London.

20 11 2011

This week just hasn’t been a good combination for blogging.  I was very busy at the beginning of the week, and later in the week I was tired from doing stuff and had time to lounge around a bit, which I did.  Besides, I haven’t had very many exciting things happen–school as usual.  So I apologize if you were personally hurt by that.

However, yesterday I took my first trip to London.  After coming in to Heathrow Airport and getting on a bus to Cambridge at the end of September, I had not left this very small area near the center of Cambridge.  I got my first glimpse of the rest of England Saturday.

The reason why this was happening now was because I finally had my first horn lesson.  I had been desiring a horn teacher for a while but didn’t know anyone.  However, at the last orchestra concert I asked the conductor (who is a former horn player) if he could suggest a teacher for me.  He got back to me and suggested Simon Rayner, and gave me his number.  We set up the lesson for yesterday at 12:30.  I was looking forward to it, as I have had a grand total of two horn teachers in the 9 or so years I’ve played the horn–one for the last 8.

First, I needed to get there.  I biked over to the train station a couple minutes away and bought a ticket.  A week or two ago I bought a Railcard, which gives a discount of 1/3 off any train ticket.  Being as I will use the train a fair amount over the time I will be here, I bought one.  So, with my Railcard, my round-trip ticket price was 14.50 pounds.  Even better was that it also included any tube/underground travel for that day (the London subway).  So, at about $23, I got all the travel I needed.  The train to King’s Cross station in London (of Harry Potter fame) took an hour; there were 5 or so stops along the way.  Then, clear signs directed me to the tube.

Tube Stop

Classic-style tube sign

I took the tube from King’s Cross to Covent Garden Station; not too long of a trip.  10 minutes or so.  My lesson was at the Royal Opera House right outside the station.  I met Simon outside one of the doors and he took me through the back parts of it (the ‘bowels’ of the opera house as my dad would say) to a practice room somewhere.

Main entrance sign.

I’m thankful that, as a music student of Homerton, I receive 415 Pounds to use towards music lessons.  Otherwise I would not have made the trip; the price for an hour with Simon was 60 pounds.  Not a typo.  Sixty.  The dude’s making roughly $100 an hour just doing lessons.

There’s a reason for this.  The reason is that this guy is a horn deity. Simon is the principal hornist at the Royal Opera House.  Now, the Royal Opera House is essentially London’s main opera company.  I can’t stress just how awesome you must be to become principal player at such a high-quality establishment.  So, essentially, it was as if I took a pitching lesson from Zack Greinke or a tackling lesson from Tamba Hali (to use KC sports figures).  The guy could flat out play, and I found out this immediately when he played his first note to demonstrate something for me.  I’ve known a lot of good horn players, but Simon takes the cake easily.

The lesson itself was very good.  He pointed out some things that I didn’t even know I was doing, and was helpful, precise, and encouraging.  In explaining nervousness in regards to horn playing, he essentially read my mind, right down to how it felt and why it did, and I didn’t even bring it up.  It was uncanny.  Hopefully, I will be able to have a couple lessons per term with him–perhaps three a term.

Afterwards, I walked to one of the two Chipotle restaurants in the entirety of Europe–less than 10 minutes away.  I finished by walking around a bit, soaking in the city and atmosphere.  London, as you can imagine, is a very full and bustling city.  I don’t have an equivalent for it, as I have never been to New York or Chicago–but London is immense and a nexus of humanity of all types.  I basically walked to Trafalgar Square and back.  Here are some pics:

Stereotypical London taxi

National Gallery and centerpiece of Trafalgar Square

Fountain in the Square

Big Ben in the background. Most of 'tourist London' is in a small area.

Coming back from King’s Cross took only 45 minutes because Cambridge was the first stop.  Before I left, Harry Potter fans, I took a picture of a real life area between stations.  I did not get to see the Platform 9 3/4 exhibit, but I hope to sometime.

Platform 4 1/3 doesn't quite have the same ring.

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