Question no. 22

What to do when electric guitars go missing?

Bryce Dessner and David Chalmin have landed safely in Zurich. Their instruments are not.

Susanne Kübler

Thursday evening, shortly before 10 pm. Tim Dokter from the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich's Artistic Operations Office's mobile phone rings, «Bryce Dessner» is on the display. The composer and electric guitarist Bryce Dessner is our Creative Chair this season, and according to the schedule he had just landed in Zurich – because rehearsals for the concerts on Saturday and Sunday began on Friday, when his orchestral work «St. Carolyn by the Sea» will be on the programme and he himself will be on stage with his electric guitar.

He had actually landed on this Thursday evening. But not his electric guitar, as he explained to Tim Dokter on the phone. It must have been lost on the flight over Bilbao and Barcelona, just like that of his colleague David Chalmin, who takes on the second solo part.

Shortly afterwards, the mobile phone rang for Friedemann Dürrschnabel, our Head of Orchestra Technology. «Tim Dokter» was on the display, and the conversation that followed centred on two main questions: Will we manage to get hold of electric guitars by Friday morning? And if so, what do the instruments and amplifiers need to be able to do? The conversation ended with a reassuring sentence from Friedemann Dürrschnabel: «I have some contacts».

News from Barcelona

The plural was then not necessary, a single contact or phone call was enough. Fortunately, electric guitars are a regular feature of Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich concerts; and also fortunately, there are various providers in the Zurich area who specialise in backline hire, especially for pop and rock concerts. So we already knew who could help out in such an emergency. Three electric guitars were delivered in time for the rehearsal, and Bryce Dessner and David Chalmin were even able to choose.

They were happy with the instruments and also with the message they received on Friday afternoon: Their own guitars, which had been reported missing to customs in the interim, had turned up in Barcelona. It was not immediately possible to ascertain what condition they were in; that will become clear when they arrive in Zurich. But the two guitarists are taking it in their stride. Even a custom-made electric guitar is no Stradivarius.

So now only one question remains: on which instruments will the two play the concerts on Saturday and Sunday? The answer will be given here on Monday.

Three days later

At 10.45 on Sunday morning, Bryce Dessner posted a photo of his guitar on Instagram – it had actually arrived in Zurich. At the concert on Saturday, he and David Chalmin had still played on the spare guitars.

All options were now open for the repeat of the programme on Sunday. David Chalmin switched to his own guitar; Bryce Dessner, on the other hand, stayed with the loaned instrument; he first wants to have his own guitar checked by the luthier for any possible consequences of the errant flight.

In the meantime, both are on their way home again. In the hope that their instruments will arrive at their destination with them this time.

November 2023
Sun 26. Nov

Simone Young with Dessner and Strauss

Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Simone Young Conductor, Bryce Dessner E-Gitarre, David Chalmin E-Gitarre Strawinsky, Dessner, Strauss
Sat 25. Nov

Simone Young with Dessner and Strauss

Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, Simone Young Conductor, Bryce Dessner E-Gitarre, David Chalmin E-Gitarre Strawinsky, Dessner, Strauss
published: 24.11.2023