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Roman strapping his cello down as per airline regulations while the cargo load supervisor … well, supervises.


October 20, 2017

I’m writing about five musicians about the trials and tribulations of travelling with an instrument – or none, in the case of a pianist who doesn’t always get a great instrument upon arrival – and how complicated it can be. This is the last of a five-part series this week.


Instrument(s): Cello

Main gig: Gryphon Trio, Ottawa Chamber Music Society, mover and shaker


What frustrates you most about travelling with an instrument?  

The fact that a certain US airline that has an affiliation with our home airline has their system set up such that they need a passport number for the cello because it has a seat. Argh. The routine that airline check-in staff have to go through is painful to watch, time-consuming, and often messes up subsequent reservations on the same airline. Argh! Also not thrilled that all the extra seats I’ve purchased over the years don’t contribute to my status in airline rewards programs (probably the biggest gripe).


Have you ever cancelled a concert because the travel was too risky for your instrument?

Hasn’t happened in 35 years but I’m careful with route, airline and aircraft choices. Gryphon Trio has booked travel with Rade Sekulic at Hospitality Tours for at least 20 years. Yup, in this age of do-it-youself-digital-service, we use a travel agent. Given that his client list includes Tafelmusik and other small orchestras and ensembles, he probably books more seat baggage cello seats than any travel agent anywhere. When things go wrong, our man Rade (pronounced Rad) is on the fix. He’s the best. That said, I did have a couple of situations last year with airlines in the Canadian Arctic (Rade didn’t book these!). In one case the cello ended up in the cabin with the pilots and in the other it was strapped precariously to the toilet seat in forward cabin bathroom.


Yo-Yo Ma once infamously left his cello in the back of a New York City cab. (He got it back.) Have you ever misplaced the sheet music, crucial paraphernalia, or not have access to a piano to practise before a concert?

When I was a student at the Banff Centre I used to forget my cello in the dining room at dinner and only discover that I’d done so on the way to breakfast the next morning.I hate forgetting things or not having things that I might need, so as a result my suitcase and computer bag are always heavy. I’ve left my computer bag in cars with windows open and have on occasion, had to rely on my very generous and patient wife (violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon) to backtrack after my bag and take a later flight (changing my flights is near impossible because they involve cello seats). Yup, lots of points for that.


How many instruments have you ever stuffed into a car or van?  

I used to have a VW Jetta and I could get 4 cellos in that trunk without having to force it shut – seems unbelievable but it happened.


How many holes have you left in floors with your cello end pin? (*Editor’s note: I was just curious and threw this question in.) 

1, 892, 345. 8047 of which were discovered in a once beautiful wood floor beneath a thick area rug in the music room in the house I grew up in. My mother threw in the rug when she sold the house…


How long does it take you to install the Air Canada six point harness?

Five minutes and I know where the nets are stored on every model of plane Air Canada flies. The cargo load supervisors like me because I’ve got the cello strapped in before they even get on the plane. See picture. I had to accept that the cello always gets the window a long time ago.

More Q+A series to come …. stay tuned!

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