Just Across the Street

Posted on February 1st, 2016 by

As the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra and Gustavus Jazz Lab Band’s international concert tour moved from Skopje to Bitola in Macedonia, the beauty of Macedonia became even more obvious. After spending two days in the smothering winter fog of Macedonia’s capitol city of Skopje, it was wonderful to move south and through one of the mountain ranges that had been holding the thick fog in place. In spite of the fog, in Skopje we had found a welcoming and appreciative music community and a devoted audience for our evening concert at the Macedonia Opera and Ballet. But as with any tour, it was time to leave our new friends and move on to Bitola.

Before arriving in Bitola, our guide Maria told us that our hotel was “just across the street” from the city square and the NI House of Culture. She was correct. The Theatre in Bitola is situated on the square of the city adjacent to the pedestrian shopping streets and, as promised, our hotel. The clear sky, sunshine and temperatures in the 50s were welcome after the fog in Skopje. We walked across the street – many of us without our coats – and into the theatre for the sound check and the performance.

The Gustavus Symphony Orchestra, Ruth Lin, conductor, in concert at the NI House of Culture Theatre, Bitola, Macedonia

The Gustavus Symphony Orchestra, Ruth Lin, conductor, in concert at the NI House of Culture Theatre, Bitola, Macedonia

Our concert that evening was scheduled to begin at 8:00 but we had learned from our previous concerts that the scheduled concert time was not when the concert began. At 7:40 there was no one in the audience. At 7:42 the doors opened and for 30 minutes the residents of Bitola streamed into the 900-seat theatre. When Concertmistress Kendra Frey entered to tune the orchestra at 8:18, the programs were long gone but there were still people entering the theatre. In the end, nearly 850 were in attendance and their appreciation for the concert was obvious. They loved the Symphony’s performance of Leroy Anderson’s Alma Mater and, of course, John Williams’ theme from Star Wars. They brought flowers for both conductors and demanded an encore from the jazz band as it finished the concert. Director Dave Stamps’ decision to include “I Can’t Stop Loving You” as an encore was an immediate favorite. As with previous concerts, many in the audience voiced their gratitude that we had traveled so far to play just for them.

The Gustavus Jazz Lab Band, Dave Stamps, director, Bitola, Macedonia

The Gustavus Jazz Lab Band, Dave Stamps, director, Bitola, Macedonia

Following the concert, the Gusties walked back across the street to the hotel. In the morning, they would leave for Orhid and another performance on their 2016 international concert tour. They had already traveled many thousands of miles by plane and bus and they had two more concerts and a few thousand more miles to travel before completing this concert tour.

But while our world may be a big place, we all know it’s getting smaller every day. And no matter how many miles separate us, music connects us.

In Bitola, Macedonia, 81 members of the Gustavus Symphony Orchestra and the Gustavus Jazz Lab Band made music. With their new friends in Bitola, they enjoyed the moment. Yes, they had prepared for many months and had traveled many miles for this concert but that did not matter on this night.

It was, after all, just across the street.

 

 

 

Comments are closed.