It was 25 years ago in 1994 that the RLPO embarked on a tour of Germany and Austria with Libor Pesek, culminating in a performance of Strauss Zarathustra at the Musikverein in Vienna. That tour happened also the be the first tour for Maestro!
When Graham saw the program for the tour about six months before, he realised the significance of the Vienna concert and looked into the costs of buying a real church bell for this landmark concert. In his words he recalls....
"Up until that time we had always used a rather inadequate. dull, tubular bell that just couldn't represent that famous 'midnight' moment in Zarathustra. I subsequently received a quote from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London (makers of Big Ben) for £5,000.... - a lot now, but a huge amount then. With the quote hot-in-hand I went to the management with a proposal to purchase said bell - sadly only to be told that funds were just not available at that time. Rather dejected I took the rather rash decision to go ahead and buy the bell with my own money. A flight case was designed to support the bell when lifted on to its own lid so that it can be struck by the player standing up. A beautiful velvet skirt was made to hide the case - the same material as the Philharmonic Hall choir seats... At the first rehearsal, bell in place Libor spotted it, open mouthed... I told him the story and after a pause he declared 'Colleague, I want to pay half'!! Sure enough a month later the money arrived in my account. The Friends of the Phil Activities Committee, led by John Dingle and Tom Brodbelt got to hear of the story and amazingly the other half of the money arrived about a year later.... The gamble (fortunately for me) paid off and since then the bell has been hired to orchestras all over the UK and has made several thousand pounds for the RLPO in hire fees.. It's even been to the Czech Republic when Libor requested it (and me) for a performance of Zarathustra with the Prague Symphony Orchestra. It will forever be known as 'Libor's Bell'.
Over the years Graham has worked tirelessly to create the complete set required and as we approach the end of Vasily's tenure with the orchestra and the complete Mahler cycle in 2020 the final chapter of the story is being created. Over the years the series of Bells have been added to by the generosity of several long standing patrons and the Preston Friends lead by Milena Grenfell-Baines.
Maestro! are delighted to have been able to continue their relationship with the orchestra (which started with that 1994 tour) by supporting the casting of the B Bell. Any profits from this visit will be donated to the Bells fund.
The final two bells to be cast are the great C Bell and G Bell for Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique, which opens the RLPO 2019/20 in September.
The C Bell, dedicated to Vasily Petrenko will be cast at the Royal Eijsbouts Foundry in Asten, Netherlands on Friday 7th June. To witness this historic occassion we have arranged an overnight visit leaving the UK on Thursday 6th June in the company of Graham Johns.
Flights are with KLM from Manchester or London and we travel to Asten by private coach. We stay overnight at the 4* Hotel Nobis Asten with a celebratory dinner included on Thursday evening and breakfast Friday morning. After breakfast we will head to the Klok & Peel Museum for a private tour followed by lunch in the Museum restaurant, then continue to the Royal Eijsbouts Foundry during the afternoon to witness the casting of the C & G Bells, with explanation and commentary. We will leave late afternoon for the journey back to Schiphol and fly back to the UK late evening.
Manchester Terminal 3 - Amsterdam 1110 - 1330 KL 1074
Amsterdam - Manchester Terminal 3 2115 - 2135 KL 1083
London City - Amsterdam 1050 - 1300 BA 8489
Amsterdam - London City 2005 - 2015 KL 969
To reserve your place please contact Gemma Lynch on 0151 210 2921 or email email@example.com
A member of the Maestro team will then be in touch to confirm your place. Spaces will be reserved on a ‘first come first served’ basis, prioritising those who are supporting the Mahler Campaign and who have opted to have their names cast onto the Vasily Bell.