NOTES FROM THE ROAD - ISSUE 2 (SEPTEMBER 20th)
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Read Caroline Lavelle's Notes From The Road
Q: How many people are travelling in your touring party, and what is your daily schedule on the road?
Well, the number of people on the road can vary slightly when one takes into account the “relief” drivers: when the distance to be travelled by the trucks and buses exceeds the distance that one driver should undertake, additional drivers are needed. But overall, the number is somewhere between 35-40 people. This takes into account four buses, two trucks, sometimes caterers, merchandisers, lighting and sound crew, musicians, stage technicians, production and road managers, etc. It is like moving a little village around, setting up camp and striking it again, every day.
The daily schedule varies depending on what a person’s responsibilities are. If you are “crew” – which is everyone except the musicians, the road manager and assistants – it truly must be like a never-ending day.
Load-in usually occurs around 8 am, and the technical setup occurs all day long until sound check late in the afternoon. Caterers arrive at the venue early and start making breakfast and the day’s meals for everyone. Someone often goes shopping for food locally.
Sometimes the musicians and I travel earlier in the day to arrive at the venue for a sound check late in the afternoon. If we are lucky, we check into our hotel first. If not, we go straight to the venue and check in after the show at around midnight. Sometimes when drives are exceptionally long and it is too risky (due to potential traffic problems) to travel during the day, the band and I will travel overnight and check into a hotel room just for the day.
After sound check, we have dinner. It is one of the rare opportunities to see most of the travelling party, including the drivers, who likely will have been sleeping in the day – particularly the drivers of the crew bus and the trucks, as they almost always travel overnight. This meal is often a highlight of the day. The show usually begins somewhere between 8 pm and 10 pm, depending on what country we are in – and it can begin even a little later than that if we are in Spain. Directly following the show, the musicians usually head back to the hotel and I stay at the venue to meet friends, business colleagues and special guests. Following this, I am usually found signing autographs if there are people waiting at the stage door. Then I head back to the hotel and crawl into bed somewhere between 1 and 2 am or head onto the bus to settle into a night’s drive.
The morning always comes a bit too quickly no matter what our bed has been and we are off once again. If we travel in the morning I usually spend these bus hours attending to administrative matters: some to do with the tour, and some to do with other QR matters back home. Once I arrive at the hotel or the venue for the next show, I may do some interviews.
Meanwhile, back at the venue at the end of the show the crew starts loading out the equipment and may not be finished this work until sometimes 1 or 2 in the morning, again depending on how easy or complicated the load-out is. In Rome, for example, they could only send out one case at a time, of two trucks full of equipment, down an alley. Hence load-in and load-out were very long indeed. These stoic creatures, the crew, then trundle into the bus and into their bunks on the buses for a few precious hours of sleep before they get off the bus to load in again at 8 am.
And so, the next day begins. ~ LM
2 I notice that in your tour programme, you request that no photographs are to be taken. What is your concern about photographs?
There are a few factors behind this request. The first consideration is that even though cameras have evolved to the extent that one can take photos without flashes going off, not everyone knows how to do this. I can think of a couple of concerts so far on this tour where, after all the pains we have taken to create an intimate and dramatic beginning, with just myself and a harp and a couple of other musicians, the lights flashing from the audience were like a fireworks display. Not only did it interrupt the mood I was trying to set for the song, I received numerous complaints from other audience members that they too found it disruptive.
Historically, it has also been the case in some theatrical productions – depending on what they are – that flashes can disrupt the concentration of the performers and cause them to forget lines. Then, too, there can be safety issues. I have been advised that this is still the case, although it is less of a concern for me personally from a safety standpoint. Then there is the slightly thornier issue of taking photos of someone where permission has not been sought, or where the subject has explicitly asked that his or her photo not be taken, sometimes for religious, privacy or other reasons.
Additionally, now that we have entered the digital world, where photos are no longer kept in check as a result of the limitations of their format (analogue rather than digital), it is a fact that photos that would in the past have been kept for a photographer’s private collection are now peddled for public consumption. This, finally, can lead to the “pursuit” of well-known people.
As most of you know by now, I do not encourage the cult of celebrity. I believe that concerts can be a special time for people to spend together, unencumbered by the distracting process of physically capturing the moment. They offer us a time to focus on the unique live experience of what we are sharing. I would say that this also applies to when I am signing autographs. For a person who has a public dimension to his or her career, constantly being photographed without permission can lead into a world where some people start feeling that as a performer they are entitled to a part of you, including taking your picture whenever they wish. When taken to the far end of the scale, the cumulative effect can at times make a person feel that he or she is being stalked. I realise that this is an extreme term and I don’t want to offend anyone by putting it that way, and indeed it is rare that I experience this feeling. All the same, I think that if a would-be photographer remembers to first take the step of seeking the permission of any potential subject, this can eliminate any doubt as to what that person may feel about photographs.
That said, we have not wanted to get heavy-handed with people who attend the concert. We decided therefore to simply place a courteous request in the programme so that the audience would be acquainted with my wishes and there would be no confusion. I hope there will be respect for my request. ~ LM
3In some of your recent concerts, you have dedicated “Penelope’s Song” to someone’s memory. Could you tell us more?
In the liner notes to the recording An Ancient Muse, I mention that one of the initial inspirations for this song was listening to Homer’s Odyssey, particularly the part of that work that describes Penelope, Odysseus’s wife, waiting for her loved one to return. I then wrote the lyrics extrapolating this experience to the different situations in which we wait for loved ones to return. It could tell the tale of someone who has emigrated; it could evoke the story of the death of a loved one.
On the last concert of our North American tour in May of this year, a request was made of me to dedicate a song to the memory of Captain Shawn McCaughey, a Snowbird pilot who perished in an incident on May 18, 2007, just three weeks before his wedding day. I choose “Penelope’s Song” as the composition that I felt that would best capture one of the sentiments of this situation. Later this summer, his fiancée Claudia wrote to thank me for the dedication.
As many Canadians know, the Snowbirds are the Canadian Forces’ aerobatic show team. Late in August I had the privilege of joining Claudia and Captain McCaughey’s family at the Snowbirds’ air show in Candiac, Quebec, the town that Captain McCaughey’s family are from. The Snowbirds have now incorporated “Penelope’s Song” into their presentation in their Tribute Pass (where they fly over in commemoration of a lost comrade). Needless to say, this was a very moving event to witness.
I must also add that since becoming Honorary Colonel for 435 Transport and Rescue Squadron out of Winnipeg, Manitoba in December 2006, I’ve had the opportunity to become more deeply acquainted with the enormous contribution that the men and women of our Canadian Forces undertake on behalf of Canadians as well as international citizens every day of the year, year in and year out. In this vast web of people and initiatives – search and rescue exercises, domestic and international disaster relief, the re-supply of northern communities, protecting our nation’s borders and participating in significant international responsibilities – are found the human stories, the real lives and the loves lost.
It is an honour to be able to dedicate this song, not only to the memory of Captain Shawn McCaughey, but to all of those who, in the course of selflessly serving others, have lost their lives. May these noble spirits live on: “a heart well loved is never forgotten”. ~ LM
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