Mike Roylance, who plays tuba in the Boston Symphony Orchestra, had, as he terms it, "a rather exciting day in Berlin" earlier this week.
Let's pick up the story, with Mike:
The programs we're doing here in Europe require that I have both my F(small)and CC(large) tubas for various pieces. The Berlin program called for me to use my CCtuba. When I arrived at the Berlin Philharmonie Hall 1 1/2 half hour before the concert we searched the many rooms filled with various BSO boxes and trunks, but my tuba crate which also contained my tuxedo and mutes was nowhere to be found. As it turned out, my tuba had been accidently left in Dusseldorf, the last town in which we performed. We discovered this interesting news only fifteen minutes before the 7 p.m.rehearsal was to begin and only one hour before the downbeat of the performance.
At first I wasn't sure what I was going to do. But luckily, my tuba networking paid off. As serendipity would have it, our first stop on the BSO tour was at the Lucerne Festival in Lucerne, Switzerland, where the Bavarian Orchestra of Munich performed the night before us, and I had a chance to exchange tuba stories with their tuba player, Alexander von Puttkamer. He had just recently won the Principal Tuba position with the Berlin Philharmonic, one of the most prestigious tuba positions in Europe, which he was to begin, coincidentally, the day before our Berlin performance.
So with fifteen minutes to go, I call Alexander who is now in Berlin and he immediately tells me "good news, my schedule has changed and I am coming to your performance." I then told him, "great, you'll have a chance to hear me playing your tuba!" By chance he had left his instruments in the Berlin Philharmonie building, and he was happy to let me use his instrument. The only catch was that in Germany, the CC tuba, which is used in the U.S. is not used in Germany at all. German tuba players use the even larger BBb tuba. His tuba is a whole step lower than my CC tuba and a different type of valve. This required me to transpose the entire concert down one step and use different fingerings for every note. Not the ideal situation while one is trying to represent a world-class orchestra on a foreign tour, but in reality it was the only option. Not long after writing many cryptic notes in my tuba part to help me remember the right fingering positions the concert was over and Alexander was waiting backstage with a celebratory beer. Cheers to Alexander for saving the day!
Mike Roylance, at the Brandenberg Gate (photo: Michael J. Lutch)