Kent's Blog

Apr 14, 2018 – Curve Balls

I seem to be hitting a practice rhythm unlike any land schedule that I’ve ever tolerated. Practice pianos on the ship are a hot commodity. Musicians tend to sleep (very) late. So, sometime after 7am every day, I grab my preset clothes, tablet, charger cords, and music by the glow of my cell phone, slink into the bathroom (a phone booth of a shoilet – I’m bringing the shower curtain up on sexual harassment charges) and (hopefully) quietly make a break for it. I hoof it down the main artery of the ship (Deck 1’s Burma Road), about 100 yards to the crew mess. Mess is located between the four tender lounges (where the lifeboats are launched to reach shore in shallow ports). I grab eggs, meat, and juice and then walk to the tender lounge with the piano. I’m spending an hour on technique (Cortot), almost an hour on Bach, and then proceed to other things (today, a half-dozen Bach WTK I preludes and fugues, Debussy, Ravel, Moskowski, and Chopin). My hands feel great. I’m probably the only one on the ship that gets in 3 hours of uninterrupted daily practice. I plan to add in the crew gym this week.

I’m becoming much more comfortable with playing for the shows. While guest artists are encouraged to bring their charts to the music office upon arrival, we typically receive them at rehearsal (4pm on sea days, 5pm in port), which lasts about an hour. I program any keyboard patches into running order, grab dinner if there is time, and play two 45-minute sets (usually 8:45 and 10:30pm).

While I’ve cut back on the antacids, I have come to the realization that, although I may not be familiar with many, our guest artists are often A-list British entertainers and/or veteran cruise ship performers. No pressure, lol.

13 Friday’s guest artists were a duo of tenors performing arias and pop to the band and a click track. Apparently, there are a few pairs of these, sharing the same tracks. They were well-received by the discerning audience

14 Saturday’s artist was a veteran cruise ship performer, an American saxophonist/pianist/vocalist who has toured with Kenny G. All of the charts were live, including a piano-only accompaniment of a Kenny G ballad. As the artist also sang and played piano, the grand was positioned downstage and the synth upstage – I had a fair amount of cardio. No monitors for me, played live with ambient sound.

Today’s largest curve ball (so far) has come in the form of a Bermudan seaman’s book, which I have yet to receive (paperwork was done in December). I had been assured that I would be fine. Well, I couldn’t get off the ship in India without it…and the crew office informed me today that I cannot board the Queen Elizabeth in Cape Town without it (a requirement of some ports, including South Africa).

So, what to do? It is very much the weekend in North America, and the 19th will be here soon. I must disembark that morning in Dubai. But I can’t get on at Cape Town on the 23rd. The next port that I could fly to from Dubai is Walvis Bay, Namibia. I would have to be put up in a hotel, fed and paid (or not) for 5 or 6 days. I suspect that if it was more cost-effective, I would be shipped home for a week. What will happen? There will be a story.

4 Comments

  1. Lynne

    Love your writing and your attitude

    Reply
    1. Kent Baker (Post author)

      Thanks, Lynne. I still can’t believe that I’m here.

      Reply
  2. Susan Anderson

    Bermudan seaman’s book, huh? And paperwork was done in December?! Good luck with that. Hope for the best, plan for the worst kind of scenario. Maybe you could play some gigs at the hotel in Namibia if you have a forced layover. Know any tunes from The Lion King? Seriously though, hope it all works out. Keep us posted!

    Reply
    1. Kent Baker (Post author)

      Actually, it looks like something very desirable may come out if this, and not Namibia. More as soon as I know. Be flexible, don’t panic. 🙂

      Reply

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