We are in a caravan of vans heading from Danville to Bluegrass Airport. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is on a plane heading from JFK Airport in New York to Bluegrass Airport.
Around 2 p.m. we are supposed to meet. It will be an unprecedented meeting: one of the world’s greatest orchestras and hottest conductors, Gustavo Dudamel, coming to a small Southern city. The staff of the Norton Center for the Arts has planned a full day for the VPO with a visit to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and two horse farms in the offing before heading back to their hotels in Danville. We will keep you posted with a live blog through the afternoon and evening. ~ Rich
1:45 – A major logistical operation is afoot, moving gift bags brought up from Danville in minivans onto a pair of Bluegrass Tours buses that will transport the orchestra. A big black SUV awaits maestro Dudamel, as if he were a visiting head of state.
1:55 – Minor crisis: No bottle openers for the bottles of Kentucky Ale being given to the musicians. Fortunately, there are college students around who tend to carry such things on their key rings (and a Herald-Leader arts writer’s OBX botlle opener has been impressed into service), and the airport gift shop just made a killing on bottle openers.
2:30 – The Vienna Philharmonic have arrived. Gustavo Dudamel immediately asked for one of the blue horse stickers that airport hospitality personnel were passing out and affixed it to his lapel. The musicians gathered up their belongings and got on the Bluegrass Tour buses waiting outside. And Norton Center director Steven Hoffman went to work passing out bottles of Kentucky Ale. When he offered water, a chorus of “Nooooo” rang out from the musicians.
4:30 – The Vienna Philharmonic had a quick, but eventful visit to the World Equestrian Games. Alltech founder and president Pearse Lyons met the orchestra and Maestro Gustavo Dudamel, who were serendaded by the Haitian Harmony Children’s Choir and Tonan Tynan.
6 – Finally a Vienna Philharmonic musician had to play. After listening to local bluegrass band Kentucky Blue for a while, VPO violinist Erich Schagerl borrowed Marty Harley’s fiddle and joined in for a few numbers, to the delight of his orchestra-mates, party guests and the band.
8 p.m. – Gustavo Dudamel is currently standing with a bluegrass band, Kentucky Blue, listening intently to renditions of House of the Rising Sun and other tunes at Taylor Made Farm.
“He really got into it,” Kentucky Blue mandolin player Ron Mobley said. “He was standing there saying, ‘This is amazing, this is amazing.'”
Mobley said a lot of the Vienna Phil musicians complimented the band, and when they acted surprised, Mobley says the visitors said, “Music is music, no matter what it is.”
A day of events has turned into a little party under the stars for the maestro and the Vienna Philharmonic.
9:15 p.m. – At the end of an eventful day, the Vienna Philharmonic buses are headed home to Danville. When a few fireworks appear in the sky, Norton Center director Steven A. Hoffman looks back at the passengers on Bus B and says, “That’s for you.”