Take 95 musicians, instruments worth millions of dollars, ergonomic seats and assorted equipment such as music stands, sheet music and a conductor’s podium. Now move it all numerous times a year from Kerikeri to Invercargill and back, using planes, coaches, rental cars and a
13m long temperature-controlled truck.
It’s one of the largest logistical movements in New Zealand, says Craig Thorne, the NZSO’s Head of Orchestra Management, who manages this massive undertaking every year with a team of five.
“The audience comes in and enjoys a two-and-a-half hour concert but behind the scenes we’re doing 18 hour days making sure everyone and everything gets where they need to be,” says Craig, who did a similar role for the London Symphony Orchestra before he took on his current job at the NZSO six years ago.
It can take three hours to pack the truck, which includes placing the instruments in custom-made cases, with the same time to unpack at the venue. The aim is to have the stage set up with each musician’s instrument and music in the correct place.
“We want to make life as easy for the performers as possible, so that they can come in and start rehearsing straight away.” And then Craig and his team do it all again after the concert, with the truck often driving through the night to get to the next venue.
Generally musicians with smaller, hand-held instruments have the option of either carrying their own instruments (as long as they can fit into an airline’s overhead locker) or having the truck move them.
Brian Morris, the NZSO Travel & Tours Executive, says an exception is the cello. “We occasionally have to buy a separate seat on the plane for the cello,” says Brian.
Brian is also responsible for co-ordinating the accommodation and transport of musicians, guest musicians and conductors to each venue, including, where needed, chartering flights.
Craig proudly says the NZSO has never had to cancel a concert because the instruments haven’t turned up on time.
“Although we have had some close calls, once having to be airlifted by the Air Force out of Wellington Airport because of bad weather, and another time when the National Youth Orchestra’s flight was delayed and the musicians had to get dressed in the van and run on stage with seconds to spare! Our motto is ‘the show must go on’, and it’s our job to make sure that it does.”
Published in the NZSO Newsletter, July 2017