Monday, December 05, 2011

Spruce Grove


The prairie leg of our tour started off with a quick flight to Edmonton. Flying with heaps of baggage is always challenging, but kudos to the friendly people at WestJet Airlines who put up with our wild eccentricities. The odd shape of our instrument travel cases always causes raised eyebrows and much curiosity from both fellow passengers and baggage handlers. The fact that everything is oversized leads to many conversations about flying with harps and medieval instruments. As they are passed through the large format X-ray machines, the checkers often comment on the ornate shapes and geometry of the instruments: it's not everyday that they see an X-ray of a harp, much less a nyckelharpa, or a psaltery.

The second obstacle in traveling with such a bewildering arsenal of instruments is getting them back at the other end once we land. This year, just for variety, the roll-up door of the over-size baggage area clamped down on the psaltery case, and no amount of pushing or shoving allowed us to free it.

Arranging the two rental vans onto which we loaded our luggage was also an event. The rental company had only set up two days before, and their software had just been installed, so naturally our reservations were not in the system (why would they be!) despite my having reservation reference numbers, etc. Nevertheless, we always try to leave extra time for just such an occasion, so we eventually sorted it out and made it to the theatre in good time.

The Royal Inn Hotel in Spruce Grove, Alberta still has an autographed concert poster from when we played and stayed here in 2007, and despite the fact that four years had passed, the neighborhood and shops around the hotel felt familiar, and we quickly settled in.

Both shows at Horizon Stage in Spruce Grove were sold out, or very nearly so, and again, the excellent technical support of both the sound and lighting techs was very much appreciated. The managers looked after us well, with all sorts of treats in the green room, and the theatre let us pack in early. Our sound people had us set up and sound checked quickly and efficiently. Horizon Stage is an intimate setting of just 318 seats (which is why we play two shows), and the semi-circular arrangement of the seats makes it almost feel like playing in someone's living room.

As is always the case when traveling between Vancouver and the Prairies, the fact that humidity in the Lower Mainland is typically somewhere between 90 and 100% (essentially we live underwater) compared to the 10-20% of the Prairies wreaks havoc with the stability of the tuning of our instruments. Wooden instruments shrink, pads on flutes dry out, and gut strings tighten. We always spend a great deal of time tuning before the show, and we like to acclimatize the instruments for as long as possible, with many tunings in between. The shows went well, and we had standing ovations both evenings. It's really a great venue, and we enjoy playing here tremendously.

- Posted from my iPad

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