MAN Truck & Bus
What do pirate captain Jack Sparrow, superhero Batman and lion cub Simba have in common? Millions of people around the world know which film character is involved as soon as they hear the melody of the title sequence. And most of them know the name of the man who created the music for these and many other Hollywood blockbusters: Hans Zimmer. He is one of the most influential soundtrack composers of our time and has fans around the globe.
Conductor Wilhelm Keitel is one of them. So the 68-year-old did not hesitate for a second when he received the request to participate in the European tour “The World of Hans Zimmer – A Symphonic Celebration”. This was the first time Hans Zimmer’s compositions were to be performed live by an orchestra. The composer planned the show down to the last detail, he selected the pieces, produced concert suites to the sound tracks, chose the soloists and other protagonists. “Gavin Greenaway, with whom Hans Zimmer has closely collaborated since time immemorial, is to be the conductor. I have taken on the role of orchestra manager”, explains Keitel.
He had already mastered this task with flying colours in the previous year. Now he has again prepared the Orchestra of the Bolshoi Opera Belarus together with the Minsk Radio and Television Choir and is accompanying them on a tour. Wilhelm Keitel has worked closely with these musicians from the Belarus capital for two and a half decades. Whether classical symphonies or appearances with Helene Fischer, Rammstein and the Fantastic Four – the Bolshoi Orchestra is certainly experienced in touring. Although this new celebration tour supersedes its previous trips by some margin: 17 concerts in 11 countries in just 31 days. And this is only the first part of the tour. The second part, with even more venues and concerts, follows in autumn.
“As orchestra manager I organised everything in advance, from visas to the accommodation, I ensured that the orchestra arrived well-rehearsed for the first venue and always appeared on time where it was to play”, Keitel lists his tasks. That is a logistical challenge which grows with the size of the travel group – 70 musicians and 16 choristers. How do you travel with almost 90 people criss-cross through Europe for a month? “Ideally by bus”, replies Keitel. “Just climb aboard and be driven to your destination, without having to change, which is immensely practical.”
So the whole ensemble literally started rolling in springtime. First section: Minsk – Krakow. The orchestra spreads out across two specially prepared NEOPLAN Tourliner buses; their instruments are stored in two small trucks. Then it’s time to drive in convoy. The travellers face a journey of 16,000 kilometres on the first tour. Any concerns about whether long periods spent sitting in the bus could be endured were dispelled shortly after boarding. The choir’s contralto, Natalya Sysova: “The seats are extremely comfortable and can be slid apart as needed. And the best part is we have plenty of space – to the seat in front and overhead.”
Spectacular show Hans Zimmer's dramatic music has a major impact when played by a live orchestra. © Dita Vollmond
Right across Europe The Spring tour included 17 cities. © Frank Embacher
Enthusiastic audiences Most of the concerts are sold out. © Frank Embacher
Wilhelm Keitel is appreciative of legroom. He is 1.90 metres tall and sits in the first row to be able to react quickly if there are questions or in critical situations. Each vehicle is interconnected via radio. The first time things became dicey was shortly before the crossing to England. “It was the time when Brexit was originally planned. The radio gave alarming reports of a 60-kilometre traffic jam. It was reported that vehicles were no longer being checked in at the ferry”, said the manager. “We were incredibly nervous whether we would make it to London in time. We would have had to pay the refunded entrance fees to the organiser if the concert had been cancelled. With 14,000 tickets sold in London that would have been a disaster. Fortunately, everything worked out fine.”
The reward for concerns and efforts: an enthusiastic audience. All 17 concerts were sold out, so the tour had considerable dimensions. “We played at special places where symphony orchestras do not usually appear. Of course Wembley Arena was an absolute highlight”, states Keitel.
The bus was transformed into a living room on wheels during the tour. “Everyone furnished their long-established seat to their own taste – with pillows, blankets and books. It is convenient that each seat has a charging connector, so no smartphone ran out of battery charge during the journey. The bus became our home- from-home for this month”, reports the conductor. In the breaks, made every three hours during the trip, the 68-year-old ensures that his crew takes sufficient exercise: “I made sure to take along two footballs for that.”