are backing a 4-man vocal group tomorrow. First read and the music at rehearsal at 4pm, shows at 8:30pm and 10:45pm….