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French Mis-Connection Begins Tour

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Oct 30, 2004 - 10:33:11 PM in news_2004

first published in The Cincinnati Post Oct. 29, 2004)

VIENNA, Austria -- Funny that the in-flight movie on Delta 44 Tuesday from Cincinnati to Paris was "The Terminal."

Funny because half of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, en route to Vienna to begin a two-week tour of Europe, spent their first day playing the Tom Hanks' role.

A delay arriving at France's busy Charles DeGaulle Airport caused them to miss their connecting flight and kept them stranded in the terminal for over ten hours.

They missed it by a hair - a few players cleared security and got as far as the gate for the 10:40 a.m. flight, only to hear of the "disembarquement."

All of the other flights to Vienna were full, they were told, except Air France 2838 at 8:35 p.m. It was going to be a long day.

Assistant concertmaster Sylvia Samis checked into an airport hotel to get some sleep after the seven-hour, overnight flight from Cincinnati.

CSO librarian Mary Judge curled up on the floor of the terminal.

Others took a vertical approach, catching some shut-eye straight up - or trying to - in the terminal's hard metal seats. It was a marked effort, said one CSO player. "With the holes in the seats, all our butts had indentations."

There were some enterprising souls in the mix. Concertmaster Timothy Lees, violist Julian Wilkison, bassist Rick Vizachero and violinist Anna Reider took the train into Paris, where they visited Notre Dame Cathedral and some "excellent coffee shops." Back at the terminal, players bought postcards, window shopped the boutiques or had beer and quiche at Bill Bentley's Pub.

There were readers and knitters, but mostly sitters, a marked effort, said one CSO player, because the metal seats were full of holes. "All our butts had indentations."

Airline officials declined to make the guest lounge available to the CSO (a perk for frequent flyers), understandable, perhaps, because of the size of the CSO group, but questions were raised about the missed connection. With over 40 passengers due to arrive any moment, couldn't the flight have been held? Apparently not, said Austrian Airlines (which operates the flight for Air France). There were schedules to be kept in Vienna.

Tempers did not flare, however despite occasionally cool treatment by airport personnel.

"Yes, yes, you have all the answers," said a dismissive Air France official at the check-in counter, as agents peered at computer screens and spoke into cell phones.

A wavy-haired young Frenchman in line behind me helped allay the impression of "America bashing," however. Albin Lebosse, a French hornist with Frankfurt's Ensemble Modern and himself on the way to Vienna, enjoyed learning about the orchestra from Cincinnati.

The other half of the CSO, including music director Paavo Järvi and CSO president Steven Monder, traveled to Vienna via Frankfurt, experiencing no delay beyond a long walk between gates. To provide creature comfort for the Parisian contingent, Monder arranged a buffet dinner at the hotel in Vienna when they arrived

"This orchestra is wonderful in a difficult situation," said first violinist Darla Da Deppo Bertolone, who spent her day at Charles DeGaulle. "They're able to bond and have lots of laughter."

"Every tour is an adventure," said Samis.

Tonight's CSO concert in the Konzerthaus in Vienna is sold out, as are most on the nine-city tour. Järvi conducts Mahler's Symphony No. 5. Soloist is French pianist Helene Grimaud in Schumann's Piano Concerto in A Minor. The orchestra moves on to Frankfurt Saturday.