I’m playing with the Chicago Philharmonic for the Chicago Opera Theater’s production of Lucio Silla, an early Mozart opera that I had truly never heard of before. It’s charming, in an early Mozart kind of way, and the singers sound wonderful and so does the orchestra. If you like nearly incomprehensible historical storylines and impressive coloratura and light, elegant, beautifully played orchestral accompaniments, this show is for you. We open next Saturday – details HERE.
But I wanted to talk about logistics.
Every week is different for a family of freelance musicians. Sometimes we can take turns watching Zoe at home, sometimes we can hire sitters for a few hours as we work in town – and sometimes it’s very complicated.
Often our gigs are nearby, or at venues with convenient parking lots, but sometimes they are not.
On Saturday I had a three hour opera rehearsal in Chicago. It was the only thing on my calendar and the venue should have been less than two hours from home. There was a large triathlon going on in downtown, so the streets were crawling with bikes and tourists and, crucially, many streets were blocked off causing the traffic to snarl up drastically. Zoe and I left home at 11am, with full knowledge of the challenges ahead. I checked the traffic on my phone before entering the city, and chose the most promising route to the north side. Fought our way through the downtown traffic to drop her off with my uncle for an afternoon of fun. When I got back in my car, I had an hour and a quarter to drive about three miles back downtown to my rehearsal.
It was easy – ten minutes later I was pulling off Lake Shore Drive, aiming for the garage adjoining the hall and daydreaming about getting a coffee on the way to work. BUT the road I needed was closed. I turned around and came at it from another direction, and then another, thwarted each time by orange barriers and uniformed police.
Understand that in the Chicago Loop, even on a normal Saturday, each of these passes would take ten minutes at least, between stoplights, pedestrians, and lanes and lanes of other cars. On this particularly snarly terrible traffic day each pass took fifteen to twenty, and before I knew it I was uncomfortably close to my downbeat, with no idea how to approach the hall. I was on Lower Wacker drive, which in itself is one of the most disorienting streets possible, and I saw a Self Park sign, and I pulled right in. I didn’t know the garage. I had no real idea where I was going to emerge when I hit street level – about two blocks from my destination, it turned out – and I would normally have planned and prebooked the parking to save money but I knew I couldn’t risk another fruitless circuit of the area. There was no time, and you don’t show up late to a gig. You just don’t.
After all of this, I had a lovely rehearsal which felt like almost an afterthought, drove back north to collect Zoe, and turned once again to the south to force my way once more through the tourists and past the shockingly congested awards ceremony for the stupid triathlon.
We got home at 9pm. Ten hours out of the house to accomplish a single three hour rehearsal is absurd. We won’t even count the half tank of gas, $20 in tolls, and $29 to park in the scary underground lot. That’s a bad economic prospect.
I love my job. Mostly the logistics are relatively straightforward, but every now and then…
I earned my money yesterday by driving, and the pleasant three hours of Mozart in the middle were just a tiny fringe perk of the job. This is what we do to make our livings, my colleagues and I.
Here’s to worry-free commutes this week! Hit the road, friends, be safe, and I’ll see you at the gig!