The multi talented Gareth Davies is the superb Principal Flute of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). He’s also a very good writer. His very entertaining and informative book, The Show Must Go On: On Tour with the LSO in 1912 and 2012, is the result of a fortuitous convergence. Davies writes a blog for the LSO website when the band is on tour. His blog, and the recent discovery of detailed diaries written by a few of the members of the 1912 LSO were the inspiration for the book.
The diaries detail the 1912 American tour, a first by an English orchestra. As such, Davies’ book is a tale of two traveling bands, the LSO of 1912 and the LSO of today.
The chapters alternate between the 1912 tour and the insane touring schedule the LSO maintains these days (Davies writes in detail about LSO’s 2012 New York residency). The stories and tales keep the pages turning nicely. If you like orchestras and musicians in general, there’s lots to enjoy. It was also a nice to read of the LSO’s lucky escape from the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. The delays in construction ensured a passage on RMS Baltic, the poor sibling to the White Star Line’s new superstar liner. The 1912 LSO almost did a 1957 Manchester United!
Loving orchestral life and the LSO, in particular, I admit to enjoying the 2012 stories a little more. Davies writes freely about conductors he admires (Davis, Gergiev and Haitink) and how the musicians are treated on tour. When studying in London, I found many English musicians cynical about ‘the life’ but they were blessed to live and work in the most amazing musical city. There’s lots of self deprecation by Davies and a fair few lines of cynicism, but that’s a big part of the book’s charm. It never gets mean, gnarly or bitter. Never forget that behind the lines, Davies is writing about (and admiring) some of the greatest musicians in the world. Players that make up the magnificent London Symphony Orchestra.
The Show Must Go On: On Tour with the LSO in 1912 and 2012 is easily as good as the last book I read way back in the ’80s about life in the LSO, The London Symphony Orchestra: Scenes from Orchestra Life by Linda Blandford (worth a search on Ebay). Both describe life in a great orchestra, the former on tour, the latter at rehearsals in London. Both are instructive and show that musicians over the years have the same wants and needs. Highly recommended.
The Show Must Go On: On Tour with the LSO in 1912 and 2012, by Gareth Davies, Elliott & Thompson, RRP£14.99/$24.95
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