Dublin, Ireland

Dear Readers,

I’m sitting next to Natalie in the Dublin airport, waiting for our flight to Amsterdam, where we’ll transfer to another flight to Vienna. We checked in at an electronic airport kiosk, which was a first for me in Europe – and we got to pick our seats. We chose an aisle and a window; the seat in the middle was empty, so maybe we’ll luck out and wind up with a row to ourselves. That would be nice, as neither of us got much sleep last night. This will be a long travel day.

This gate area is pretty quiet, aside from the expected murmur of people walking and chatting, and machines in operation. The Irish accent is a gentle one, so masses of Irish people don’t create too much ruckus – unless they’re out having fun. Then they know how to cut loose. The bench we’re sitting on is bouncing around a little, as a kid next to us is playing “paper, rock, scissors” with his father, and every time he loses, he squirms or hops up on the seat in frustration. But he’s laughing, and the games are short.

The people here have been exceedingly warm and welcoming this week. Natalie and I arrived early to rehearse, since this is the first concert of this recital tour. It works well to do our pre-concert preparation in the starting city; we overcome jetlag at the same time that we escape the distractions of home. As a result, we’ve spent several extra days in Dublin, getting to know the place a bit better and having the chance to interact with many Irishmen and –women along the way. One thing that struck me is the duality of language in this country: Gaelic is the first language listed on any street sign, and some TV stations either specialize in Gaelic/Irish content or run certain Gaelic programs at particular times of the day. It’s an ancient language, and it sounds powerful and graceful.

Of course, every time I’ve visited here in the past, Gaelic has been present. Somehow, though, I notice its ubiquity more this time. I’m reminded of the role of the Maori language and culture in New Zealand – having spent four weeks in NZ this summer, and having been fascinated by its native art, culture, and language, it seems that I notice parallels much quicker. Not that there are many in the UK, US, or most of Europe. This is quite an unusual feature among cities I visit on a regular basis.

Something else about Dublin reminded me of New Zealand: the weather. Early autumn weather in Dublin is very similar to that of Wellington in June. It’s chilly, rainy, and gray for at least part of each day. Anticipating such weather, I brought my winter jacket with me; I broke it out on my first day. The hood even came in handy. The difference here is that it’s not a barefoot-friendly city, as Wellington is: I kept my shoes on the whole time. In fact, I was very unadventurous this week, hibernating indoors because of the cold. A flu shot I received early in the week ensured that I won’t get too sick this fall, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Aside from rehearsing, this proved to be a full week. The day I arrived, I was interviewed for the Irish Times. A radio interview later in the week diversified the concert’s publicity – between the newspaper and the radio exposure, ticket sales got a nice last-minute boost. The rest of the time I spent in business communications, trying to finalize details for this tour, as well as plan two concert seasons ahead, so that I have work to do in the future. (Most concerts are booked 1½ to 3 years in advance.) I’m editing my next album, which consists of Mozart sonatas with my recital partner Natalie Zhu; we recorded two of the works last season. We’ll record the other half of the album after this tour winds down. It’s great to listen to the recording sessions from last year while preparing these sonatas for the studio; it gives me new interpretive ideas for these works and lets me keep an eye on any musical variety I might want to instill in the course of the album.

Our recital here took place last night. The rain was horrendous all evening, but it didn’t appear to keep the audience members away. They were numerous and enthusiastic, listening attentively during the performance and forming a long greeting line after the concert. On the way back to the hotel at the end of the evening, my umbrella blew inside out – one of the first times that’s happened to me! I suppose fall has truly arrived in Ireland.

My last observation on this part of our trip:

Nearly all, if not all, public areas in Ireland are now non-smoking, making eating out much more pleasant for non-smokers like me. Natalie and I went to a busy, popular noodle restaurant for our meals; the air was clean, they had great vegetarian food, and their food contained no genetically modified ingredients. The best of all worlds! It seems like a healthy lifestyle is becoming more stylish. Between that and all of the wonderful things there are to do in Dublin, I can’t wait to return.

There’s not much more to report, and we have to board our plane soon. Contrary to last night’s indications, today is a beautiful day: sunny and clear, a few clouds floating high in the sky, colored pastel by the sunrise. The flights should be smooth.

Upwards and onwards.

Yours from the road,