Every so often on tour you get the luxury of seeing friends who are normally too far away to visit. For years my family has been talking about taking a trip to Belgium to visit our good friend Andrew, who used to live in Los Angeles, but it had never happened. Now here I was going to be in Köln, a mere one-and-a-half hours from his home in Leuven (yes, this is where they make Stella Artois beer - if the wind is right, you can smell it in the air.)
The orchestra deplaned to a cold and rainy Cologne; however, all on tour were impressed that the buses came right out onto the tarmac to collect them!
Andrew and his wife Katlijn were expecting their second child sometime in January though, so it seemed impossible to expect that they would want to travel with a days-old baby, and I presumed we would miss an opportunity yet again. But just before leaving Los Angeles, I found out that the baby had come early! My friends, intrepid explorers and Europeans that they are, said they would leave their older son with grandparents and drive to Koln to visit. Andrew, an oboe player in high school and in occasional Leuven community orchestras, was excited to hear me play with the LA Phil after all these years. Katlijn and little Lauren decided to stay at the hotel in case Lauren was in more of a Brahms mood that evening.
We all met afterward for dinner, and did what all parents of young children do - talked about our kids! Andrew was really thrilled by the concert and seeing me on stage as well. I gave Lauren a pink fleece baby outfit I bought in Madrid (I have two boys, so never had a chance to buy something pink before) which fit her exactly. Andrew and Katlijn have not actually seen much of Koln, so we plan to spend the day together before they drive back to Leuven to put their son Kobe to bed, and I go to the Philharmonie to perform Mahler's 9th Symphony for our second concert in this wonderful city.