A Happy Concert in Istanbul

In 1964 the London Symphony Orchestra asked me if I would be available to play with them in Istanbul, Turkey. I had previously rehearsed the programme with them, so in Istanbul there were to be no rehearsals except for a seating rehearsal lasting only an hour. It was to be a nice little gig so I agreed gladly. The conductor was Sir Malcolm Sargent, a seasoned conductor with a very clear beat and easy to follow.I left early to catch the chartered plane to Istanbul. The pilot, “Lofty” I knew already from previous trips and I was very pleased when he invited me into the cockpit when we were landing at Istanbul.I had read in Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall” much about Constantinople and I was thrilled when Lofty pointed out the Bosphorous and various other landmarks. He couldn’t talk too much, as he told me that Istanbul was a very difficult place to land an aircraft.After a perfect landing I made my way to the Topkapi palace, looked at the Harem and the eunuchs section and also some treasures, then I made my way back to Istanbul to meet a friend of Adrian Cruft, a bass player and composer and son of Eugene. He had given me a piece of music to give to his friend, a Turkish composer. We sat down for a chat and he offered me some coffee, I’m afraid after all this time I cannot remember his name, and Adrian has passed away so I am unable to check on it. Upon leaving he presented me with a lovely box of Turkish Delight and then, after warm goodbyes I headed back to the hotel and dinner and bed.Early next morning I visited Haggia Sophia, that was once the church of Santa Sophia, and marvelled at some of the relics left from ancient times. There was part of a great iron chain that prevented enemy ships sailing in to Constantinople. All in all it was very fascinating.A visit to the Janissary Band’s headquarters and museum had been arranged and everybody in the orchestra turned out for the visit, including Sargent.The Band, all dressed in the old Ottoman Empire uniforms gave us a special performance which I really enjoyed. There were huge drums played by equally huge drummers and also a gentleman with a long pole on top of which was a crescent and beneath it some bells. There were also some other instruments I had not seen before, and so, after looking round the museum we went back to the hotel for a meal and to change for the concert, which was packed with an enthusiastic audience. And so to bed!

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